WASHINGTON – Farmers across the United States will soon begin receiving government checks as part of a billion-dollar bailout to buoy growers experiencing financial strain from President Donald Trump’s trade disputes with China.
But even those poised for big payouts worry it won’t be enough. And while support for Trump is near unwavering in the heartland, some growers say that with the November election nearing, such disappointing aid outcomes could potentially affect their vote.
“It’s pretty obvious that the rural agriculture communities helped elect this administration, but the way things are going I believe farmers are going to have to vote with their checkbook when it comes time,” said Kevin Skunes, a corn and soybean grower from Arthur, N.D., and president of the National Corn Growers Association.
Corn farmers get the smallest slice of the aid pie. Corn groups estimate a loss of 44 cents per bushel, but they’re poised to receive just a single penny per bushel.
“If these issues haven’t been resolved, there could be a change in the way farmers vote,” Skunes said. “A person has to consider all things.”
Farmers are already feeling the impact of Trump’s trade tiffs with China and other countries. China has hit back hard, responding with its own set of tariffs on U.S. agricultural products and other goods.
The Trump administration is providing up to $12 billion in emergency relief funds for American farmers, with roughly $6 billion in an initial round. The three-pronged plan includes $4.7 billion in payments to corn, cotton, soybean, dairy, pork and sorghum farmers. The rest is for developing new foreign markets for American-grown commodities and purchasing more than two dozen select products, including certain fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, meat and dairy.
Jack Maloney says corn farmers will be getting so little in bailout aid that for roughly 200,000 bushels of corn a farmer would get only about $2,000 for their losses.
“That’s not even beer money,” said the Brownsburg, Ind., corn and soybean grower.
Maloney, 62, began farming full time in 1978 and now has two employees. He said some fellow farmers are angry and upset.
“Agriculture has always been the butt of all the trade wars,” he said, adding that this isn’t the first time he’s seen trade disruptions affect the agricultural markets.
Daniel Weinand worries the market downturn could be the death knell for his farm. Weinand, 30, grows corn, canola and yellow peas on 900 acres of rented land near Hazen, N.D. He said he expects to reap about 30,000 bushels of corn, and to receive about $300 in aid.
“A penny a bushel on corn, it’s not that it’s entirely worthless. But it almost is,” he said. “I don’t know how many more years I can weather.”