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Washington senators Cantwell and Murray criticize Trump, USDA over uneven farm bailouts

(AP)

The recent trade war with China and other countries sparked by the Trump administration lead to retaliatory tariffs that impacted the agriculture industry in the U.S. As a result, the Market Facilitation Program was created to reimburse farmers who had taken on related losses.

But this week, Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray criticized the manner in which the payments were doled out, arguing that they mostly benefited farmers in the South and only larger companies, reports The News Tribune.

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“The President boasted about his trade wars today, but lots of Washington farmers have not been protected from these tariffs or have been blocked from delivering their crops,” Cantwell said. “Secretary Perdue and President Trump need to stop the speech-making and deliver the support to farmers they have promised.”

The statement was part of a chorus of critiques from 15 other Democratic senators who were disappointed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and how they handled the payments. Upwards of $12 billion was allotted in 2018 and $16 billion in 2019.

“Our growers and exporters are a critical part of the economy in communities across Eastern Washington and our state, and this uneven approach to federal trade assistance unfairly picks winners and losers in industries that are already being squeezed by President Trump’s decisions,” Murray said. “Farmers from Spokane Valley to Walla Walla to Ritzville and beyond should have access to
the federal support they need to weather the impacts of these unpredictable trade disputes – and that’s what I’m going to keep pushing for.”

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States that have received the most to this point include Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, and Kansas. According to a USDA statement in response, the payments are based not on location but on the level of related damage.

“While we appreciate feedback on this program, the fact of the matter is that USDA has provided necessary funding to help farmers who have been impacted by unjustified retaliatory tariffs … While criticism is easy to come up with, we welcome constructive feedback from any member of Congress with recommendations as to how the program could be better administered.”

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