USDA plans additional $14bn for farmers reeling from pandemic

The federal government said Friday that it will give farmers an additional $14bn to compensate them for the difficulties they have experienced selling their crops, milk and meat because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States Department of Agriculture released details of its plan that it said will provide “financial assistance that gives producers the ability to absorb increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic”.

President Donald Trump first mentioned the aid in a speech Thursday night in Wisconsin, a presidential battleground state that is considered vital for his chances to win a second term.

The additional payments illustrate the importance of farmers as a voting block to Trump’s re-election. He addressed them in Wisconsin directly, saying, “You gotta love Trump,” and promising favourable trade and regulatory changes, as well as tax cuts.

“Now, we have to get four more years to cement it, and to do additional things,” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has created several problems for farmers. Lowered availability of labour has reduced crop and livestock production, as well as processing capacity in meatpacking plants and other facilities. These problems have pushed prices that farmers receive for commodities lower. They have also seen a drop in demand for some products as fewer people have been eating out. Farm households also have suffered from loss of income from off-farm jobs that they use to fund farm production needs, household living expenses and payments on farm business debt.

 

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