Free Minds & Free Markets

Trump's Trade War Bailout Program Is a Predictable Mess

More than 1,100 people living in America's 50 largest cities have received bailout funds intended for farmers harmed by Trump's trade war.

RUSS ROHDE Cultura/NewscomRUSS ROHDE Cultura/Newscom

The Department of Agriculture program that's supposed to be bailing out farmers hurt by President Donald Trump's trade war has sent payments to more than 1,100 people living in America's 50 largest cities, an environmental watchdog group reported this week.

That so many government checks are being mailed to people who don't seem to be farmers isn't necessarily surprising—the federal government has a long history of sending farm subsidies to people who aren't farmers—but it does serve as an appropriate commentary on the foolishness of the bailout program.

Recipients of bailout funds include nine residents of San Francisco, four residents of Los Angeles, five residents of New York City and four residents of Washington, D.C., according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonpartisan environmental group that releases annual data on how the Department of Agriculture misallocates farm subsidies to urban areas. The EWG analyzed more than 86,000 payments totalling $356 million made by the Department of Agriculture's Market Facilitation Program. That's only a small fraction of what's expected to be more than $5 billion in payments made to farmers this year.

In order to qualify for funds, an applicant has to show only that they are "actively engaged" in farming, but those terms appear to be loosely defined by the Department of Agriculture. On Tuesday, The Washington Post highlighted how Scott Yocom, an architect who lives in Manhattan, was able to qualify for $3,300 in bailout funds because he is a partial owner of a family farm in Ohio, where he spends two weeks every year.

The White House announced the bailouts in August, in response to Chinese retaliatory tariffs that targeted American farm products. Those tariffs were part of China's response to the Trump administration's decision to target around $250 billion of Chinese-made goods with new tariffs earlier this year.

China's retaliation has been devastating for some American farmers. Previously, China had been the biggest buyer of American soybeans, but since July, Chinese purchases of American soybeans have almost entirely halted. The result has been a dramatic collapse in the price of soybeans, significant losses for American farmers, and a rerouting of the global soybean trade.

In announcing the bailout program, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the goal was "to mitigate the trade damages sustained by our farmers." The USDA was authorized to spend up to $12 billion through the Market Facilitation Program, a New Deal-era crop insurance program. So far, about $840 million has been sent to farmers, according to Reuters.

But at least some of that money doesn't appear to be heading to farmers, according to the data analyzed by EWG and obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In addition, EWG reported that it found 85 bailout recipients who collected more than the payment limit of $125,000. One bailout recipient in Louisiana received $439,120.

Scott Faber, a vice president with the EWG, told Roll Call that the administration should impose tighter limits on the payments. An additional round of bailouts are expected to be announced in early December.

Limitations on how much can be paid and greater oversight of who is receiving the bailout funds are good ideas, of course, but the best outcome would be eliminating the need for such bailouts in the first place. Trump's trade war has caused many self-inflicted wounds, but few seem as pointless as the creation of a new farm subsidy program to save farmers who would rather just be able to sell their goods—which they would have been able to do if the tariffs hadn't been erected in the first place. That the government is fumbling its response to a problem it solely created is sadly typical.

But there is little indication that the growing trade war between the U.S. and China will come to an end anytime soon. In the meantime, it appears the federal government will continue paying people who aren't farmers to not sell their produce to China.

Photo Credit: RUSS ROHDE Cultura/Newscom

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The Department of Agriculture program that's supposed to be bailing out farmers hurt by President Donald Trump's trade war has sent payments to more than 1,100 people living in America's 50 largest cities

    *cough*Sam Donaldson 1995*cough*

    WASHINGTON - ABC newsman Sam Donaldson, who owns a sheep ranch in New Mexico, was criticized yesterday by New York's Republican senator for receiving thousands of dollars in federal farm subsidies.

    Donaldson said he dislikes the subsidy system but it's part of staying competitive in the sheep business.
  • soldiermedic76||

    Did the author really just whitewash the woo sellers at EWG? This are some of the biggest purveyors of pseudoscience that there is and completely biased in their coverage of modern agriculture. They may be right about these subsidies but given their track record I am betting there is a hell of a lot more to it then they are reporting. Isn't there someone with a lot better reputation to use as a source? This is nearly as bad as using PETA or HSUS as a source in a story about hunting or animal agriculture.

  • soldiermedic76||

    Non-sequitor. Completely fucking stupid statement.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    'Obama is a Kenyan' is a completely fucking stupid statement. And the people who fell for it are and always will be completely fucking stupid people, right up to the moment they perform a civic service by taking their stale thinking to the grave and by being replaced in our electorate by younger, better Americans.

    Until then, carry on, clingers.

  • Nardz||

    Kinda looks like you're the only one who fell for it, rev

  • soldiermedic76||

    No one even fucking mentioned Obama. I criticized the Environmental Working Group which is a well known sensationalist group that purveys in pseudoscience and is supported extensively by the organic food industry. It is basically a front group for the organic food industry disguising itself as an advocacy group. But because of your limited intellect you can do nothing but resort to ad hominems, the same as the intellectually challenged John Galt.

  • soldiermedic76||

    I will point out to you that I am a tenure tracked professor with a specialty in animal science, that I belong to multiple professional science organizations and have been published in peer reviewed journals, if you want to compare intellectual ability, but I am certain that it wouldnt matter to you. You are delusional and consider yourself to be far more intellectually gifted than you are. You have lukewarm, at best, jntelkey ability.
    I have no problem with the organic food industry other than it is a con, and has a far higher impact on the environment then conventional agriculturr. They do, however, have the right to sponsor whomever they wish to promote their Luddite religion (because that is what it is, religion not science). I also have the right to point out the facts, which I know mean nothing to you.
    As for your response, their are pure gibberish and present no cognitive argument. They are infantile and basically can be summarized as you stating "you are a poopy head, and me so smart". My autistic 4th grader has better communication skills then you do.

  • soldiermedic76||

    If you didn't know autism is hereditary then you just proved your complete lack of knowledge. The genetic tie to autism is pretty well established. Don't you hate it when you display your ignorance trying to insult people. And yes, I am probably on the spectrum of high functioning ASD. I am not ashamed if it, BTW autism doesn't equal low intelligence.
    As for my stand on organic food, it is also a well established scientific fact. And I never retracted anything. Organic is a fad based on pseudoscience.

  • loveconstitution1789||


  • soldiermedic76||

    Actually, you did mention my stand on organic multiple times. You can't even keep your sophmoric insults straight. I also never said anything about liberals. As for my assertions about EWG, everything I mentioned about them is common knowledge. I don't hate them because they are liberal. I despise them because they are luddites, who besmirch honest science and slander people for profit. They are despicable, as tied to their dogma as the anti-vaccine movement.

  • soldiermedic76||

    What, per se was inaccurate about my statement? Nothing! So basically you resort to ad hominem attacks to cover your lack of knowledge on the situation.

  • soldiermedic76||

    You didn't list shit. You are juvenile and tedious. You also are completely disingenuous. You never offer anything but insults. You also don't understand the difference between criticism based upon fact and ad hominems. Your sophomoric attempts at being relevant are just sad.

  • soldiermedic76||

    No you haven't said shit other than insults. You think you're clever but your just sad.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Hihn says MAGA

  • soldiermedic76||

    You never once asked me to back my assertions about EWG. But you mentioned my stand on organic multiple times. It appears more as if you are the one with only a passing acquaintance with the truth. You last two post are the ultimate in goal post moving. As for publicly humiliation, considering your inability to make a cognitive argument and need to resort to juvenile insults to cover your lack of intellectual acuity, I am not the one who was humiliated.

  • soldiermedic76||

    Tenure track

  • soldiermedic76||

    I said twnured tracked. And I was a medic. Dumbfuck, people can have more than one career. I served ten years as a medic then took my GI Bill and went back to college. Wow, are you so stupid not to understand how that works? And do you even know what animal science is? (Hint: I work in my university's College of Agriculture).

  • soldiermedic76||

    If you want some of their pseudoscience: the state sunscreen causes cancer, vaccines are bad, seafood is bad, GMOs are bad, conventional agriculture is bad, their annual dirty dozen list is a completely arbitrary list that they create but is not recognized by any reputable science organization. If you are too lazy to check it out yourself, please be aware that,, ACSH, Food Science Institute, Center for Consumer Freedom and many more all list the EWG as frauds who pander in sensationalism and pseudoscience. But keep showing your ignorance by defending them.

  • Jerryskids||

    But these people *are* farmers, legally speaking. They're smart people just taking advantage of the laws as they are written. Poor people who take advantage of the laws as they are written in this manner are referred to as "welfare queens". Ted Turner gets (or got) subsidies for being a bison farmer, when's the last time you heard anybody besides me and John Stossel referring to Ted Turner as a welfare queen? And despite what you may think, Elon Musk isn't the biggest welfare queen in the country, that would be either Dwayne Andreas or the Fanjuls, depending on whether you count by gross or net weight.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "when's the last time you heard anybody besides me and John Stossel referring to Ted Turner as a welfare queen?"

    Well, I would, but then I haven't had much reason to refer to Ted Turner at all for at least 10 years.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Didn't Congress pass the law that provides bailouts?

    Didnt Trump try and chop the USDA budget during FY2017 and FY2018 but Congress refused?

    Who controls the money coming from the Treasury?

    0-2 today Boehm. Sad.

  • Calidissident||

    "The main tool the administration is reaching for is a $30 billion-a-year fund created in 1933 to help farmers hit by the Great Depression. Known as the Commodity Credit Corporation, it gives the executive branch the ability to funnel public money to agriculture without consulting Congress. (After President Barack Obama used the fund to provide disaster assistance to rural areas, Congress put restrictions on using it, then reopened the fund for President Donald Trump.)"

    Congress is shit for allowing this, but they did not mandate that Trump do this. It was his choice, as was the trade war that was his reason for doing it in the first place.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The clock is ticking on these yahoos. Two years will pass before we know it.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Who runs the bureaucracy?

    Hint: They mostly contribute to Democrats.

  • loveconstitution1789||


  • soldiermedic76||

    ^definition of irony.

  • posmoo||

    Boehm seems to think the trade war is the end itself. The goal is free trade. There are millions of Chinese products on Amazon but not one single american product on Alibaba. That's not because Chinese don't want to buy american products, to the contrary it is a result if government Fiat. Anytime any american company wants to enter the Chinese market they are required to partner with domestic Chinese company, to say nothing about the IP theft. Why does Boehm hate free trade?

  • Don't look at me!||

    Orange man bad.

  • Calidissident||

    Yeah clearly the libertarians who are opposing trade wars are the ones whose thinking is blinded by their feelings towards the president.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    I look forward to you sending a check to me then because I pay the bulk of these tariffs being in HVAC and having everything I purchase increased in price. You love these so much you'll be happy pay for them right? Otherwise fuck off slaver.

  • posmoo||

    So your fine with unfree trade if it helps you personally and fuck everyone else. Again the goal is to open Chinese markets to free trade.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Again the goal is to open Chinese markets to free trade.

    Whose goal? Trump's? Or Reason's?

    I think Reason's goal is to open all markets to free trade.

    I think Trump's goal is to open China's markets to American trade, and whether that results in freer trade overall is irrelevant.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Posmoo, the non-Libertarians on here refuse to acknowdge that Trump is negotiating by uing tariffs and it worked with canada and Mexico.

    The EU cracked.

    China might not budge until 2019.

  • loveconstitution1789||


  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    So fix it by taxing Americans...

    Great plan!

  • SimonP||

    Exactly how long should we wait until it's fair to say that Trump's approach to China has failed?

    It wasn't supposed to involve this many tariffs, and it wasn't supposed to last this long. Now markets are starting to get spooked. Are you going to be defending Trump's trade policy when it pushes us into a real recession?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Boehm doesnt give shit about free trade. Hes not a Libertarian at all.

  • Peter Duncan||

    Wow, I didn't know America is a corporation.

  • Dan S.||

    If you own a share of a farm whose income is impacted by the trade war, it doesn't matter whether you personally live on the farm or not. Your income is impacted by it, so you qualify for the subsidy. Sure, it might be better not to have a trade or tariff war, and so not to need this program in the first place. But we have it, and we allow farmland to be owned by people who live elsewhere. So the fact that some of those owners live in big cities is irrelevant.

  • JFree||

    This 100%. Every hedge fund investing in farmland is entitled to a subsidy. It's what makes American capitalism great. They sure don't invest in farmland for the free box of lettuce at harvest time.

  • ||

    I'll go out on a limb and guess that these 'farmers' who live in urban areas actually own the farmland that the soybeans are grown on by tenant farmers.

    Since they own the land and anything produced on them, they get the checks from Uncle Sugar that are tied to the crops grown on this land.

  • Moo Cow||

    Long history of this type of thing:

    "Trump applied for and received $150,000 in state funds intended to help small businesses affected by the attacks, despite the fact that his business was not affected.

    The fund was supposed to cover uninsured losses for small businesses, but Trump somehow received $150,000 in taxpayer money; his application cited "rent loss," "cleanup" and "repair." Yet none of Trump's properties were actually damaged in the attack."

  • Fred G. Sanford||

    The farmers voted for their bed. Now they can lie in it.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Every bankruptcy of a farmer who voted for Trump will be a small, sweet vindication of accountability.

    Large agricultural firms can buy the useful land, implement technology- and management-driven economies of scale, and deliver agricultural products more efficiently.

    The continuing process of making America great, one might say.

  • SimonP||

    Thank you, Reason commenters, for making it so easy to feel so superior to you lot. Are any of you actually libertarians? Or are you just Trump supporters who dislike paying taxes?

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    IMO the commenters are approximately:

    20% Republicans just wanting to gaslight libertarians and see them fail
    20% Democrats just wanting to gaslight libertarians and see them fail
    20% alt-righters/"race realists"
    20% trolls
    and about 20% libertarians

  • Nardz||

    Nothing more libertarian than classifying people as abstract identity groups and prioritizing labels

  • DrZ||

    Where do I apply?

  • michaelcostello||

    why in this world there must be war

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Was there a "Gentleman Farmer" exception in the legislation authorizing the bailout?
    Did they send money to Sam Donaldson for his sheep ranch in NM.

  • michaelcostello||

    However these individuals * are * farmers, lawfully talking. They're wise individuals simply benefiting from the regulations as they are created. Poor individuals that make use of the legislations as they are written in this way are described as "well-being queens". Ted Turner obtains (or obtained) aids for being a bison farmer, when's the last time you listened to anyone besides me and also John Stossel describing Ted Turner as a well-being queen? As well as in spite of what you might believe, Elon Musk isn't the most significant well-being queen in the nation, that would certainly be either Dwayne Andreas or the Fanjuls, relying on whether you count by gross or internet weight.

  • akita96th||

    Major proof of the incompetence of a Trump regime. He created a problem that wasn't there and implemented a fix that should not have been needed and now plans on spending Billions of tax dollars to bail out his ignorant base voters in the states who are losing under his ignorant stupid tariffs...The man is a total moron and so is his followers of ignorance.

  • Jack Gritt||

    Boehm spews more mindless stupidity to push the Cock Bros / Koch Bros agenda.

    You can't have free trade with countries that have much lower per capita capital spending. The real interpretation of Comparative Advantage is predicated on capital efficiency and not labor. writers are retards with respect to economics. Reasonoids have suckered Gen X and Millennials since the 1990s by pushing recreational drug use, prostitution and homo marriage.

    But these supposed libertarians, when you challenge them enough, they block your comments because you know, they are not really into freedom. is merely a propaganda tool to sucker young minds into crypto-neoconism by pretending to be for libertarianism.

    Have a read on how trade works and learn how stupid writers are.


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