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China is buying soybeans again, but Trump is still paying farmers hurt by tariffs

President Donald Trump said Monday that he would release a second round of payments to farmers hurt by tarif...

Posted: Dec 18, 2018 8:55 AM
Updated: Dec 18, 2018 8:56 AM

President Donald Trump said Monday that he would release a second round of payments to farmers hurt by tariffs, even after China resumed buying US soybeans last week.

"Today I am making good on my promise to defend our Farmers & Ranchers from unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations," Trump tweeted.

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Soybean growers have been hit especially hard. China, their biggest foreign market, stopped buying US soybeans in July in retaliation for new American tariffs. But China placed a massive new order last week, as part of a temporary trade truce between the two countries.

Still, it won't make up for the business that soybean farmers lost this year due to the trade war. The Farm Bureau has estimated that exports to China are down 97% and prices reached historic lows this summer. Many farmers had to put their soybeans in storage after harvesting them this fall.

"While there have been positive movements on the trade front, American farmers are continuing to experience losses due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations," Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement Monday.

"This assistance will help with short-term cash flow issues as we move into the new year," he added.

The aid package came after multiple countries slapped tariffs on American commodities in retaliation for the Trump administration's move to impose tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, as well as on a variety of imports from China.

When the first tariffs went into effect in the spring, Trump himself promised to "make it up" to farmers, calling them "patriots" and saying the policies would be better for them in the long run. In addition to the emergency aid, he made sure the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal would begin to open the Canadian dairy market to US producers.

The package allocates a total of about $9.6 billion to producers of almonds, cotton, corn, dairy, pork, soybeans, sorghum, sweet cherries and wheat. Farmers must apply for the aid, and will receive an amount based on how much they have produced.

The US Department of Agriculture released the first half of aid in September and said at the time that additional money might be released in December. Soybean, dairy, wheat and corn farmers have complained that the first round was not enough.

In October, the National Milk Producers Federation asked Perdue for more help, arguing that the industry had lost more than $1 billion since the retaliatory tariffs had been placed on dairy goods in May. A total of $255 million has been set aside for dairy farmers.

Farm industry groups have repeatedly said that while the aid helps, what they really want are open markets so they can sell their produce abroad.

"While this assistance package will help a number of our farm families during this year of severe economic challenge, the best way to provide lasting relief is to continue pushing for trade and tariff reform from trading partners like China, Canada, Mexico, India, Turkey and the European Union," Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in a statement Monday.

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