Fischer counters Stabenow regional criticism on trade aid |

Fischer counters Stabenow regional criticism on trade aid

Top 10 states receiving benefits the Market Facilitation Program.
Graphic by Bart Fischer/Texas A&M University

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — Bart Fischer, a former House Agriculture Committee chief economist who is now a professor at Texas A&M University, said he disagrees with the claim of Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the Trump administration’s Market Facilitation Program trade aid payments disproportionately benefited the South.

Showing a chart of states where the MFP money went at the Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention, Fischer pointed out that of the top 10 states in MFP payments, Texas was the only one from the South. Michigan was not one of the top 10, however.

Fischer did not mention Stabenow’s name, but said, “It was not about picking regional winners and losers, it was the unforgiving formula” based on export losses, acreage and yields. “The Midwest got most of the money — twice as much money.”

In her statements on MFP, Stabenow has emphasized that “95% of top payment rates have gone to southern farmers” amid other criticisms of the formula.

Fischer said he believed that the “undercurrent of regional inequity” came about because the payments for corn were so low, particularly in the first 2018 round of payments. The first round of trade aid was based solely on the decline in U.S. exports to China that year.

Soybean growers, whose exports plummeted, got the biggest payments while the corn payment was tiny. For 2019, the Trump administration took into consideration longer-term trade problems, which increased payments to corn growers, but also to cotton growers.

Fischer did acknowledge that there were inequities in the program, but said the most important problem was for producers of exported commodities who are in counties in which the main commodity was not exported as much.

Fischer said that the MFP program was very important to farmers over the last two years.

“I don’t think you can talk about the farm economy or farm income without talking about MFP,” Fischer said.

Many farmers in Texas A&M’s groups of representative farms are still in fragile shape, Fischer said, adding he believes there would be a justification for a third round of MFP payments in 2020.

Fischer talked about MFP payments as part of a larger presentation on the status of American farms.

Meanwhile, Stabenow formally announced last week that the Government Accountability Office has launched an investigation into the Trump administration’s trade aid based on her request.

“It’s clear that the Trump administration’s trade assistance payments pick winners and losers rather than help the farmers who have been hit the hardest by this president’s trade policies,” Stabenow said in a news release. “This investigation will shed more light on what has been happening, and bring accountability and fairness to a program that has spent billions of taxpayer dollars.” ❖

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