Stabenow: CCC has only $7.7 billion left this fiscal year |

Stabenow: CCC has only $7.7 billion left this fiscal year

The Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corporation has only $7.7 billion in budget authority left for this fiscal year, even though the Trump administration has promised farmers up to $16 billion in trade aid payments, Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said Thursday at a hearing with Trump administration officials.

Stabenow asked Agriculture Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney whether the Trump administration is planning to distribute more than the $7.7 billion to farmers in trade aid before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 and then ask Congress for more money, or not put out more money until the 2020 fiscal year, when USDA will have the authority to spend another $30 billion to help farmers.

USDA has said that there will be three rounds of payments, with rates set by county. The first round of payments is expected to be the highest, USDA has said.

Noting that McKinney sits on the CCC board, Stabenow asked him how much the CCC would spend, and when.

McKinney said “help is needed now,” but could not say how much would be spent now because the rule is at the Office of Management and Budget.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., opened the hearing by noting that farmers need “certainty” of foreign markets, and the hearing was dominated by exchanges between the senators and McKinney and Gregg Doud, the chief agriculture negotiator, about farmers’ concerns that they are losing markets because of President Donald Trump’s trade wars with China and other countries.

The questioning was similar, but more intense, than the questions that were asked at a House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee hearing earlier this week.