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Trump Approves Aid for Farmers to Help Counter Trade-War Losses

More than 70 percent of North Dakota's soybeans are exported. China is their top destination. (United Soybean Board/Flickr)
More than 70 percent of North Dakota's soybeans are exported. China is their top destination. (United Soybean Board/Flickr)
July 25, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. - The Trump administration has announced $12 billion in emergency aid for farmers amid an escalating trade war.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the aid is in response to "unjustified, retaliatory" tariffs by China, after President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on China and other trading partners. The National Farmers Union estimates that farmers lost $13 billion last month alone from disruptions to their markets.

Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, said agriculture has been affected across the state, and aid is needed.

"It has a little bit of a mixed message," he said. "In one sense, we're thankful that we're getting some attention on it, and we worked pretty hard from farmers' union to get that attention. But it's going to be extremely hard if this trade war lasts a long time to replace what we're losing in the marketplace."

The aid package is set to go into effect in September. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said tariffs have been especially hard for soybean, dairy and pork farmers. Watne said it's still unclear exactly how funds will be distributed, which will make a difference in how effective the aid is for North Dakota.

The emergency payment aims to make up for losses, but Watne said disruptions from the escalating trade war are compounding another serious issue. He said farmers have been struggling for years with the low price of farm products, adding that he thinks leaders in Congress should address this.

"We need them to go in, when they're working this new Farm Bill, and raise reference prices up, because that's a real backstop, and get them at a level of the cost of production," he said. "So, if they want to be in a trade war or if they want to renegotiate things, at least the farmers have something that shows to their bank that they have a portion of their crop at a price that makes money."

Under the tariffs, North Dakota soybean farmers could see some of the biggest disruptions. According to the North Dakota Soybean Council, more than 70 percent of their product is exported - and China has been the top destination.

The farmers' aid announcement is online at govdelivery.com, and statistics from the North Dakota Soybean Council are at ndsoybean.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND