The Trump administration will move forward with plans to distribute a second round of payments to farmers caught in the cross-hairs of a trade war with China.
“Today I am making good on my promise to defend our farmers and ranchers from unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations,” President Donald Trump said via Twitter Monday.
In July, his administration announced it would deliver US$12 billion in aid to farmers after Beijing slapped retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products, including 25 per cent duties on soybeans.
Farmers form part of the rural base that helped catapult Trump into the White House. The administration distributed some US$4.7 billion in the first round of direct government aid. With tensions between Trump and China showing signs of thawing, there was uncertainty within the agriculture industry as to when or if the second round would be distributed.
In a statement Monday, the U.S. Agriculture Department put the total payment at US$9.57 billion.
In Iowa last week, Deputy Secretary Steve Censky said the USDA had been having a “little bit of disagreement” with the Office of Management and Budget over the payments and that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue would be appealing directly to Trump on the payments.
Censky said it was the idea of the Office of Management and Budget, headed by Mick Mulvaney, whom Trump announced would be his acting chief of staff, to split the so-called market facilitation payments into two “to see if some of that retaliation went away.”
On Thursday, the USDA reported sales of 1.1 million metric tons of soybeans to China. To put the purchases in perspective, China buys 30 million to 35 million tons of U.S. soybeans in a normal year, according to Censky, underscoring the need for the second round of payments.