- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2019

President Trump goaded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday to “get up to snuff” on a major trade deal with Canada and Mexico to help U.S. farmers, while his administration moved to provide a $16 billion bailout to farmers hurt by Chinese tariffs.

“Pelosi does not understand the bill,” the president said of legislation to approve the trade agreement. “She’s got to get up to snuff, learn the bill. She’s a mess. I don’t think Nancy Pelosi understands the deal — it’s too complicated [for her].”

He lodged the presidential barb a day after his confrontation with the speaker at the White House that ended with his vow not to work with House Democrats until they complete multiple investigations of him. But the president still wants Congress to approve the USMCA, the acronym for the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that he negotiated to replace the 1990s-era North American Free Trade Agreement.

Referring to himself tongue-in-cheek again as an “extremely stable genius,” Mr. Trump said he could work with Democrats on trade and other issues “so quick your head will spin” if he were free from partisan investigations.

“One thing they can do is approved the USMCA so we have our farmers taken care of,” Mr. Trump said. “Not only the farmers, it’s every industry.”

Mrs. Pelosi responded on Twitter, “When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues.”

The sparring over the trade deal for North America erupted as Mr. Trump announced his second bailout in two years for farmers and ranchers who have lost business from his tariff war with China. He was joined by about 20 farming industry heads representing corn and soybean growers, hog farmers and others.

The Agriculture Department said direct aid payments totaling up to $16 billion will begin in late July or early August after a $12 billion farm bailout last year.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the aid, which will be delivered in up to three installments through January, “is in line with the estimated impacts of unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and other trade disruptions.”

Trade negotiations between the U.S. and China broke off May 10 with no further talks scheduled after the administration accused Beijing of “reneging” on earlier commitments.

Mr. Trump then raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10% to 25%. China retaliated with tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. products, aimed largely at the agricultural sector.

The president said of the bailout, “I don’t consider it a gift at all.”

“We will ensure that our farmers get the relief they need, and very, very quickly,” the president said. “It’s a good time to be a farmer. We’re going to make sure of that. Our farmers will be greatly helped. We want to get them back to the point where they would have had if they had a good year.”

Mr. Trump said tariffs on Chinese goods are bringing in “far more than the $16 billion we’re talking about.” He insisted again that the tariffs “are paid for largely by China.”

“It all comes from China,” he said.

Tariffs are taxes imposed on imports, and costs are mostly borne by U.S. consumers.

Rep. Jim Costa, California Democrat and chair of the House Agriculture subcommittee on livestock and foreign agriculture, called the latest round of farm aid a “rushed and poorly planned bailout.”

“For more than a year now, producers of every commodity have said the same thing: They want long-term access to export markets, not hasty attempts by the federal government to clean up its own mess,” Mr. Costa said. “I urge the White House to rescind the tariffs and sit down in a constructive manner with the Chinese to address issues that will actually improve the market for our farmers.”

Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, Ohio Democrat and chairwoman of the Agricultural subcommittee on nutrition and oversight, criticized “a pattern of a president making impulsive decisions that damage the farm economy, only to just as impulsively direct USDA to spend billions in taxpayer money on a temporary fix.”

“That’s as irresponsible as it is inept, and it takes time, money and energy away from things USDA should be doing, like implementing the farm bill and feeding hungry Americans,” she said.

Mr. Perdue said direct payments of up to $14.5 billion will go to producers of corn, soybeans, cotton, wheat, rice and a variety of other grains. Dairy and hog farmers also will receive payments.

Mr. Perdue said the government aid will begin “as soon as practical” after Farm Service Agency crop reporting is completed by July 15. The second and third installments will be “evaluated as market conditions and trade opportunities dictate” and will be made in November and early January, he said.

Under the Commodity Credit Corp.’s market facilitation program, eligible farmers must have an average income of less than $900,000.

Last year, direct payments under the Market Facilitation Program were made to farmers based on production records. Hog farmers received $8 per head, and soybean farmers received an initial payment of $1.65 per bushel, said Robert Hensley, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney and co-chair of the firm’s Food and Beverage industry group.

“MFP payments were capped at $125,000 per farmer for dairy production, hogs, corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans and wheat,” Mr. Hensley said.

Americans for Prosperity, a free trade group backed by industrialist Charles Koch, said the bailout is “a concession for harm created by flawed trade policies.”

“The administration should allow farmers to compete in an open market instead of rigging the economy to favor some, and burdening all Americans with this increasingly expensive trade war,” said Americans for Prosperity Vice President Russell Latino.

A report Thursday by the International Monetary Fund said U.S.-Chinese trade tensions “have negatively affected consumers as well as many producers in both countries.”

“Consumers in the U.S. and China are unequivocally the losers from trade tensions,” said the report, adding that research shows that “tariff revenue collected has been borne almost entirely by U.S. importers.”

“Some of these tariffs have been passed on to U.S. consumers, like those on washing machines, while others have been absorbed by importing firms through lower profit margins,” the report said. “A further increase in tariffs will likely be similarly passed through to consumers. While the direct effect on inflation may be small, it could lead to broader effects through an increase in the prices of domestic competitors.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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