Trade war bailout money intended to support farmers and ranchers is flowing into the hands of more than 9,000 city-dwellers, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Technically, the payments, made under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), are supposed to serve as a financial life preserver for producers who have seen sales dwindle during Trump’s trade war with China. But Department of Agriculture data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that a not-insignificant number of payments made through April 2019 have gone to recipients who live nowhere near farms, including “70 residents of San Francisco, 65 residents of New York City, 63 residents of Los Angeles, 61 residents of Washington, D.C., and 19 residents of Miami.”
In June, we reported that hundreds of farms had received far more in MFP payments than the program’s limit of $125,000, through a loophole that allows individual family members to each apply for separate payments. The report noted that the most recent farm bill expanded qualifying family members to include nieces, nephews, first cousins, and their spouses, which could lead to higher per-farm payment totals this year.
MFP has faced a barrage of criticism since it was established last year. In May, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal rebuked Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue after the program awarded $64 million in payments to a subsidiary of Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS. Blumenthal also cited Chinese-owned, Virginia-based meatpacker Smithfield Foods’ eligibility in MFP. In July, we reported that MFP disproportionately benefited upper middle-class or wealthy white families.
The spigot likely won’t run dry any time soon. In the latest escalation of the trade war, China announced it would halt all U.S. imports on Monday. In May of this year, the Trump administration announced a second bailout worth $16 billion, the first portion of which will begin flowing “mid-to-late August,” per USDA. So right about now.