President Donald Trump has tried to paper over the disaster his trade war has been causing for American farmers by issuing a $16 billion bailout, paying farmers for the work they lost due to the tariffs — meaning that he is effectively borrowing money from China to pay farmers not to sell their goods to China.
But Trump’s policy is even more disastrous than it looks on paper, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group.
Of the $16 billion in “Market Facilitation Payments” Trump’s Department of Agriculture appropriated, the group found, 54 percent of it went to just the top one-tenth of farms, with 82 farmers receiving at least $500,000 and many of the recipients actually living in large cities. Smaller family farms, meanwhile, have received very little, with the bottom 80 percent of farmers getting less than $5,000 each — and farmers of color have received almost nothing.
The USDA initially said it would cap payments at $125,000 — but in practice, Trump officials have allowed the richest farmers to get around that limit by having family members who do not do meaningful work on the farm apply for their own payments, double-dipping again and again.
And the next round of payments could be even more skewed. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has announced that unlike the previous rounds, which paid farmers by the bushel or bale of produce, farmers will now be paid by the acre — meaning that small farms will automatically get less than large farms even if they are more productive or lost more money.
Again and again, Trump has forced middle America to pay the cost of his policies — and now he is specifically victimizing middle America’s poor.