Billions put aside to ease US farmer pain
US farmers slammed by Donald Trump's escalating trade disputes with China, the EU and other countries will receive $US12 billion ($16.2 billion) in emergency relief to ease their financial woes.
But some farm-state Republicans have dismissed the subsidy plan saying farmers want markets for their crops, not payoffs for lost sales and lower prices.
The US Agriculture Department says it will tap into an existing program to provide direct payments to farmers and ranchers hurt by foreign retaliation to Trump's tariffs.
With congressional elections coming soon, the government action underscored administration concern about damage to US farmers from Trump's trade tariffs and the potential for losing House and Senate seats in the Midwest and elsewhere.
The White House said the program was temporary.
"This is a short-term solution that will give President Trump and his administration the time to work on long-term trade deals," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said as administration officials argued that the plan was not a "bailout" of the nation's farmers.
But that provided little solace to rank-and-file Republicans, who said the tariffs could open a Pandora's box for other sectors.
"I want to know what we're going to say to the automobile manufacturers and the petrochemical manufacturers and all the other people who are being hurt by tariffs," Republican Senator John Kennedy said.
"You've got to treat everybody the same."
Fellow Republican Senator Ben Sasse said the plan amounted to "gold crutches" adding: "America's farmers don't want to be paid to lose - they want to win by feeding the world. This administration's tariffs and bailouts aren't going to make America great again, they're just going to make it 1929 again."
The program is expected to start taking effect around Labor Day.
Officials said the direct payments could help producers of soybeans, which have been hit hard by retaliation to the Trump tariffs, along with sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and pork.
Trump did not specifically reference the plan during a speech to veterans in Kansas City, but asked for patience as he attempts to renegotiate trade agreements.
"We're making tremendous progress. They're all coming. They don't want to have those tariffs put on them," Trump told the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention. "We're opening up markets. You watch what's going to happen. Just be a little patient."
Agriculture officials said they do not need congressional approval as the money will come through the Commodity Credit Corporation with amounts to be calculated after harvest.
The Trump administration has slapped tariffs on $US34 billion in Chinese goods in a dispute over Beijing's high-tech industrial policies. China has retaliated with duties on soybeans and pork.
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