Hoeven, FSA chief detail trade aid payments as ‘stopgap’ for farmers

Mikkel Pates
Forum News Service

FARGO — U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., hosting a top U.S. Department of Agriculture official, told farm group leaders the first part in a second major round of $14.5 billion in agricultural trade war aid will be delivered before the end of August.

Hoeven hosted the USDA’s Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce on Monday, Aug. 5, in Fargo.

A room full of agricultural organization officers came to Fargo to hear Fordyce, who later attended a farm visit west of Grand Forks.

The Trump administration has launched “MFP 2.0” — shorthand for Market Facilitation Program for the 2019 crop — similar to payments for the 2018 crop, but using a different formula to determine the payments. It is designed to offset retaliation as the administration has increased tariffs on China and others, including another 10% tariff on another $300 billion of Chinese goods. The night before, the situation got worse with China announcing it would devalue its currency and it has either cut back or halted purchases of U.S. agricultural commodities. Devaluing currency tends to offset tariffs for goods sold to America, while further discouraging imports of commodities and could lead to more retaliation.

Fordyce, himself a Missouri farmer, said the payments are a “stopgap” measure until the Trump administration is successful in righting trade relationships with China and others. He acknowledged farmers are “hurting,” but said they are “terribly resilient.”

Nationwide, farmers in the MFP 2.0 round will be eligible for $15 to $150 an acre, based on a formula, and varying by county.

In Minnesota, rates vary from $29 to $73 per acre; North Dakota $15 to $60 per acre; South Dakota $15 to $69 per acre; and Montana, $15-16 per acre. Payments will be heavily weighted to soybean and soybean products but will be made for most crops except sugar beets and potatoes.

Tommy Grisafi, an ag risk management adviser at Advance Trading Inc., Mayville, N.D., said his clients are “scared, concerned.”

“As markets tumble, the government gives you this money. The question going to be asked is, ‘Is it safe to assume every time times get tough they’re going to give us a payment?’ It’s enabled people to stop marketing grains,” he says, adding later that some farmers will make money through increased yields and advanced marketing.

Fordyce said signup for the payments started July 29 and runs through Dec. 9. He said it has been full steam ahead, with some glitches, including land operation and ownership that is different in 2019 than in 2018.

Hoeven said he’ll be paying attention that North Dakota farmers are treated fairly if there are market recoveries due sales in markets other than China — sales that could advantage farmers in Iowa or other states ahead of North Dakota.

Richard Fordyce, (center) administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency in Fargo, N.D., on Aug. 5, says North Dakota farmers will start seeing the first half of a second a second round of Market Facilitation Program before the end of August. He was by joined U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., at right.