“‘Trump money’ is what we call it,’ Missouri farmer Robert Henry told NPR of the taxpayer-funded subsidies sent to him and other farmers by the Department of Agriculture.
Farm subsidies have now hit a 14-year high after the USDA sent out payments of approximately $16 billion in aid in 2019 and $12 billion in 2018. The two-year total of $28 billion paid to American farmers tops the auto-industry bailout following the 2008 financial crisis by billions.
The other key differences between the auto bailout and the recent farm subsidies, NPR points out, are the lack of debate surrounding the payoffs and the fact that they were not authorized by Congress. Considering it can be argued this is a self-inflicted wound caused by the president, and at an enormous cost to taxpayers, one would think the subsidies would be more controversial. The unprecedented payments are mostly compensation for losses incurred from Trump’s tariff war with China, which has triggered crops to fall in value.
But Trump is paying off those affected by his decisions, effectively buying their silence. “The sector that is hurt the most, and which would normally complain, all of a sudden it’s assuaged by these payments. To me, that’s a problem,” the USDA’s former chief economist Joe Glauber told NPR.
NPR goes on to report that, according to studies from independent economists, the government is subsidizing farmers by almost double their losses from “actual harm suffered from the trade war,” with larger farms reaping the biggest rewards — which, again, are coming from taxpayers.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, compared Commodity Credit Corp., the program the Trump administration has been using as a loophole to bypass Congress, to the way the USDA has treated the food stamp program SNAP. “They’ve already given out $19 billion to farmers, but they’re cutting $5 billion from people in need,” Fudge told NPR. “I don’t even know how to describe it except to say that it is cruel, it is unfair, and it is clearly designed to support the president’s base, as he sees it, as opposed to those whom he sees as being undeserving.”
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue essentially confirmed Fudge’s point about the subsidies being purposely aimed at Trump’s base. “President Trump has great affection for America’s farmers and ranchers,” he told reporters while announcing the subsidy package. “He knows that they’re fighting the fight and that they’re on the front lines.”