Farmers thrive under Biden, see recovery from Trump-era trade wars

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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has often espoused his love for American farmers during his presidency.

But after a year under President Joe Biden, farmers say they are actually feeling the love.

“Well, the difference between 2019 and 2021 is definitely the differences in administration,” Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer said in an interview. “In 2019, our administration was at war with all of our clients.” Under Biden, he said, the nation is “rebuilding our relationships with our customers.”

Trump courted the support of farmers during his failed re-election campaign in 2020 and touted his administration’s trade relief, saying they were better off with government payments than relying on sales alone.

While the Biden administration has focused on its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and more recently the global standoff with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, the agricultural sector has fared quite well. behaved under the new administration, while farmers are slacking off. government bailout and see an increase in commodity prices.

“We had farm income that had increased by quite a significant amount in 2021, almost to the record high of 2013, but not quite,” said Patrick Westhoff, director of the Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute. from the University of Missouri. “Part of that, of course, was the continuation of government payments, but there was a very strong recovery in crop and livestock prices last year.”

Prices for soybeans and corn, two of the largest cash crops in the United States, suffered slightly, falling below $9 and above $3 a bushel, respectively, during the pandemic. Exports today saw an increase in demand, in part due to exports to China and poor weather conditions affecting South American producers. Soybeans reached $14 in 2021 and corn is expected to continue above $5 in 2022.

Net farm income, a large measure of profits, is estimated to have increased $15.7 billion in 2020 from 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. The agency also projects net farm income of $116.8 billion in 2021, the highest level since 2013.

commercial gaiters

Schweitzer points out that in 2021, the majority of net farm income came from commodity sales and actual “off-farm” production. While in 2019 a “big chunk” of revenue came from Market Facilitation Program payments, which were central to the Trump administration’s efforts to mitigate losses from its disputes with China and other partners. commercial.

The cost of the second round of tariff support was estimated at around $16 billion and came with additional provisions to address allegations that large companies had benefited disproportionately compared to small farms in the initial phase.

Vincent Smith, a visiting fellow at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, said the Trump administration had “severely disadvantaged” farmers with misguided trade policy.

Soybeans are harvested in Wyanet, Illinois on September 25, 2020.Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“The Trump administration, when it comes to these trade war subsidies, has been fully responsive in building support in the agricultural sector,” Smith said, adding that Trump and Biden remain interested in garnering votes from farmers.

In 2020, Trump won a number of traditionally Republican farm states, including Iowa, Texas, North Carolina and Nebraska.

The Trump administration came under fire when critics said Sonny Perdue, then Secretary of Agriculture, used his post to promise more help for farmers at an August 2020 campaign event in North Carolina in a bid to woo voters.

Trump was able to win in North Carolina, one of the few swing states he was able to win.

play fair

While Biden is seeing a rebound in agriculture, some of the improvement may not be entirely due to his own policies.

On trade, her administration is on hold, and officials have yet to say how she intends to tackle a litany of remaining trade disputes with China.

But there are a number of agriculture-focused efforts underway.

Biden has tried to address lingering supply chain issues in hopes of boosting profits for family farms and lowering prices for consumers.

“I think the real optimism in agriculture is that we have a president who is willing to stand up to these corporate monopolies and tell them ‘enough’. You have to play it fair, you have to share your profits,” Schweitzer said.

Building on a July 2021 executive order, the Biden administration announced earlier this month that it intended to provide $1 billion in US bailout funds to help build the capacity of independent processing and provide financing that would give independent meat producers access to cold storage and other facilities. to improve the distribution of their products.

It will also work with lenders to provide credit to independent processors and spend money on workforce training and safety, the White House said in a statement highlighting the project.

With meat and poultry prices driving the broader rise in the cost of groceries nationwide, the White House has spent months asserting that anti-competitive consolidation within the meatpacking industry is to blame for soaring prices.

Four companies – Tyson, JBS, Marfrig and Seaboard – control up to 85% of the nation’s meatpacking business, according to a White House estimate.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack predicted in early January that there would be localized price reductions.

“People are eating more at home than they ever have and it’s caused a slight disruption in the market,” he said in an interview, referring to the initial impact of the Covid omicron variant. .

He added: “It’s going to take a bit of time, but I think you’re going to see price moderation over time as we’re going to increase processing capacity in this country. We’re going to make it a much more competitive market.”

Westhoff says the agricultural sector is “looking to see how this translates into practice.”

“I think a lot of people are skeptical about anything that can be done to change that in the very short term, but there are definitely a lot of people who want to find a way to do that,” he said.

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