The Agriculture Department is announcing a $12 billion "short-term" plan to help U.S. farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday the plan will help a broad number of farmers deal with the cost of "disruptive markets" as U.S. trading partners have retaliated for President Donald Trump's tariffs on imported goods.
Agriculture officials say the plan will not require congressional approval. It involves direct payments to farmers, the purchase of excess food and trade promotion programs to help create new export markets.
Trump said separately during a speech in Kansas City that "farmers will be the biggest beneficiary" of his trade agenda as he seeks better trade agreements.
Perdue has been promising an aid package for months, and department officials have said farmers may get assistance through government purchases of commodities.
The supports would be a balm to producers who are seeing prices drop and inventories rise because of disputes with China, Canada and other trade partners who are significant purchasers of U.S. pork, soybeans and other crops.
Farmers are a key part of the rural political base that elected President Donald Trump, who has promised them they will emerge from a trade war better off. Many farmers are accepting that message. Still, an extended trade dispute that lingers into the fall harvest -- and elections -- holds the potential to shake that support. Trump also has been under pressure from farm state lawmakers to back away from imposing tariffs.
Agriculture is the rare U.S. industry that runs a trade surplus, with a projected $21 billion this year. Canada, China and Mexico are the three biggest buyers of U.S. farm goods, accounting for 43 percent of purchases in 2017. All three are embroiled in conflicts with the U.S.
Soybeans, the second-most valuable U.S. crop after corn, have been especially hard-hit -- exports to China accounted for about one-third of the oilseed’s revenue last year. The USDA projected earlier this month that average soybean prices paid to farmers would fall 75 cents to $9.25 a bushel next year.
Farmer organizations including the American Soybean Association have called the impacts of tariffs on agriculture "devastating."
This report contains material from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press.
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