The 54 leading countries of the world spend roughly $700 billion a year on farm subsidies, equal to 12 percent of gross farm revenues, said the OECD on Tuesday. The average rate of producer support in OECD countries – the industrialized world – is more than double the rate in emerging and developing nations, mostly in Asia, Africa and South America, despite some "convergence" in the past two decades. (No paywall)
U.S. farm income, under pressure this year from the trade war and coronavirus pandemic, could fall off a cliff next year when record-setting federal payments are due to end, according to early assessments. A plunge in income could be avoided by cost-cutting on the farm, a recovery in commodity demand, or a new multibillion-dollar round of federal aid, but they are not assured, say analysts.
This week's White House budget proposal to cut crop insurance by 31 percent and to tighten eligibility rules for farm subsidies would save less in 10 years than the administration spent to mitigate the impact of the Sino-U.S. trade war on 2018 and 2019 farm production, said an economist.
Farmers are eligible for up to $500,000 apiece for the hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other disasters they faced in 2018 and this year, including Hurricane Dorian last weekend, said the USDA on Monday, with $3 billion in aid available. As it did in July for Trump tariff payments, the USDA set the maximum disaster payment at double the Congressional limit for farm subsidies.
Farmers and ranchers will receive a projected $10.7 billion in Trump tariff payments this year, the major reason that direct federal payments will amount to 22 percent of net farm income, say USDA economists. The trade war payments would be twice as large as last year's $5.1 billion, when the administration created the stop-gap Market Facilitation Program to mitigate the impact of the Sino-U.S. trade war on the agricultural sector.
Lawmakers are complaining about "all this welfare going to farmers" during the trade war and they might balk at providing more aid if there is a farm crisis, said House Agriculture chairman Collin Peterson in a broadcast interview. "It undermines us," said Peterson. "If we need to do something, it is going to make it very much more difficult to get political support to respond."
The Trump administration has spent notably less than commonly described on its package to mitigate the impact of the trade war on 2018 agricultural production. This year’s version may come closer to the $16 billion maximum trumpeted by the president because of more accommodating payment rules.
For the second time in 14 months, President Trump announced a multibillion-dollar government intervention to prop up the farm sector, a prominent casualty of the Sino-U.S. trade war. The first bailout, announced in April 2018, has sent around $8.3 billion in cash to growers so far; the new rescue will buy "agricultural products from our Great Farmers, in larger amounts than China ever did, and ship it to poor & starving countries in the form of humanitarian assistance," the president said on social media.
When Congress passes disaster bills, the government commonly compensates growers for loss of crops and livestock with the proviso they buy crop insurance in the future so they are protected against catastrophic damage. Companion bills filed by Democrats in the House and Senate would go a step farther by giving farmers the money to pay for the policies — a "terrible" expansion of the federally subsidized program, says a small-farm advocate.