Feds: Trade Aid From Trump Overpaid Corn Farmers by $3B

Farmers in the South were paid more per acre than those in the West, Northeast
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 21, 2021 2:52 PM CST
Feds Say Trump's USDA Overpaid Corn Farmers by $3B
A combine unloads corn to a grain cart, during a harvesting demonstration at the Husker Harvest Days farm show in Grand Island, Neb., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The Trump administration overpaid corn farmers by about $3 billion in federal aid in 2019 and farmers in the South were paid more for the same crops than those elsewhere in the country, a federal watchdog agency has found. The Government Accountability Office said in a report released Monday that international disputes resulting from tariffs imposed by Donald Trump hurt farmers but that the US Department of Agriculture's county-by-county methodology for computing the extent of damage was flawed, leading to overpayment and inconsistent compensation, the AP reports. "Though corn yields are higher in the Midwest and West, corn producers received an estimated average of $69 per acre in the South, $61 in the Midwest, $34 in the Northeast, and $29 in the West," the report said.

The GAO also estimated that payments to corn producers were approximately $3 billion more than USDA’s estimate of trade damage to corn, while payments to soybeans, sorghum, and cotton producers were lower than their estimated trade damages. The report was requested by the Senate Agriculture Committee, chaired by Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. "This report confirms that the Trump USDA picked winners and losers in their trade aid programs and left everyone else behind," Stabenow said in a statement. "Making larger payments to farmers in the South than farmers in the Midwest or elsewhere, regardless of whether those farmers actually experienced a larger loss, undermines our future ability to support farmers when real disasters occur."

Trump imposed higher tariffs on certain products from China, Europe, Canada, and other key trading partners in 2018. They responded with tariffs targeting US products, including agricultural commodities. In 2018 and 2019, many US agricultural exports declined and the Trump administration poured money into support for farmers including the Market Facilitation Program that was the subject of the GAO audit. Corn, cotton, sorghum, soybean, and wheat farmers were paid more than $21.7 billion in 2018 and 2019. Dairy and hog farmers were paid more than $900 million. In a late October 2020 campaign appearance in Nebraska, Trump said he believed farmers were better off getting government payments than relying solely on their farming receipts. In 2019, one-third of US farm income came from direct government payments. Last year, it was nearly 40% of their income.

(More USDA stories.)

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