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Tue Sep 15, 2020, 03:22 PM

"The South hit the jackpot": Federal watchdog finds Trump administration's trade relief program unev

“The South hit the jackpot”: Federal watchdog finds Trump administration’s trade relief program unevenly compensated farmers in some states
by H. Claire Brown

09.15.2020, 2:44pm

The average individual in Georgia received more than $40,000; in Wisconsin, it was less than $12,000. Members of Congress are crying foul.

Back in 2018, as trade tensions with China escalated and farmers watched export markets evaporate in the blink of a tweet, the Trump administration announced an unprecedented aid effort: Its so-called Market Facilitation Program would send direct payments to growers who incurred financial losses due to ongoing tariff disputes. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) would pay for it all by tapping an obscure fund called the Commodity Credit Corporation, no Congressional approval required.

Then came the tricky part: calculating how much to compensate each grower. In the first round of payments, the agency paid producers based on the commodities they grew, drawing criticism from farmers who said the agency privileged commodity soy growers over everyone else. (This point was at least partially validated in December 2019, when six studies agreed that payments to soy growers exceeded damages wrought by the trade war.) Later, USDA switched to a system that paid farmers in each county a flat rate based on estimated damages, regardless of what they grow.

Now, a new report from the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan federal watchdog, finds that the multibillion-dollar Market Facilitation Program compensated farmers unequally for losses incurred due to the ongoing trade wars. The program came under fire by Senate Democrats late last year when they published an analysis that found payment rates were higher in the South, that some large farms received extraordinarily high payments, and that some commodities benefited more than others. The new GAO report, which analyzes $14 billion in payments made in 2019, largely confirms those findings.

Growers in Georgia—Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s home state, where he is the former governor—received the highest payments, which rang in at an average of $42,545 per person. Other Southern states including Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina, and Texas all ranked in the top 10 for average highest compensation levels. “The South hit the jackpot, with Georgia leading the nation with rates more than double the national average,” said Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan on a press call with reporters. Asked whether Secretary Perdue might have given producers a home state advantage, she said “he certainly put together a program that favored the crops in his state.”

More:
https://thecounter.org/trump-administration-trade-relief-program-market-facilitation-program-mfp-farmers-the-south/

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