La. farmers need more federal aid

Published 7:00 pm Thursday, December 5, 2019

Louisiana’s farmers have collected more than $180 million in federal aid designated for farmers hurt by the United States’ trade war with China — but some of them say it isn’t enough.

In May, President Donald Trump directed U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to craft a relief strategy in line with the estimated impacts of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and other trade disruptions.

“China and other nations have not played by the rules for a long time, and President Trump is the first president to stand up to them and send a clear message that the United States will no longer tolerate unfair trade practices,” Perdue said at the time of the announcement. “The details we announced today ensure farmers will not stand alone in facing unjustified retaliatory tariffs while President Trump continues working to solidify better and stronger trade deals around the globe.”

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The USDA program is aimed at assisting producers of alfalfa hay, barley, canola, corn, crambe, dried beans, dry peas, extra-long staple cotton, flaxseed, lentils, long grain and medium grain rice, millet, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, rapeseed, rye, safflower, sesame seed, small and large chickpeas, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower seed, temperate japonica rice, triticale, upland cotton and wheat.

Dairy producers who were in business as of June 1 will receive a per hundredweight payment on production history, and hog producers will receive a payment based on the number of live hogs owned on a day selected by the producer between April 1 and May 15.

Payments are also being made to producers of almonds, cranberries, cultivated ginseng, fresh grapes, fresh sweet cherries, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. Each specialty crop will receive a payment based on 2019 acres of fruit or nut bearing plants, or in the case of ginseng, based on harvested acres in 2019.

The Advocate reports that more than 75 percent of Trump’s multibillion-dollar bailout package to the state has gone to soybean farmers.

“It’s a Band-Aid,” Charles Cannatella, who grows soybeans on his family’s St. Landry Parish farm, told the Baton Rouge newspaper. “We need our markets back. That’s the only way we can have certainty.”

China has traditionally purchased about 60 percent of Louisiana’s soybeans. Within a few weeks of China raising import tariffs, soybean prices plunged.

Ricky Rivet — who grows sugar cane, soy and other products in Morganza — made about $45,000 for his soybeans through Trump’s aid program, an amount he said helps but doesn’t quite cover all his costs. He told the Advocate that next season, he’s considered planting more sugar cane.

Several members of the Trump administration have said in recent days the U.S. and China are closing in on a partial trade deal that would include huge Chinese purchases of American farm goods. Let’s hope this comes to pass so the farmers of Louisiana no longer are in jeopardy.In this file photo, Dexter Scott of Falcon Rice Mill in Crowley loads pallets of rice.

Doris MaricleJefferson Davis Parish Reporter