Donald Trump announces $19 bn relief for US farmers facing 'unprecedented losses' during COVID-19 pandemic

The programs follow rising pressure from the US farm lobby for government purchases as growers and ranchers struggle to get their goods to market because of disruptions caused by the pandemic, forcing some to throw out food supplies.

Reuters April 18, 2020 08:23:27 IST
Donald Trump announces $19 bn relief for US farmers facing 'unprecedented losses' during COVID-19 pandemic

Chicago: President Donald Trump on Friday announced a $19 billion relief program to help US farmers cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, including $16 billion in direct payments to producers and mass purchases of meat, dairy, vegetables and other products.

The US Agriculture Department is partnering with regional and local distributors to purchase $3 billion in such farm goods to be distributed to food banks, churches and aid groups as millions of Americans face unemployment with much of the US economy shut down.

Donald Trump announces 19 bn relief for US farmers facing unprecedented losses during COVID19 pandemic

File image of President Donald Trump. AP

"American agriculture has been hard-hit, like most of America, with the coronavirus, and President Trump is standing with our farmers and all Americans to make sure that we all get through this national emergency," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said at a White House news conference on Friday.

The agency said it will make monthly purchases totaling about $100 million each of fresh produce, dairy products and meat products. Long lines have formed at US food banks in recent weeks.

The programs follow rising pressure from the US farm lobby for government purchases as growers and ranchers struggle to get their goods to market because of disruptions caused by the pandemic, forcing some to throw out food supplies.

"Having to dump milk or plow under vegetables ready to market is not only financially distressing but it’s heartbreaking as well for those that produce them,” Perdue said.

Direct payments will be sent "as quickly as possible" to farmers and ranchers as farm commodity producers have experienced "unprecedented losses," Perdue said. However, he did not say how the direct payments would be distributed.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), which represents corn-based ethanol producers, was quick to criticize the package.

"USDA missed a crucial opportunity to lend a helping hand to an industry that is suffering the worst economic crisis in its history," RFA President Geoff Cooper said in a statement. The ethanol industry has suffered due to lack of demand for motor fuels as Americans stay home.

Funding for the immediate aid program will be pulled together from a number of sources, including recent coronavirus-related aid laws passed by Congress and other funding authorities that USDA has access to, according to Perdue.

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