Trade aid is here!
Back in the spring, the administration promised to offer some relief to farmers impacted by the president’s trade war disagreement with China. The two countries have gone back and forth on trade negotiations for months now, both imposing hefty tariffs on each other. In an effort to inflict pain on President Trump, the Chinese tariffs have targeted a large number of agricultural exports.
As promised by the Trump administration, eligible farmers can now sign up with the USDA to receive financial support through the Market Facilitation Program. The administration will also implement two other programs as trade aid. The Food Purchase and Distribution Program will buy up surpluses of certain commodities. The Trade Promotion Program is meant to restore lost markets and develop new markets for agriculture products.
While I don’t necessarily endorse the administration’s tactics, the economic relief for some farmers is welcome. Farm country is struggling right now. Lots of folks need help, especially as commodity prices suffer as a result of the trade issues. So if the federal government wants to ease those pressures then farmers need to take advantage of it. I certainly don’t blame you and neither should anyone else.
Here’s how to participate in the Market Facilitation Program.
How to sign up
Applications are available online and at your local FSA office. Completed forms can be dropped off at the FSA office in person, or submitted via mail, fax, and email. The digital form isn’t ready yet. When it is, you will be able to fill it out online and then go down to the county office to sign.
You will need to provide your full name and contact information for you or your entity. Aid is broken down by individual commodities. For each commodity you will need: production records post harvest in bushels, ctw, or heads; types of production evidence (i.e. scale tickets, feeding records, bale lists, or combine monitor printouts); and the name of the person who will sign the application form for the individual commodity only.
Yes, that means most people will have to wait until after harvest to actually register for any aid.
Who can sign up?
Right now the Market Facilitation Program is available only for producers of corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, wheat, dairy, or hogs. Producers are eligible if they have an ownership interest in the commodity and are actively engaged in farming; have an adjusted gross income for tax years 2014-2016 of less than $900,000 per year; comply with conservation compliance provisions; and provide verifiable and reliable production records by crop, type, practice, intended use, and acres as requested.
What will I get?
The formula for the payments is as follows:
Market Facilitation Program Rate x 50% of Total 2018 Actual Production = Payment.
The rate varies by commodity as follows:
- Soybeans $1.65/bushel
- Sorghum $0.86/bushel
- Wheat $0.14/bushel
- Cotton $0.06/bushel
- Corn $0.01/bushel
- Dairy $0.12 per cwt
- Hogs $8.00 per head
There are some variables in there, so each producer should speak with someone at FSA for more information.
Yes, corn and wheat farmers are a little upset by the amounts available. The National Corn Growers Association and the National Association of Wheat Growers has asked USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to provide more information on how the agency came up with those numbers. Perdue promised transparency and will make records available to the public. For what it’s worth, NCGA estimates farmers have lost 44 cents per bushel for corn, while NAWG estimates farmers have lost 75 cents per bushel.
When will producers get it?
Good question. Right now it is unclear when producers will actually see the payments. USDA isn’t spending all of its money either; some of it is being held back in case further payment periods are necessary.
What about producers of other commodities?
Not to worry, the USDA hasn’t forgotten everyone else … entirely. The USDA plans to purchase $1.2 billion in agricultural goods through the Food Purchase and Distribution Program. While certainly not as nice as direct payments, the program is meant to support prices for crops targeted by China’s tariffs. These include apples, dairy, oranges, pistachios, potatoes, cherries, and almonds.
Producers with questions or seeking more information should contact their local FSA office. Or visit the UDSA’s website for the program.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.