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Relief in sight

USDA rolls out trade mitigation package for farmers impacted by ‘unjustified’ foreign retaliatory tariffs
By Chris Villines 10/1/2018

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a trio of programs to help producers whose commodities have been impacted by retaliatory tariffs, including a Market Facilitation Program (MFP) administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Sign-up for MFP runs through Jan. 15, 2019, with instructions provided at www.farmers.gov/mfp.
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Farmers whose commodities were directly affected by retaliatory tariffs from U.S. trading partners now have an avenue for receiving assistance.

Early last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a trade mitigation package to assist producers in Tennessee and other states. USDA is offering three programs as part of the package:

• The Market Facilitation Program, administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provides payments to eligible producers of corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat.

• A Food Purchase and Distribution Program, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), will purchase $1.2 billion in surplus commodities targeted by “unjustified” retaliation.

• The Agricultural Trade Promotion Program, through the Foreign Agriculture Service, will help develop foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products. Some $200 million is available for the program.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue first announced in July that USDA would act to aid farmers in response to trade damage.

“These programs will allow President Trump time to strike long-term trade deals to benefit our entire economy, including the agricultural sector, in the long run,” Perdue says. “Farmers will tell you that they would always prefer to sell a good crop at a fair price, rather than receive government aid, and that’s what long-term trade deals will accomplish. But in the meantime, President Trump has promised that he will not allow American agriculture to bear the brunt of unjustified retaliation from foreign nations. We are putting the President’s promise into action.”

In total, USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, consistent with World Trade Organization obligations.

“President Trump has been standing up to China and other nations, sending the clear message that the U.S. will no longer tolerate their unfair trade practices, which include non-tariff trade barriers and the theft of intellectual property,” adds Perdue. “It’s important to note that all this could go away tomorrow if China and the other nations correct their behavior. But for the time being, these programs buy the president time to strike long-lasting trade deals to benefit our entire economy.”

For producers growing commodities listed as eligible for payment under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), the sign-up period is now open and runs through Jan. 15, 2019, with information and instructions provided at www.farmers.gov/mfp. A payment will be issued on 50 percent of the producer’s total production, multiplied by the MFP rate for a specific commodity (see accompanying chart).

A second payment period, if warranted, will be determined by the USDA. It is not yet known how quickly payments will be disbursed to eligible applicants.

Dennis Beavers, Tennessee FSA executive director, urges all farmers who plan on signing up for MFP assistance to keep good production records, since payments are based upon these records, yields, and the number of acres they have registered with FSA. He recommends farmers consult with their local FSA office during the MFP application process.

“We have 59 offices with 280 employees statewide who are ready to help make this as smooth a process as possible for folks,” he says. “It’s important that people go through their local FSA office because agriculture is different in Tennessee’s three grand divisions. For example, most of our dairies are in southern Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee. The majority of our soybean production is west of the Tennessee River.”

Soybeans, with 1.6 million acres planted in the state, will see the largest economic boost under the MFP.

The AMS-led Food Purchase and Distribution Program involves distribution of specialty crops by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to nutrition assistance programs such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program, the National School Lunch Program, and other child nutrition programs.

The aim of the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) is to assist American exporters in identifying and accessing new markets and to help mitigate the adverse effects of other countries’ restrictions. The program is meant to help all sectors of U.S. agriculture, including fish and forest products, mainly through partnerships with non-profit national and regional organizations.

“Through these trade mitigation programs, USDA is committed to ensuring our nation’s agriculture continues to feed the world and meet demand,” Beavers says. “These programs will help farmers adjust to disrupted markets, manage surplus commodities, and expand and develop new markets at home and abroad.”

It’s a proactive approach to furthering the future of an important American industry, says our country’s top-ranking agricultural official.

“Our farmers work hard, and are the most productive in the world,” Perdue says. “We aim to protect them.”

For more information on the trade mitigation programs, visit the following websites: Market Facilitation Program, https://www.farmers.gov/manage/mfp; Food Purchase and Distribution Program, https://www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food; and the Trade Promotion Program, https://www.fas.usda.gov/programs/agricultural-trade-promotion-program-atp.

 
 
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