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Jones urges Trump to deliver promised aid to farmers hurt by Chinese retaliatory tariffs

Former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones.

U.S. Sens. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, on Friday wrote to President Donald Trump calling on his administration to announce the second round of the agriculture tariff trade assistance.

The first round of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments was announced on August 27, 2018. The second round of assistance was anticipated on December 3, 2018, but has not been made publicly available.

Sens. Jones and Hoeven urged President Trump to act to aid the farmers:

“We are writing on behalf of our farmers, producers, and communities that have been harmed by the retaliatory tariffs imposed by China. Our farmers rely in large part on China for their commodities, and they have worked hard over decades to build these markets which are now unfairly being targeted by the Chinese government.”

“Farmers have been waiting for the second round of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments to be announced,” Jones and Hoeven continued. “It was recently reported that U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Steve Censky is working to assure your administration, including the Office of Management and Budget, that these payments are still needed for our agriculture producers. We applaud USDA’s work to ensure this commitment to farmers and producers is met.”

“As you well know, the passage of a new Farm Bill gives assurance to farmers that safety-net policies, which are critical to continuing farm operations, will be implemented,” Jones and Hoeven added. “The delivery of a second round of promised trade mitigation payments is also paramount to alleviate damages caused by China’s unfair trading practices and retaliatory tariffs.”

“We believe that these payments are necessary in the hopes that the majority of farmers are able to break even this year,” Sen. Jones and Hoeven concluded. “While the latest round of soybean purchases by China has received a positive response and is appreciated, the status of the current or future sales remains to be seen. We ask that you proceed with the second round of MFP payments and make the announcement before the end of the year. The recent passage of a long-term farm bill, coupled with the expected second half of agriculture mitigation payments, will go a long way toward ensuring our farmers and ranchers can continue to produce the highest quality, lowest cost food supply in the world.”

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Senator Jones’ office said that the first round of assistance included payments to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs based on the size of this year’s harvest. Since the start of China’s retaliation, soybean sales and prices, in particular, have been hit hard. According to the Farm Bureau, it is estimated that soybean exports to China are down 97 percent and that prices per bushel have dropped by two dollars. Because of these challenges, some soybean producers have opted not to harvest or sell their crop, choosing instead to leave it stored or, in some cases, in their fields to rot.

President Trump has renegotiated trade deals with Mexico and Canada and is negotiating with the Chinese and other trading partners.  Congress still has to renew the new NAFTA.

Jones won election to the Senate a year ago in a special session, defeating former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Concerns with the trade issues, interest rate increases by central banks, combined with popular unrest in Europe, has contributed to an escalating economic slowdown over the last six month.

Agriculture and forestry are Alabama’s largest industries.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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