More money for farmers will soon be on the way. Congress recently agreed to replenish an Agriculture Department fund that Mr. Trump has used to disburse nearly $30 billion to farmers at his discretion with tens of billions of additional dollars. The Trump administration negotiated with Democrats to ensure the money was included in a short-term bill to fund the federal government, with the White House agreeing to more funds for child nutritional assistance in exchange.
Farmers have been clobbered financially during the last two years, as Mr. Trump’s trade wars with China and Europe led to tariffs on American agricultural exports, including corn, soybeans, lobsters and peanuts. Then, this year, the pandemic interfered with global supply chains, and restaurant and hotel closures sapped demand. Farmers were forced to dump milk into manure pits and destroy millions of pounds of beans and cabbage.
“Nearly every major sector of the farm economy will have lower cash receipts this year compared to last year, and total cash receipts will be the lowest since 2010,” John Newton, the American Farm Bureau’s chief economist, wrote in a report on the state of the industry last month.
The desire to help struggling farmers is bipartisan, but Democrats and critics of the aid programs have argued that the money has been paid out unevenly by the Trump administration and with the intent of currying favor with a politically important constituency in swing states.
“For the first time in history, a president has repeatedly usurped congressional authority in order to personally dispense tens of billions of dollars in federal farm subsidy payments that would not otherwise have been paid,” said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that has been tracking the agriculture payments. “This is an authoritarian power grab used to buy political support from voters who are essential to his re-election.”
The president has only reinforced those concerns. At a September campaign rally in Wisconsin, a big farm state, Mr. Trump announced that an additional $13 billion in aid would soon be paid out through the Commodity Credit Corporation, a pot of money that the Trump administration had used to provide financial help to farmers suffering from retaliatory tariffs placed on American products.
“I’m proud to announce that I’m doing even more to support Wisconsin farmers,” Mr. Trump said, adding that some of that money would go to dairy, cranberry and ginseng farmers in the state that have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.