Agriculture Department offers aid to farmers stung by escalating tariffs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it will authorize up to $12 billion in aid for farmers struggling in the face of retaliatory tariffs that have stoked concern in Missouri and other agriculture-heavy states.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue called the aid “a short-term solution” to let President Donald Trump “work on long-term trade deals” designed to help farmers and the broader U.S. economy.

The Trump administration in recent months has enacted tariffs on steel, aluminum and $34 billion of Chinese goods. In response, major U.S. trading partners including Canada, Mexico and China — Missouri’s top three export markets — have imposed counter-tariffs.

Those measures have largely targeted key industries in parts of the country where Trump’s support has been strongest. Products hit by China’s counter-tariffs include soybeans and pork, two of Missouri’s most valuable agricultural exports. Midwestern farmers have voiced fears that the tariffs may result in a collapse of soybean prices.

Earlier this month, 88 U.S. senators expressed disapproval of Trump’s trade policies with a symbolic bipartisan vote. On Tuesday, many senators, including Republicans with strong ties to agriculture, remained critical of the president’s tariffs.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, issued a statement calling counter-tariffs that are harmful to Missouri agricultural producers “a self-inflicted wound that borrowing $12 billion won’t solve.”

“We should get back to opening markets for our farmers and aggressively enforcing our trade laws,” McCaskill added.

Under the plan released Tuesday, the Agriculture Department will provide payments to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs. It will also purchase unexpected commodity surpluses and distribute them to food banks and other nutrition programs. Lastly, a “trade promotion program” will work to develop new export markets for farm products.

Perdue said in his statement that America’s agricultural producers have “taken a disproportionate hit” with the tariffs.

Kyle Kirby, a Barton County farmer and president of Missouri Corn Growers Association, responded to the announcement in a statement Tuesday.

“With some corn farmers in Missouri facing severe drought and all farmers facing low commodity prices,” Kirby said, “the Missouri Corn Growers Association hopes President Trump’s trade package helps those facing dire financial conditions survive until next year.”

Kirby called upon Trump to “find a resolution to the trade wars” in order to “provide much-needed stability in the countryside.”

Trump spoke Tuesday at an event of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City. During his speech, Trump addressed the tariffs, but not the Agriculture Department’s aid plan.

“The farmers will be the biggest beneficiaries,” Trump said of the tariffs. “Just be a little patient.”

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