Democratic report: Trump farm benefits help those who need it least

By: - November 12, 2019 11:03 pm
Sen. Tammy Baldwin talking to a farmer and petting a cow on a Wisconsin farm.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin visits a Wisconsin farm. (Courtesy of Baldwin Office)

Payments the Trump administration has made to compensate farmers for losses they’ve incurred as a result of the administration’s trade policies have benefited farms with less damage while providing insufficient help to the hardest hit, according to a new report commissioned by Senate Democrats, including Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

The report looks at the impact of the $25 billion Market Facilitation Program that the U.S. Department of Agriculture initiated after a series of trade battles with other countries that included tariffs imposed by the U.S. on foreign goods and retaliatory tariffs imposed on American products, including agricultural products.

The report concluded that the trade conflict has been most strongly felt by farmers in the Midwest and the northern plains states. Despite that, the report found, the five states receiving the highest pay rates are in the south.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) led the senators who commissioned the report. Others in the group besides Baldwin were Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Patrick  Leahy (D-Vt), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

“Since President Trump took office, Wisconsin has lost more than 1,800 dairy farms,” according to a statement issued by Baldwin’s office along with the report. “Dairy farmers have faced a storm of challenges in recent years, but unfortunately under this program, dairy farmers were paid based on production history that is between 6 and 8 years old and may not reflect current circumstances. For many Wisconsin farms, this old data means their payment will be smaller than it should be.”

By contrast, the Baldwin statement said, farmers in Georgia have been paid more than $50 an acre in 2019, while farmers in 34 other states, including Wisconsin, were paid at half that rate or less. Aid recipients included billionaire farm owners as well as foreign owned firms, Baldwin stated.

 The Senators sent a letter calling on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and his department to modify the assistance program “to better support small farmers and pursue a focused trade policy to rebuild the markets American farmers have lost,” Baldwin’s statement said.

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary.