Five weeks after saying he was hopeful China would import $36.6 billion of U.S. food, agricultural and seafood products this year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is less certain the target will be met. A spate of sales to China during August and September has raised hopes in farm country that the goal, set in the "phase one" trade agreement, would be met despite a slow start.
U.S. farm income, buoyed by record-setting farm subsidies this year, will sink in the new year with the disappearance of government payments to buffer the effects of the trade war and the coronavirus pandemic on agriculture, said the FAPRI think tank on Thursday. Farm groups and their allies in Congress are likely to seek billions of dollars in new federal assistance, said analysts.
The Trump administration is showering U.S. agriculture with the largest farm supports ever, an estimated $37 billion, chiefly through stopgap programs to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. As a result, farm income in 2020 would be the highest in seven years.
The USDA aims to release a new version of its coronavirus relief program for farmers and ranchers in the next couple of weeks, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday, with at least $14 billion available. President Trump has suggested the new program will boost coronavirus spending on producers to $34 billion this year — a record for farm subsidies.
Loopholes remain, but the USDA is tightening its crop subsidy rules by limiting who can collect a payment for managing a farm, historically one of its most porous definitions. The new regulation, to be published on Monday, requires people to perform at least 500 hours of management or at least 25 percent of the management work required annually to merit a subsidy check — "a very major advancement," according to a small-farm advocate.
The expected six-month review of the Sino-U.S. trade agreement failed to materialize on Saturday but President Trump expressed satisfaction with the increasing pace of farm export sales to China. During a news conference, Trump said, "China has been buying a lot of — a lot of things, and they're doing it to keep me happy but they're dreaming about Joe Biden."
The government's coronavirus relief programs are an important shield for farmers and ranchers battling a sharp drop in income in the central Plains, ag lenders said in a Kansas City Fed survey released on Thursday. A similar survey of ag bankers in the Midwest by the Chicago Fed "revealed the broad financial distress from the Covid-19 pandemic in rural areas."
The coronavirus pandemic may be the defining event of 2020, driving the United States into a recession and pummeling commodity prices, but cropland values in the Farm Belt have been relatively unaffected — stable to slightly softer, said the USDA on Thursday.
Large American farms are more confident of weathering the coronarvirus pandemic but nearly two-thirds of them say Congress should provide more assistance beyond the $16 billion already earmarked for agriculture, said Purdue University on Tuesday. Some 27 percent of producers surveyed for Purdue's monthly Ag Economy Barometer said they were "very worried" about the impact of the virus on their farm's profitability. (No paywall)
The agricultural sector will struggle over the next year because of the coronavirus pandemic, leading some farmers to quit or be forced out of business, said economist Allen Featherstone in a think tank paper released on Monday. (No paywall)