Wisconsin Public Radio

China Tariffs Hurting Farmers, Kind Says

Congressman pushes Trump to settle trade war, help farmers losing out on export markets.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Dec 8th, 2019 04:17 pm
Ron Kind. Photo from U.S. Congress.

Ron Kind. Photo from U.S. Congress.

With a new round of tariffs expected from China in coming weeks, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind is calling on the Trump administration to better support farmers losing out on export markets.

Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Tuesday asking for an update on what the administration will do to provide certainty and support for farmers.

The letter comes after President Donald Trump told reporters that he might wait until after the 2020 election to reach a trade deal with China. A new exchange of tariffs between the U.S. and China is set to take effect on Dec. 15.

“The president is saying he can wait another year before all this is resolved, the trade war with China. Well, in another year, we’re going to lose another half of our dairy industry in Wisconsin,” said Kind. “That’s not acceptable. There has to be a better plan or strategy of how we can get a better market price for our farmers.”

But some Wisconsin farmer groups say China isn’t the only trade partner that officials should be focusing on.

“(Kind) identifies China and he’s correct to do that, but it also involves a number of other countries as well,” said Jim Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau. “Countries like Japan and Mexico and Canada, in which trade deals are being worked on, and we do need some finality with some of those as well.”

Holte said he doesn’t feel Congress has taken action on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement quickly enough, which he said hurts farmers too.

“The demand and the markets that we have traditionally filled are weakened with each delay that occurs. So whether it’s the administration or by the Congress, each delay is concerning to farmers and place more of a burden on us,” Holte said.

Kind said he thinks lawmakers are close to reaching a final agreement after making changes to the original plan’s enforcement language.

“It’s taken longer than I hoped it would but it’s important that we get this done right,” Kind said. “I’m still hoping we might be able to move this before the end of the year. We’re waiting for Mexico’s sign off now on some of the change provisions and then I think we’ll be set to go forward.”

Kind’s letter also criticized the Trump administration’s trade aid package for “skewing toward the largest producers.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture renewed the Market Facilitation Program in May, allocating $14.5 billion for direct payments to farmers to make up for the impact of tariffs. Two rounds of payments have been authorized so far, with a third tranche possible in January.

But the program has been criticized for overpaying large agribusinesses. Most recently, a Bloomberg report found the agency may have overestimated the trade war’s impact on soybean growers.

“They’re using the same formula they use under the farm bill to dole out ag commodity subsidies. It goes to the very top, the biggest entities. And this has been a problem with farm policy for decades,” Kind said.

Holte said any program of that size is “going to have some warts.”

“It’s difficult for me to assess whether or not it’s being done appropriately. It’s a very large, widespread program,” Holte said. “I have quite a bit of confidence in Secretary Perdue that he, being a farmer himself, would understand that this needs to be done appropriately.”

Listen to the WPR report here.

Ron Kind Criticizes Trump Administration For Delaying China Trade Deal was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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