President Trump on Tuesday announced $16 billion in direct payments for farmers and ranchers to compensate them for lost business from the coronavirus outbreak that he said was “caused by China.”
During an event at the White House, Mr. Trump also directed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to pursue cutting off trade deals with countries that ship beef cattle to the U.S. He said the U.S. beef industry is “very self-sufficient.”
The direct payments, funded by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that was approved in March and a commodity credit law, follows farm bailouts totaling $28 billion in 2018 and 2019. Those earlier payments compensated growers and ranchers for losses from tariffs imposed by China during the administration’s trade war with Beijing.
“Now we’re standing strong with our farmers and ranchers once again,” Mr. Trump said during an announcement at the White House.
Growers lost much of their customer base when restaurants were ordered to close during the outbreak. Much of the money will be used to purchase food to supply food banks around the country.
The president said of the pandemic, “It should have never happened. You know that, I know that. The people that caused the problem, they know that, too.”
“These payments will compensate farmers for losses related to the global pandemic caused by China,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ll be providing billions of dollars for corn, cotton, soybean and specialty-crop farmers, cattle ranchers, just about every category I can think of.”
Robert Mills Jr., owner of Briar View Farms Inc. in southern Virginia, said the money is not a bailout.
“We always expect the unexpected, and we didn’t expect this [pandemic],” he said. “It’s not a rescue program. It’s going to help these farm families be able to make good, wise financial decisions. This country relies on what these farmers and ranchers do every day.”