SIDNEY — Local farmers have voiced mixed reactions to the subsidy plan announced Tuesday, July 24, by President Donald Trump.
The Department of Agriculture will borrow $12 billion from the national treasury to give a subsidy to American farmers who “produce soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs” and to “buy the surplus of commodities that would otherwise have been exported and distribute them to food banks and other nutrition programs. That will cover fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk,” according to a report by the Associated Press, late Tuesday.
The funds are to soften the hit U.S. farmers have taken from retaliatory tariffs imposed by countries who import American products. The retaliation is in response to Trump’s slapping tariffs on the goods those countries export to the U.S.
Maplewood farmer Chris Gibbs calls the $12 billion “hush money.” He talked at length with the Sidney Daily News, Wednesday. More of his views are in a guest column today on Page 4.
“I’m mad,” Gibbs said. He thinks the subsidy plan is a measure to keep farmers from complaining loudly about what the trade war has done to them. Soybean prices, for instance, have dropped almost 20 percent since March.
“On my small acreage, that’s about $25,000,” Gibbs said.
Patrick Knouff, who farms near Sidney and lives in rural Fort Loramie, gave specifics.
“In May, our futures prices for soybeans for November, when we harvest, would have been $10.31 per bushel. That’s dropped to $8.34. To put it another way, that’s a loss of more than $100 per acre of soybeans that’s raised. There is some thought that when we get to harvest, it will just get worse,” he said. “As a farmer, I appreciate what the administration is trying to do to mitigate the situation, but it’s not a long-term solution.”
Gibbs sees what the administration is trying to do as bullying.
“President Trump created a false narrative that the U.S. has been treated unfairly by global trade. We have heard over and over about the ‘art of the deal.’ I haven’t seen any art. There’s no finesse, no nuance. All I’ve seen is a bully with a club running around the world bludgeoning partners over the head,” he said.
While acknowledging that there may indeed be some examples of unfairness in terms of technology, manufacturing and stolen intellectual property, Gibbs said, “What has happened to agriculture in this President Trump-created trade war is that we have taken the lion’s share of the brunt. There is no definition of what a successful outcome of a Trump trade war looks like other than a subjective ‘fairness rule’ that (farmers) don’t get to determine.”
Knouff grows corn, soybeans and wheat. He thinks Washington should be completing the North America Free Trade Agreement and pursuing new, free-trade markets. He also thinks it’s crucial to maintain the infrastructure that takes U.S. crops to buyers.
“We need help with transportation to get to markets at a competitive rate. We have to keep up roads, waterways and rails. We have a really good system of waterways. As locks and dams deteriorate, it becomes harder to use that waterway system to the fullest ability of it. Other countries’ prices become more competitive,” Knouff said.
Tariffs that have been put on U.S.-grown crops also make foreign goods more attractive to international buyers.
David Pitt, writing for the Associated Press, quoted U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
“This is a short-term solution to allow President Trump time to work on long-term trade deals to benefit agriculture and the entire U.S. economy,” said Perdue.
“The money comes from the Commodity Credit Corporation, a USDA agency founded in 1933. It has authority to borrow up to $30 billion from the Treasury at any one time to ‘stabilize, support, and protect farm income and prices,’” Pitt wrote.
Gov. John Kasich told another AP writer that imposing tariffs on American allies was “completely absurd” and that what Trump has proposed is “farm welfare.”
It’s difficult to know yet how much the subsidy plan will help any individual farmer. No details have been released about how the funds will be distributed. Fort Loramie farmer Tony Bornhorst said he couldn’t form an opinion about the plan until he knows more about that.
“I think (Trump’s) trying to pacify folks for the time being, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. But $12 billion is a drop in the bucket when there are so many agricultural products. It isn’t going to make up the difference. It isn’t even going to come close,” he said.