Speed Reads

Bailouts

Record agricultural subsidies will account for 40 percent of U.S. farm income this year

The federal government will send a record $46 billion to farmers this year, mostly in the South and Midwest, and the payments have "accelerated in recent weeks as the president looks to help his core supporters who have been hit hard by the double whammy of his combative trade practices and the coronavirus pandemic," The New York Times reports. "The breadth of the payments means that government support will account for about 40 percent of total farm income this year. If not for those subsidies, U.S. farm income would be poised to decline in 2020."

Even with the gush of cash from the White House, farmers are experiencing a rise in bankruptcies and declining sales, and bipartisan critics in Congress "have argued that small farmers have missed out on the bulk of the bailout, while large and some foreign-owned farms have benefited," the Times reports. The U.S. Department of Agriculture used an accounting trick to funnel some of the money to tobacco farms in North Carolina, savaged by China's retaliatory move to stop buying U.S. tobacco in 2018. Corn, soybeans, lobsters, and peanuts have also been pummeled by Trump's trade wars with China and Europe.

The Government Accountability Office found last month that $14.5 billion of farm aid in 2019 had been handed out with politics in mind, and the Office of Special Counsel determined last week that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue improperly boosted President Trump's re-election while touting the Farmers to Families Food Box Program in August during an official event in North Carolina.

"That's what's going to continue to happen — four more years — if America gets out and votes for this man, Donald J. Trump," Purdue told attendees. The USDA was ordered to reimburse taxpayers for Purdue's expenses attending the event, but the department is pushing back, insisting that Purdue did not "encourage attendees to vote for a candidate or party or advocate for a partisan political group."

"Farmers are not the only constituency benefiting from the president's largess," the Times notes. "He has promised $200 prescription drug cards to millions of seniors, approved $13 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, which could help his prospects in Florida, and he directed his Agriculture Department include letters signed by him in millions of food aid boxes that are being distributed to the poor." Read more at The New York Times.