President alludes to more trade assistance

The Market Facilitation Program has already helped thousands of farmers around the country. But the markets are still tough and recent trade deals still have to take effect. Now farmers are wondering what's next.

The final payments of a $14 billion farm assistance bill were sent a few weeks ago. But the president is hinting at a possible revamp to the program.

With the Stock Market taking a hit and coronavirus hampering international trade, progress with trade deals with China and the new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) is slowing down. Last week, President Donald Trump tweeted that if farmers need more assistance before those deals, it will be proved by the federal government.

"I think it's appropriate that the president does it. I think it's appropriate that it comes from federal funds. But, the ultimate goal has to be to sell more of the product to hungry people. After all, that's why farmers farm,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said.

However, according to Politico, USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue has regularly denied additional MFP payments. A letter from the National Farmers Union is urging Perdue to align with the president and structure the next program with Congress, rather than a what they call a "quick fix" like the MFP.

Sen. Hoeven, R-N.D., who sits on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, said: "Our farmers and ranchers are facing real challenges. The Administration has made good progress on trade agreements, and we've worked with them to support our farmers as these new deals were negotiated. We must ensure these new agreements are implemented quickly and fully."

This all comes out the week the president is in India, where he brought a letter from Cramer addressing their crop tariff.

"India's different from a lot of other countries in that we would be competing with a country that already has high tariffs. Any tariff strategy that would take up with India would be to lower tariffs, not to raise them,” Cramer said.

MFP payments come from the USDA's budget, rather than a new tax. But the president's proposed budget for 2021 shows an 8% cut to the USDA. A nearly $2 billion reduction.

On the other side of the coin, many argue that the deal with China that would resolve the tariff dispute won't be effective enough. North Dakota Democrats Communication Director Alex Rohr said: "Instead of holding China accountable, the tariffs crushed commodity prices, throttled the market farmers built, and left the future for thousands in doubt. Now, the so-called "deal" is already falling through."

China agreed to buy more than $40 billion of agriculture goods as Phase 1 of the deal.