“TheNew York Timesdetails the “gush of funds” Trump has promised U.S. farmers—with more on the way. Some say total farm subsidies could top $40 billion this year. The Timessays the figure may be as high as $46 billion. Either figure would be a record.”
“Critics have seized on the manner in which the Trump administration is subsidizing farmers—mostly outside of the traditional (though also lousy) programs funded under the five-year Farm Bill.
“[T]he bulk of USDA payments to farmers since 2017 have flowed through stop-gap programs created by the Trump administration, with payment limits far larger than those that apply to the traditional farm program,” Successful Farming reported in August.
The combination of farm subsidies included in the current Farm Bill and subsidies doled out under Trump’s executive order means, the Times reports, that two out of every five dollars American farmers receive this year will come directly from taxpayers.
Critics, including many Democrats, argue the funds are being doled out as political favors. They appear to have a point. Last month, for example, during an election rally in Wisconsin, Trump announced additional payments to farmers totaling $13 billion.
Non-partisan observers have also labeled them political handouts. “The Government Accountability Office found last month that $14.5 billion of farm aid in 2019 had been handed out with politics in mind,” The Week reports. The Times, citing the same GAO report, also highlighted by some Democrats, shows farm subsidies last year appeared to be directed to “big farms in the Midwest and southern states,” mirroring at least some segments of Trump’s farm base.
That same base has been hit hard by tariffs championed by Trump. In 2018, I predicted (as did many others) that Trump’s international trade tariffs would spur retaliatory tariffs and harm U.S. farmers and consumers in the process. They did just that.
But because Trump’s tariffs hurt U.S. farmers, and because he wants them to vote for him again, he’s sending them cash. That cash even has a name. Last year, one farmer NPR food-policy writer Dan Charles spoke with says he and his fellow farmers have taken to referring to the tariff-induced subsidies as “Trump money.”
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture simply sent [the farmer] a check to compensate him for the low prices resulting from the trade war,” Charles explains.
Most of Trump’s subsidies have gone to large producers.
“Despite the record amount of farm welfare payments doled out by this administration, the smaller struggling family farmers get next to nothing while wealthy landowners and massive, highly profitable agribusiness hoover up most of the federal dollars,” says Don Carr, a senior advisor with the Environmental Working Group, in an email to me this week. “I’m old enough to remember when a Minnesota millionaire qualifying for a puny food stamp benefit was a scandal, yet few feathers get ruffled when rich land barons collect million-dollar government welfare checks.””