By DAVID PITT, Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The Trump administration overpaid corn farmers about $ 3 billion in federal aid in 2019, and farmers in the South were paid more for the same crops than those in the rest of the country, discovered a federal monitoring agency.
The Government Accountability Office said in a report released Monday that international disputes resulting from tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump were hurting farmers, but the county-by-county methodology of the US Department of Agriculture for calculating the extent of the damage was incorrect, resulting in inconsistent and overpayments. compensation.
“Although corn yields are higher in the Midwest and West, corn growers received an average of $ 69 an acre in the South, $ 61 in the Midwest, $ 34 in the Northeast, and $ 29 per acre. $ in the West, “the report says.
The GAO also estimated that payments to corn growers were about $ 3 billion more than the USDA estimate of commercial damage to corn, while payments to soybean, sorghum and cotton growers were less than their estimated commercial damages.
The GAO report was commissioned by the Senate Agriculture Committee chaired by Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.
âThis report confirms that the Trump USDA picked winners and losers in its trade aid programs and left everyone behind,â Stabenow said in a statement. these farmers have in fact suffered a greater loss, compromising our future ability to support farmers when real disasters occur. “
GAO said it audited UDSA’s market facilitation program.
The GAO recommended that the USDA Office of the Chief Economist review its internal review process to ensure transparency of its documentation, and that the agency conduct a review to ensure that proper baseline methods are used in the analysis.
USDA chief economist Dr. Seth Meyer responded to the report in an October 21 letter. He said the USDA analysis was based on a widely accepted business model and methodology that the USDA Inspector General’s office has found to be reasonable, and has been applied consistently across a range of products. for the 2018 and 2019 trade mitigation packages.
He said the USDA chief economist’s office had not made the policy decision and offered options to policy makers.
âThe political decisions to choose between a variety of alternatives that GAO has flagged as problematic were made by senior USDA leadership under the previous administration and not by the OCE,â he said.
Trump imposed higher tariffs on some products from China, Europe, Canada and other key trading partners in 2018. China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Turkey and the United States India responded with tariffs targeting American products, including agricultural products. In 2018 and 2019, many U.S. agricultural exports declined and the Trump administration provided funds to support farmers, including the Market Facilitation Program which was the subject of GAO’s audit.
Producers of corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans and wheat were paid over $ 21.7 billion in 2018 and 2019. Dairy and pork producers were paid over $ 900 million, and specialty crops including nuts, cherries, cranberries, ginseng and table grapes were paid $ 346. million.
Before losing the November 2020 election, Trump made it clear that he was courting farmers’ votes with federal help. During an election campaign appearance in late October 2020 in Omaha, Nebraska, Trump said he believed farmers were better off receiving government payments than relying solely on their farm receipts.
In 2019, a third of America’s farm income came from direct government payments, and last year it accounted for almost 40% of their income.
Some farm groups questioned the way federal money was distributed to farmers and ranchers.
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