Is Record USDA Farm Aid Another Permanent ‘Temporary Solution’?

This week, the Trump administration announced an influx of billions of dollars in aid for U.S. farmers struggling due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In announcing the aid, President Donald Trump again positioned himself as “a great friend” of America’s farmers, a key Trump voting bloc that was awash in “Trump money” even before the pandemic.

Many American farmers are hurting today. Since the pandemic began, farmers “have been forced to destroy their crops, dump milk[,] and throw out perishable items that can’t be stored.”

The $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, first outlined last month, is “the first big push to ensure the pandemic does not trigger consumer food shortages.” It’s sending $16 billion in cash to farmers and ranchers in various sectors who are struggling due in part to rising costs and falling profits.

Earlier this month, as part of the same U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) coronavirus response, Trump announced the federal government would buy $3 billion in surplus food from U.S. farmers, for use at food banks. That aid is part of the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program, a COVID-era repackaging of the administration’s oft-ridiculed Harvest Box scheme.

The $19-billion coronavirus package is only about half the total COVID-19 aid earmarked for the agricultural sector.

As these figures suggest, the federal government is using a variety of avenues to pump record amounts of taxpayer money into the farm economy. But many Americans are increasingly skeptical of the payments. And some experts, NBC News reports, “are raising concerns about the very premise of the COVID-19 farmer aid.”

This week, the Environmental Working Group criticized the farm bailout, noting “most of the money won’t go to small family farmers but to the largest and wealthiest farms, which need the money the least.” Critics have also raised issues over the potential for farmers to inflate reported losses, whether and how to pay farmers for crops they haven’t even planted, and which agricultural products should be eligible for government payments.

The food-aid program is also drawing scrutiny. As Politico

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