(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration is still in the “throes” of assembling the president’s promised $15 billion agriculture aid package for an industry hurt in the trade war with China, but it will probably include direct payments to farmers similar to those in last year’s trade assistance, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
Perdue said Wednesday his department is “expediting” preparation of the aid plan, which President Donald Trump announced Friday as he escalated the trade war by increasing tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese products and threatening additional tariffs.
Trump said at the time that the U.S. would bolster its purchases of domestic farm products for humanitarian aid in an effort to offset lost demand from China, though some farm groups and experts said that was unrealistic.
Rural Americans were among the most enthusiastic supporters of Trump in the 2016 election, but the worsening impact of the trade war on agricultural exports is sparking criticism from farm groups.
Perdue told reporters in a conference call that the aid package would probably include aid to farmers based on their crop production.
“We are assuming it will contain direct payments for commodities,” Perdue said. “We are in the throes of constructing it.”
The payment levels in last year’s aid package has sparked complaints from some producers that their crops were treated unfairly.
The National Corn Growers Association sent out a call to action earlier Wednesday urging farmers to tell Trump that the 1 cent-per-bushel payment that growers received under the previous market facilitation payments wasn’t enough. The campaign is being promoted with the hashtag #apennywontcutit.
Perdue said the administration is “trying to listen to all the stakeholder comments from last year” but “overall we were very, very pleased with how the program went.”
Perdue spoke from Seoul after completing trade talks with Japan and South Korea, which he called “productive.”
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