PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota's Washington delegation is urging U.S. President Donald Trump's Administration to close trade negotiations and end the ongoing tariff war with a second, multi-billion dollar "Band-Aid" federal bailout to farmers on the horizon.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday, May 23, announced an upcoming $16 billion farm aid package designed to offset the costs of retaliatory tariffs put on U.S. agricultural products, most notably by China. $14.5 billion will be paid directly to producers.
China has historically been a major consumer of U.S.-grown soybeans, a top crop of South Dakota. After Trump placed 25% tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports, the Chinese government retaliated with import taxes on U.S. agricultural products.
Thanks to the trade war, combined with low commodity prices and a wet, harsh spring season, South Dakota farmers have been slammed with what U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, called "the worst agricultural crisis since the 1980s."
The USDA's proposal is the second farm aid package on the table within a year, after July 2018's $12 billion bailout. In a Thursday news release, the USDA said the package addresses the "unjustified retaliation and trade disruption" felt by farmers while the Trump Administration "continues to work on free, fair and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets in the long run to help American farmers compete globally."
U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-South Dakota, called the payouts "more of a Band-Aid than a solution."
"While I’m glad the administration recognizes what they're going through, if you asked any single one of these farmers, they’d tell you they’d rather have a strong economy and open global markets than receive a federal payment," Thune said in a Thursday written statement.
U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, struck a similar chord: “Tariffs for tariffs sake are not a good idea and there is no doubt producers want market access instead of government assistance."
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in Thursday's news release that the goal of the trade war is to improve global agricultural market conditions in the long run.
"China hasn’t played by the rules for a long time and President Trump is standing up to them, sending the clear message that the United States will no longer tolerate their unfair trade practices, which include non-tariff trade barriers and the theft of intellectual property," he said.