Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, will apply for financial assistance offered by the Trump administration as part of the latest bailout package for farmers hurt by the White House’s ongoing tariff war with China.
Grassley’s spokesperson, Michael Zona, told The Des Moines Register’s Stephen Gruber-Miller that the senator “receives no special treatment,” and that he is merely participating in programs for which he is legally eligible.
“As a family farmer who experiences the same processes with the federal government after downturns like other farmers in Iowa, Sen. Grassley brings firsthand knowledge and experience on behalf of agriculture and rural America to the policymaking tables in Washington,” Zona said.
Grassley co-owns a 750 acre farm with this son, on which the men grow corn and soybeans. When he previously applied for the first round of tariff aid programs in October, Grassley indicated that would split the money with his son.
After announcing new tariffs on Chinese goods — an announcement that was met by increased Chinese tariffs on American products, including higher tariffs on American apples, oranges, pork, and almonds — President Trump promised financial aid for affected farmers.
“Out of the billions of dollars that we’re taking in [from tariffs], a small portion of that will be going to our farmers,” Trump said. “We’re going to take the highest year — the biggest purchase that China has ever made with our farmers, which is about $15 billion — and do something reciprocal to our farmers.”
Although Grassley will accept the help and has said he supports Trump’s tariffs, he has also said on Twitter and in interviews “farmers want trade not aid.”
Glad Pres Trump/USDA Scty Perdue are helping farmers hurting from China tariffs. In the long run farmers want trade not aid. China needs to wake up & realize US is serious about their abuses. PresTrump ran on cracking down on China & is keeping his promise Free trade is a 2way st— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) May 23, 2019
As a farmer, Grassley is not alone.
In speaking with Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell, Minnesota pork and soybean farmer Shayne Isane said, “The patience of American farmers has worn very thin. If a trade deal can be reached then it was all worth it, but if it doesn’t get settled soon, it will be disastrous for American farmers.”
The president’s promised second round of agriculture bailouts was formally announced this past week, and will amount to $16 billion, $14.5 billion of which is to be direct payments to farmers. That sum will be apportioned on a county-by-county basis, with farmers in a given county being provided a payment at a single rate based upon acres planted, regardless of what crops they grow.
This is distinct from last year’s $12 billion program, which had different rates depending on the crops being planted: For example, $1.65 in payments was provided for each bushel of soybeans, compared to only 1 cent per bushel of corn.
The big question, though, is whether federal money will be enough to help farmers struggling to compete in a difficult market. Campbell’s reporting found “a total of 84 farms in the upper Midwest filed for bankruptcy between July 2017 and June 2018 ... That’s more than double the number of Chapter 12 filings during the same period in 2013 and 2014 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana.”
The first bailout did not provide enough aid for all farmers to keep their farms open, and it isn’t clear this second aid package will be enough to ensure more farms aren’t forced to shutter this year.
Isane said that even if every farmer manages to keep their farm operational, and even if the tariffs were rolled back immediately, the damage to farmers might be too severe to repair.
“People don’t realize that once you lose a market, it’s hard to get it back,” Isane said.
Minnesota Farm Bureau president Kevin Paap, a corn and soybean farmer, also told Vox that last year’s bailout was barely enough to get by on. “If they don’t reach a conclusion soon, it’s going to be really somber times.”
Grassley, who represents about 87,000 farms and 129,000 farmers, told CNBC that despite times being hard, President Trump can count on the support of farmers in Iowa, and was optimistic progress will be made in US-China trade talks.
“A lot of things can happen in 15 months, but also a lot of good things can happen,” Grassley said.