In this file:
· As billions flow to farmers, Trump administration faces internal concerns over unprecedented bailout
... about 70 percent said the bailout would either “completely or somewhat relieve” their concerns about the tariffs...
· USDA, Doubling Pay Limit, Offers Growers Up to $500,000 in Disaster Aid
Farmers are eligible for up to $500,000 apiece for the hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other disasters they faced in 2018 and this year, including Hurricane Dorian last weekend, said the USDA on Monday, with $3 billion in aid available. As it did in July for Trump tariff payments, the USDA set the maximum disaster payment at double the Congressional limit for farm subsidies…
As billions flow to farmers, Trump administration faces internal concerns over unprecedented bailout
By Jeff Stein, The Washington Post
September 9, 2019
Senior government officials, including some in the White House, privately expressed concern that the Trump administration’s nearly $30 billion bailout for farmers needed stronger legal backing, according to multiple people who participated in the planning.
The bailout was created by the Trump administration as a way to try to calm outrage from farmers who complained they were caught in the middle of the White House’s trade war with China. In an attempt to pacify farmers, the Agriculture Department created an expansive new program without precedent.
As part of the program, the USDA authorized $12 billion in bailout funds last year and another $16 billion this year, and Trump has said more money could be on the way.
But two Agriculture Department officials involved in the bailout program told The Washington Post they were worried the funding could surpass the original intent of the New Deal-era Commodity Credit Corporation, which is being used to distribute the money. The CCC, as it is known, had previously been used only to create substantially more limited programs. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid professional repercussions.
Separately, some officials in the Office of Management and Budget also raised questions about the scope of $16 billion in a second round of bailout funds. They pushed the Agriculture Department to provide more legal reasoning for the effort, the officials said. In a statement, a USDA spokesman officials said the concerns raised by OMB were already resolved, however.
USDA attorneys have signed off on the bailout package, and the government has issued more than $11 billion in farm bailout payments. More will be spent soon.
The concerns come at a crucial time for the program, as many farmers are relying on the funding, and congressional approval is required because the White House is nearing an annual $30 billion cap on CCC payments.
Independent legal experts agree that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has broad authority to unilaterally help farmers, including through the administration’s bailout program.
The bailout funds are part of the White House’s effort to contain an outcry from farmers who have complained that China and other countries have cut back on U.S. purchases in retaliation for the higher tariffs Trump has imposed on a range of imports...
... Trump has touted his financial support for farmers, but administration officials have said little publicly about internal consternation over the process.
White House aides are for the first time pressing Congress to increase how much the administration can distribute through the farm bailout before hitting the program’s legal spending limit this fall — even though farmers have been promised billions in additional bailout funding.
Trump has said the bailouts are necessary to protect American farmers targeted by China for economic retaliation in the widening trade war, as China has responded to Trump’s trade moves with high tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports...
... Even some officials who believe the bailout is legally sound worry about its scope and the speed with which it is being implemented. “They’re doing it really fast and shorthanded,” said a former USDA official who spent several decades involved in reviewing new department regulations but left the government earlier this year. “The agencies implementing it are stretched thin, and there’s immense political pressure to get the money out quick.”
Several officials in the USDA and other government agencies defended the bailout, noting independent legal experts agree that the administration has wide authority to unilaterally act to help the nation’s farmers in a time of crisis. Trump has also argued the farm bailout is justified by China’s trade tactics as a way to ensure the United States extracts concessions from that country...
... Close to three in 10 farmers feel the bailout payments will “not at all” make up for losses related to the tariff battle in 2019, according to an index calculated by Purdue University released this month. But about 70 percent said the bailout would either “completely or somewhat relieve” their concerns about the tariffs...
... Robert Johansson, the chief economist at the USDA, also defended the program, noting it could be explicitly curbed by Congress...
... Neil Hamilton, former director of the Drake Agricultural Law Center, said the administration was clearly using the Commodity Credit Corporation far beyond its historical function, although he declined to address the legality of the program...
USDA, Doubling Pay Limit, Offers Growers Up to $500,000 in Disaster Aid
By Chuck Abbott, Successful Farming
Agriculture.com - 9/10/2019
Farmers are eligible for up to $500,000 apiece for the hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other disasters they faced in 2018 and this year, including Hurricane Dorian last weekend, said the USDA on Monday, with $3 billion in aid available. As it did in July for Trump tariff payments, the USDA set the maximum disaster payment at double the Congressional limit for farm subsidies.
The Trump administration is showering the Farm Belt with cash this year, creating some uneasiness within the sector about a potential backlash. The USDA estimated last month that direct federal payments would total $19.5 billion this year, the highest amount since 2005. The figure did not include the new disaster program nor a $3.63 billion tranche of trade-war payments possible in November. The first tranche of Trump payments, of up to $7.25 billion, is being paid now.
Enrollment for disaster payments will begin on Wednesday. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the assistance “will ease some of the financial strain” caused by extreme weather. Farmers suffering damage from Hurricane Dorian are eligible for aid, said the USDA.
Large individual payments, whether for the Sino-U.S. trade war or natural disasters, are justified because of the scope of losses, said Administrator Richard Fordyce of the Farm Service Agency, which oversees farm subsidies. “If you think about some of the losses that have been experienced by producers … I think this is more commensurate with some of the losses that some of our producers across the country have experienced,” Fordyce told reporters.
Crop subsidies were set by Congress at $125,000 per person per year. The disaster program, called WHIP+, for Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus, allows payments of $250,000 per person per year if at least 75% of a producer’s adjusted gross income is from farming; otherwise the limit is $125,000. Since the disaster program covers two years, the maximum payment per person would be $500,000, said USDA. For this year’s Trump payments, the USDA set a limit of $250,000 apiece for row crops, specialty crops, and dairy and hogs, with a combined limit of $500,000.
Farm spouses are automatically eligible for payments in most USDA programs, which doubles the amount a large operation might receive.
“Why is Congress giving away its authority to act?” asked Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a small-farmer advocate. In the past, lawmakers claimed primacy over the design of aid programs. The administration’s $250,00-a-year payment limit “completely contradicts the (2018) Farm Bill,” said Hoefner...