Trump announces rules for broad $19 billion farmer virus bailout

Mike Dorning and Teaganne Finn

President Donald Trump announced rules Tuesday for a $19 billion coronavirus farm aid package covering a broad swath of U.S. agriculture that producers can begin claiming by next week.

Farmers who suffered a 5% or greater price loss will be eligible for direct payments of as much as $250,000 per person, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a statement.

“We’re standing strong with our farmers and ranchers once again,” Trump said at a White House event with representatives of farm groups, citing two prior trade bailouts.

He boasted he has given more federal aid to farmers than any other president.

“You can go back to Abraham Lincoln, there’s no other president who has treated the farmers like Trump,” the president said.

The coronavirus pandemic has pummeled farmers, a steadfast Trump constituency already struggling from years of depressed prices amid a global commodity glut and the president’s trade war with China.

The crisis upended food-supply chains and damaged overseas markets as the global economy slid into recession. Dairy farmers have been dumping milk they cannot sell. Hog farmers have been forced to destroy market-ready animals and leave them in compost heaps as slaughterhouses closed or slowed production because of employee illness.

As Trump Eyes Foreign Cattle, Ranchers Say Real Threat Is Beef The aid program will include dairy farmers, livestock producers, fruit and vegetable growers and farmers of traditional row crops such as grains, soybeans and cotton.

Aid payments may differ widely across grain farms depending on how they sold their 2019 crop since benefits will be based on inventory held in storage on Jan. 15, Joseph Janzen, a Kansas State University agricultural economist, said in a Twitter post. Growers who sold their crops soon after harvest are likely to see little benefit, he said.

Farmers will receive 80% of the payment upon approval of their application, which they can submit as soon as May 26, according to the USDA statement. Bloomberg News previously reported details of the aid program.

Congress allocated money for farm aid in the last coronavirus relief package. The program includes $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and $3 billion for purchases of commodities including dairy products, meat and fruits and vegetables.

Trump, whose overwhelming support in rural areas was crucial to his narrow election victory, has courted farmers through his presidency. He authorized $28 billion in two trade bailouts to make up for farmers’ losses in the tariff dispute with China. He regularly lavishes praise on farmers and ranchers.

During the past year, he has averaged three mentions a week of farmers on his Twitter feed.