On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced a second round of financial assistance to farmers hurt by recent trade wars — $16 billion worth of direct payments, surplus commodity purchases and new export market development.
This follows the $11 billion aid package the U.S. Department of Agriculture authorized last year.
More sweet cherry growers may be able to apply for aid under the Market Facilitation Program in 2019, thanks to changes in eligibility supported by Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Dan Newhouse. Their provision, expanding eligibility to a wider variety of business structures, passed the Senate on Thursday as part of a disaster relief budget bill but awaits a vote in the House.
“The Northwest Horticultural Council is pleased that this bill will provide all sweet cherry growers, who have and continue to be harmed by the retaliatory tariffs imposed by China, with the opportunity to apply for the trade mitigation offered by USDA,” said Mark Powers, president of the Council, in a statement.
Apple and pear growers, along with other fruit, vegetable, meat and dairy producers hurt by retaliatory tariffs, may be able to gain assistance through the USDA’s Food Purchase and Distribution Program, although the USDA didn’t yet offer details of which crops would be eligible for surplus purchases. The tree fruit industry should also be eligible for funding to develop new export markets.
While grower groups appreciate the aid to help cover the impact from retaliatory tariffs, some also took the opportunity to criticize the ongoing trade wars and the long-term impacts of lost market access in China.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Administration to again partially offset the damages being incurred by the agriculture industry as a result of the ongoing trade war with China,” said Tom Nassif, CEO of Western Growers, in a statement. “Regardless, it is important to acknowledge that the current trade aid package – as was the case with the last one – will be insufficient to make the industry whole. Indeed, it will take American farmers many years, if ever, to recover from the lost trade revenues and, more importantly, lost markets that have resulted from the continuation of trade disruptions with China.”