President Donald Trump announced rules on Tuesday for a $19 billion pandemic relief package to farmers, who can start signing up next week for direct federal aid.
Speaking at a podium flanked by tables stacked with fruits and vegetables in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Trump shared details of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which includes $16 billion in aid directly to farmers and ranchers, and another $3 billion to buy food and distribute it to needy families under the Farmers to Families Food Box program.
“We’re here this morning to announce dramatic action to support our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and growers, as we work to safely reopen America,” Trump said.
Farmers who suffered a 5 percent or greater price loss can apply for direct payments of as much as $250,000 per person, the USDA said in a statement, adding that it would begin taking applications for the program on May 26.
“I tell you, you can go back to Abraham Lincoln, there’s no president who has treated the farmers as well as Trump,” the president said.
The funds for the program come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that Congress passed and Trump signed into law on March 27.
“America’s farming community is facing an unprecedented situation as our nation tackles the coronavirus,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “President Trump has authorized USDA to ensure our patriotic farmers, ranchers, and producers are supported and we are moving quickly to open applications to get payments out the door and into the pockets of farmers.”
The president thanked American farmers and producers “who have kept our nation fed and nourished as we have battled the invisible enemy.”
Trump called the outbreak of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, the novel coronavirus that emerged from China and causes COVID-19, something that “should have never happened,” adding, “you know that, I know that, and the people that caused the problem—they know that, too.”
Trump said the United States should consider curbing beef imports unless they come from a closely-allied country “that has really been with us.”
“Why are we bringing in cattle from other countries when we have so much ourselves?”, Trump asked, also mentioning losses suffered by farmers targeted by retaliatory tariffs in the U.S.-China trade war.
“The farmers were targeted by China when we started negotiating tough with China,” Trump said. “They just want a level playing field. We took care of our farmers, and our ranchers.”
Farmers joined Trump at the White House. They expressed their appreciation for the aid but said they prefer to rely on markets, not handouts.
“You stood behind us during the trade war, then stood behind us during all the difficulties we went through, and now with the pandemic, you stood behind us again,” said Zippy Duvall, President and CEO of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers will include $9.6 billion for the livestock industry—with $5.1 billion for cattle, $2.9 billion for dairy, and $1.6 billion for hogs, according to a statement released May 8 by U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee.
In addition, $3.9 billion will be paid to row crop producers, $2.1 billion for specialty crop farmers, and $500 million for other crops, according to the statement. The payments are capped at $250,000 per individual farmer or entity.
“These payments will help keep farmers afloat while market demand returns as our nation reopens and recovers. America’s farmers are resilient and will get through this challenge just like they always do with faith, hard work, and determination,” Perdue said.