Corn growers call for new trade aid change as EWG releases data
November 20, 2018
Amidst growing evidence that farmers are discontent with the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) that the Trump administration is making to offset the losses that have resulted from tariffs that foreign countries have imposed on U.S. farm products in retaliation for the tariffs that the administration has imposed on steel, aluminum and other products, the National Association of Corn Growers today urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to consider changes to the MFP payments ahead of the second round of payments.
In a letter to Perdue, NCGA President Lynn Chrisp said that he continues to hear from farmers who are disappointed in USDA's approach to calculating the first round of MFP payments because it was too narrow in scope and did not capture the real-time impacts of trade disruptions on U.S. markets.
Chrisp asked Perdue to add ethanol and distillers of dried grains with solubles (DDGS) to the calculation of damages for corn. Using USDA's methodology, gross trade damages for ethanol and DDGS amount to $254 million, which was not accounted for in the first MFP payments.
Chrisp also asked the secretary to allow farmers who suffer production losses from disasters to use an alternative to 2018 production for their MFP calculation. This would ensure farmers suffering from drought, hurricane-related losses or other natural disasters would not be penalized twice, he said.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Work Group on Monday released a list of recipients of the trade aid payments using data it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
In a news release, EWG emphasized that 1,000 "city slickers" who live in the nation's 50 largest cities had receive payments. EWG has often emphasized that the payments go to urban residents in coastal cities far from the farms that are in the families of the recipients. But the news release noted that of the 1,142 recipients of the payments covered in the EWG chart, only nine residents of San Francisco, four residents of Los Angeles, five residents of New York City and four residents of Washington, D.C., received payments.
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A USDA spokesman said that "in order to receive a payment, the producer has to meet the minimum Actively Engaged in Farming criteria. Those regulations are used to determine eligibility for all of our other farm bill commodity programs. The producers also have to maintain ownership over the commodity for which they are receiving a payment. Unlike our other commodity programs, such as ARC [Agricultural Risk Coverage] or PLC [Production Loss Coverage], a producer has to prove actual production of a crop to qualify for marketing facilitation assistance."
EWG also maintained that some recipients had exceeded payment limitations, but the USDA spokesman said, "In some cases, individual farmers have entered into joint ventures or general partnerships with other farmers. Each one has to meet the 'actively engaged' criteria. In such partnerships, each member is held to the $125,000 payment limit. Every payment made by FSA [Farm Service Agency] has to be attributed to an actively engaged person."
Also, The New York Times reported that the trade aid has benefited only a relatively few farmers, and that farmers and analysts say it does not make up for lost sales.
–The Hagstrom Report