- President Donald Trump argued on Tuesday that farmers will ultimately benefit from the expanding trade war with China.
- That came even as he floats a second bailout program that would include large-scale government purchases of American agricultural goods.
- The program has drawn scrutiny from experts and farmers alike.
President Donald Trump argued on Tuesday that farmers will ultimately benefit from the expanding trade war with China, which he said could lead to a second bailout program that would include large-scale government purchases of American agricultural goods.
“Our great Patriot Farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what is happening now,” the president wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “Hopefully China will do us the honour of continuing to buy our great farm product, the best, but if not your Country will be making up the difference based on a very high China buy.”
Trump added: “The Farmers have been ‘forgotten’ for many years. Their time is now!”
The Trump administration has already extended at least $US12 billion worth of aid to farmers in an attempt to make up for losses from its trade policies, which have caused exports and prices of American agricultural products to fall sharply.
While no official extension of that program has been announced, Trump has floated plans to expand aid several times since trade negotiations unravelled last week. The White House referred requests for comment to the Agriculture Department, which did not respond to phone calls and emails.
Trump suggested last week the government would directly purchase American agricultural products and ship them “to poor & starving countries in the form of humanitarian assistance,” drawing scrutiny from experts and farmers alike. He estimated the cost of the aid program would be about $US15 billion.
Rob Shaffer, a soybean grower in El Paso, Illinois, said support payments helped him get by last year but failed to make up for all of the losses from tariffs. He said his farm has halted all purchases that aren’t essential, such as new machinery.
“We’re trying to still make a living and lose the least amount of money as possible,” he said. “The payments that came last fall, they were helpful and kept us afloat to live another day. But I would rather have free trade with China than another aid package.”
Experts have raised doubts that such a program would comply with World Trade Organisation rules, warning of the influence it could have on agricultural markets in developing countries and elsewhere.
“The question is what does it do to the price of oil seeds that are produced domestically in those poor countries,” said Vincent Smith, the director of agricultural studies at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “And are you undercutting that in these very poor countries where production agriculture is the livelihood of people?”
The US would fund such a program through collections at the Treasury Department, Trump said, repeating once again the false claim that tariffs are paid by Chinese exporters. Study after study has found that American businesses and consumers bear the brunt of tariffs.
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