News Releases

New data shows how administration mismanaged payments to farmers for trade damages 

Washington among states that received least amount of aid in first round of payments

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and  Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined a group of Senate Democrats today to call on the Trump administration to improve its trade assistance program to better support farmers in Washington and across the country. In the letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, they asked the administration to provide equal assistance to all American farmers harmed by the administration’s chaotic trade policies and to pursue a focused, consistent trade policy to rebuild markets already lost.

“This administration’s chaotic trade agenda has irreparably harmed farmers, on top of the market instability and extreme weather challenges they already face,” the senators wrote. “All farmers harmed by unfair trade should be eligible for assistance to help them weather the storm caused by this administration.”

Over the past two years, President Trump has pursued a chaotic approach to trade that has contributed to unprecedented uncertainty for American agriculture. Today’s letter comes as a new report sheds light on how the Trump administration is picking winners and losers in its attempt to aid farmers affected by the president’s chaotic and unfocused trade policy.

New data shows that the $25 billion in mitigation payments issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Market Facilitation Program (MFP) to help farmers has been distributed unevenly across the country, benefitting some regions more than others. The report shows that farmers in Washington received less than $10 per acre in the first round of 2019 MFP payments, while farmers in some southern states received more than five times as much aid.

Specifically, the Trump administration has treated farmers unfairly by:

  • Picking winners and losers between regions and crops:
    • 95% of top payment rates have gone to southern farmers, who have been harmed less than other regions
  • Helping wealthy farms and foreign companies instead of small farms:
    • Payments have been made to billionaires and foreign-owned companies, including $90 million to JBS, a Brazilian company
  • Failing to recover market access:
    • The administration has failed to provide long-term investment or a plan for rebuilding markets

In the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, Congress provided balanced support to help farmers manage market instability across the country and provided permanent support for USDA export market development programs. In their letter today, the senators raised concerns that the administration’s policy upends this careful compromise, replaces income from markets with government payments, creates vast inequities, and does not address the actual damage to farmers who have been hit the hardest.

“The administration must pursue a focused, consistent trade strategy to rebuild the markets American farmers lost,” the senators wrote.

Senators Murray and Cantwell have long advocated for foreign trade policies that support local businesses, economies, and communities throughout Washington state. In June, the senators secured a key victory for Northwest cherry growers hurt by the unjustified retaliatory tariffs by China. Additionally, both Senators Murray and Cantwell have cosponsored bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the United States Export-Import Bank to help provide critical financing for American companies to reach global markets.

In addition to Murray and Cantwell, the letter to Secretary Perdue was also signed by U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Robert Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

The full text of the letter can be found HERE. The full minority staff report issued by the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry can be found HERE.