Many in agriculture are saying more trade assistance is needed to offset the negative impacts trade policy turbulence is having on U.S. agriculture. The aid could take the form of a second Market Facilitation Program (MFP) or something similar, farmers told a House Agriculture subcommittee Thursday. Subcommittee Chairman Filemon Vela, D-Texas, said, "The farm economy is better off because the farm bill passed. But is that enough to fix the downturn in the agricultural economy?"
Ranking Member Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., agreed and noted that "despite the successes" he saw in the new farm bill, the current ag sector recession is a reminder that good policy alone "does not make our farmers and ranchers whole."
As trade turbulence continues along with the associated impacts, Texas Farmer Mike Huie told lawmakers, "I think additional action will be required" in the form of a second MFP program. "Even if the trade war ends tomorrow," the distress in the ag sector will not be resolved, he argued.
An expanded MFP program might not be enough, said Mike Peterson, a farmer from Minnesota. "We may have to look at some sort of supply management," he observed. For his own farm, Peterson said, "If our markets don’t come back and we don’t have any additional support, we'd be better off not producing."
However, he pointed out that the "bottom line is there is no way to make a profit if we don’t have a market for our product."
At the same time, while on a farm tour in Minnesota Vice President Mike Pence said that the Trump administration is mulling another round of help for farmers similar to what was provided via the MFP program.
"Make no mistake about it: We have already had preliminary discussions in the White House for additional support for farmers if this impasse with China continues," Pence said. While noting trade talks with China continue, Pence said the administration was ready to "continue to expand on the tariffs" that have been put in place.
But should that take place, Pence said farmers can be "very confident that President Trump and I and our entire administration are going to look for ways to provide additional support to American farmers that would be impacted by the negotiations or uncertainty in our relationship with China."
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump tweeted a defense of new tariffs on China that went into effect Friday morning on $200 billion in Chinese goods and suggested purchasing commodities from farmers, "more than China buys now," as a way to offset the impact of the duties.
Trump said the reserves could be used to help feed "starving nations." It appears Trump likely has not run the idea past USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, who as noted has maintained there would not be another round of trade aid this year through the MFP.