By Bill Crawford
Agriculture is a huge part of Mississippi’s economy and soybeans are a major export.
The tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, particularly on China, have resulted in retaliatory tariffs impacting U.S. exports, including soybeans.
“Tariffs are the greatest,” Trump recently tweeted. But when farmers and farm state politicians started complaining, Trump suddenly came up with a scheme to provide a temporary $12 billion bailout for farmers hurt by his tariff policies.
Mississippi exported $109.7 million in soybeans in 2017 – all to China, according to information from USDA as reported by Mississippi Today. As a result of China’s retaliatory tariffs, soybean prices recently hit a nine-year low, costing farmers hundreds of dollars per acre. Now, Mississippi soybean farmers hurt by Trump’s policies can get one-time payments from Trump’s bailout to offset these losses.
The bailout is not as popular as the President hoped.
“Lawmakers of both parties called it welfare, a bailout and other derogatory terms,” read a USA Today editorial. “Eighteen months into office, Trump has turned productive farmers into supplicants, pushed government deep into the business of picking winners and losers, and shamelessly politicized the process of spending taxpayer money.”
“This is becoming more and more like a Soviet-type of economy here: Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits,” Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson told Politco.com. “I’m very exasperated. This is serious.”
Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse called the scheme a bailout “with gold crutches.” Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker called it “welfare” and “incoherent.” Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican said, “ this doesn’t solve any of the problems agriculture’s got right now.”
There wasn’t a lot of positive hoopla from soybean farmers either.
“While soybean growers appreciate the Administration’s recognition that tariffs have caused reduced exports and lower prices, the announced plan provides only short-term assistance,” the American Soybean Association said in a statement. “ASA continues to call for a longer-term strategy to alleviate mounting soybean surpluses and continued low prices, including a plan to remove the harmful tariffs.”
Farmers and others fear this is just temporary relief to get past the November elections.
“On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, administration officials said they expect the infusion of money to be a one-time shot that will not extend into next year,” an NBC News analysis reported. “Read another way, that means $12 billion for farmers in an election year — and nothing once they’ve voted.”
Republican debt hawks have another problem. Much of the $12 billion bailout will be borrowed from the U.S. Treasury using emergency powers Congress granted to the Commodity Credit Corp.
The total national debt, which he promised to eliminate in eight years, topped $21 trillion in March and is soaring upward under Trump. The Congressional Budget Office now projects annual deficits will exceed WWII levels relative to GDP.
No Mississippi Republican politician running for election this November was among those criticizing Trump’s tariffs or the bailout. Instead, they are all-in for Trump. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that is not congruent with being all-in for Mississippi.