The bailout that was supposed to help farmers is failing them instead.
Trump's foolish trade war is absolutely obliterating U.S. farmers' businesses. And now, the bailout that was supposed to help them is failing them instead.
The administration promised $28 billion in aid to farmers to prop them up while his dumb trade war rages. These payments are essentially short-term bribes meant to keep farmers happy until after the 2020 election since they're a key bloc of support for Trump.
Farmers definitely can't be happy about how poorly the distribution of these funds is going. NBC News reports that only 31,597 farmers and ranchers received payments under the program from January to April this year. However, since the program started in September of 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has received 596,000 applications for aid. So, slightly over 5% of applicants have received any money.
In part, that's because the USDA is wildly understaffed to take on such a project. County-level offices only have a few employees and aren't equipped to process thousands of applications. One USDA worker in Missouri said, "We had farmers waiting at the door from 7 o’clock in the morning to 7 o’clock at night. And if you’ve only got two people working at the counter, I mean it was just overwhelming." Another USDA worker in Iowa said that "every office in the state is what I would call understaffed."
Now, because the government is too slow to deliver billions of taxpayer dollars to farmers, they're also accruing millions of dollars of interest payments — to be paid by taxpayer dollars.
Payment requests from farmers are supposed to be completed within 30 days of the date of application. If they aren't, they're considered late, and then interest accrues. From January to June of 2019, the government has now paid over $1 million in interest to those farmers who didn't get their payments on time.
White farmers are also getting a wildly disproportionate portion of the aid. In the first giveaway of $8 billion, over 99% of that money went to white men and their families.
Meanwhile, as farmers suffer, the Secretary of the USDA mocks them and Trump calls them "dumb people," hoping all the while that farmers will still stick by them anyway. They're probably going to have to process those payments a lot quicker to make that happen.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.