Illinois farmers are criticizing President Donald Trump's trade policies after the administration announced it would provide farmers $16 billion in bailouts to ameliorate the economic impact of the commander-in-chief's attempts to restructure global trade relations.
The administration said on Thursday that the bailout payments to farmers, initially announced in May, would be made over the next six months. The payments can total a combined $250,000 for dairy and hog producers and a combined $250,000 for producers of specialty crops like fruits and vegetables. The statement by the agriculture department says that "no applicant can receive more than $500,000."
The plan offers specifics on how the administration will financially assist farmers, which were not apparent when the bailout was announced earlier this year. But those specifics did not fully appease agriculture workers in Illinois, who released a statement saying they wanted a long-term solution to address the damage to trade relations caused by the ongoing wars, including the long-running conflict with China.
"We are very appreciative of the Administration and USDA [Agriculture] Secretary Sonny Perdue's efforts to financially assist farmers who have been harmed by retaliatory tariffs for more than a year," Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr., said in a statement on Thursday, offering comments that reiterated the organization's prior concerns about the lasting damage to trade partners caused by the tariff war.
Illinois produces the most soybeans per acre in the U.S. China, which in 2018 was the largest buyer of soybeans, placed a 25 percent tariff on imports of the crop last year dealing a significant blow to Illinois farmers.
"While this second round of payments will help farmers brace damages caused by lost markets and the worst planting season in memory, this is not a long-term solution. We would much rather have our trade agreements back in place and solutions to our challenges with China, Japan, the European Union, and particularly, our neighbors to the north and south. We must remain focused on resolving trade disputes and on forging new trade agreements with our global partners," the statement continued.
The remarks also noted the impact of unusual weather in the state, which has further affected farmers. Late rains delayed growing seasons for corn and soybeans, further adding to stresses from Trump's global trade conflicts.
In addition to engaging China in a protracted battle, which has no apparent end in sight even as officials from the two countries plan to resume talks on Monday, the president threatened earlier this month to levy tariffs on $4 billion of imports from the European Union.
The trade conflict with Beijing, which escalated in May when Trump raised tariffs to 25 percent on $200 billion of imports from China and prompted the country to retaliate with its own tariffs, has provoked rare criticism from some Republican lawmakers. And farmers are declaring bankruptcy at levels the country hasn't witnessed for at least decade, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Although farmers, who voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2016 election, have indicated they are growing impatient with the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing, rural America still strongly supports the president. A May Gallup poll indicated that 54 percent of rural voters still backed the president.