Trump promises $1 billion more for USDA food box program |

Trump promises $1 billion more for USDA food box program

President Donald Trump speaks today in Mills River, N.C., at an event promoting the Agriculture Department’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
From White House video

Shortly after securing the Republican nomination to run for another term, President Donald Trump said in what amounted to a campaign event in Mills River, N.C., that his administration would provide another $1 billion for the controversial Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

“Today, I’m proud to announce that we will provide an additional $1 billion to fund the Farmers to Families Food Box program,” Trump said. “It’s worked out so well. It’s worked out so well.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who was present at the event, told Trump there were “throngs of people lining both sides of the road from the airport all the way to Mills River here — those were a part of those forgotten people that voted for you for 2016”

“And I’ve got better news for you,” Perdue said. “They and many others are going to vote for you for four more years in 2020. Because they understand, under your administration, they’ve not been forgotten.”

Though the $3 billion the administration has spent so far on the food box program is minor compared to the $16 billion allocated for aid to farmers, Trump used the Flavor First Growers and Packers facility in Mills River to symbolize his commitment to farmers.

The White House announced that the number of food boxes distributed has risen to 70 million.

Democrats have questioned the efficiency of the program, which puts fruits and vegetables, dairy products and cooked chicken and pork into boxes that are sent to food banks for distribution. Democrats have proposed an increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit, but Republicans prefer the symbolism of actual food delivery, even if it is on a small scale compared with the SNAP program that serves more than 40 million people.

Trump once again indicated his mixed feelings about China, blaming the country for sending the COVID-19 virus — “this horrible, horrible scourge” — to the United States, but moving quickly to note “we had just signed an incredible trade deal with China.”

Trump noted that last week Perdue told him that China had had bought “the largest order of corn in the history of our country, twice. Largest order of soybeans in history.”

But, he added, “you know, I feel so differently because the ink wasn’t even dry on that trade deal when we got hit with the China virus. I feel very differently about it.”

Trump noted the administration provided $28 billion in aid to farmers when they lost markets due to the tariffs that he imposed.

“Altogether, we’ve delivered over $3 trillion in economic assistance to the American people, and the American farmer has done very well,” Trump said.

“I never hear any complaints from the American farmer. You know, I got $28 billion from China. They targeted. I said, ‘You targeted — you targeted our farmers in Iowa, in North Carolina — all over the country — Nebraska. You targeted our farmers. You can’t do that.’”

Total aid to farmers due to the pandemic may amount to $34 billion, he said. “So our farmers will never be tormented again,” he added.

Speaking more broadly, Trump said, “Already, the Great American Comeback is very much underway,” adding the stock market has ”set a new record. Wages are up nearly 5%. Retail spending is fully recovered and is at an all-time high… and homebuilder optimism is at a record high.”

Ivanka Trump, a White House senior adviser and the president’s daughter, said the Farmers to Families Program had been an “enormous success: 70 million box of fresh produce, milk, dairy delivered from our local family farms to those who are vulnerable across the country, while, at the exact same time, saving countless jobs in terms of the distribution network, the distributors like this great facility that was having to lay people off because the supply chain was severed.”

The president also noted that Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, did not go to his party’s national convention in Wisconsin in person to accept the nomination because of the pandemic, but “I showed up.”

“In fact, we did our count — our vote we did here in North Carolina. We did it in Charlotte a little while ago. I was there. It was a great, exciting moment, actually.”

On Charlotte, Trump gave a speech CNN described as “a bitter tirade against his rivals from four years ago and dark and unfounded warnings that voter fraud could deprive him of a second term.” ❖