WASHINGTON/KANSAS CITY – The Trump administration on Tuesday said it will use a Great Depression-era program to pay up to $12 billion to help U.S. farmers weather a growing trade war with China, the European Union and others that the president began.
It is a clear signal the U.S. President Donald Trump is determined to stick with tariffs as his weapon of choice in the conflict.
The move meant to cushion the blow for a politically important constituency was met with broad criticism by many farmers and farm-belt lawmakers, including Republicans. Rural and agricultural states supported Trump by wide margins in the 2016 election.
Trump’s trade policies have become central in several rural-state U.S. Senate races ahead of congressional elections in November.
The president, speaking at an event in Kansas City on Tuesday, reaffirmed his support for tariffs and pledged that “farmers will be the biggest beneficiary.”
“Just be a little patient,” Trump said.
The relief package is intended as a temporary boost to farmers as the United States and China negotiate over trade issues, officials said.
“This obviously is a short-term solution that will give President Trump time to work on a long-term trade policy,” said Sonny Perdue, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The aid will be financed through the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation and will not require congressional approval, Perdue said.
The administration’s action appeared to divide Republicans, with some praising the move and others troubled by what they view as the kind of widespread government-assistance program their party has traditionally opposed.
“This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and the White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches,” said Senator Ben Sasse, of Nebraska who frequently criticizes the president, a fellow Republican. – Reuters