Trump tells Perdue to ‘expedite’ aid to farmers

-The Hagstrom Report

President Donald Trump told Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to “expedite” help to farmers hurt by the coronavirus pandemic in a tweet late Thursday, and repeated the statement Friday at the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

On April 10. Trump said Perdue has $16 billion to spend, plus other authorities.

The $16 billion was apparently a reference to the $9.5 billion emergency fund Congress established plus the $6 billion available through the Commodity Credit Corporation’s borrowing authority at the Treasury Department. Congress also provided a $14 billion replenishment for the CCC, but USDA will not have access to that money until after a report due on June 30.

In his tweet, Trump said, “I have directed @SecretarySonny to expedite help to our farmers, especially to the smaller farmers who are hurting right now. I expect Secretary Purdue to use all of the funds and authorities at his disposal to make sure that our food supply is stable, strong, and safe …”

In a followup tweet, Trump said, ”… We will always be there for our Great Farmers, Cattlemen, Ranchers, and Producers!”

Perdue tweeted in response, “At the direction of @RealDonaldTrump, @USDA is using all financial resources we have been given to develop a program that will include direct payments to farmers & ranchers hurt by COVID-19 & other procurement methods to help solidify the supply chain from producers to consumers.”

At the briefing, Trump added that he expects Perdue “to use all the funds and authorities at his disposal” and that the purpose is to make sure that the food supply is plentiful. He said aid should go to both big and small farmers and ranchers.

Trump said that the money to aid farmers is available “through tariffs and other means” even though government experts have noted that the tariffs collected do not go into a specific account to be used to aid farmers.

“I have been helping our farmers for a couple of years because they were targeted,” Trump said. “I think they are very grateful for what we have done.”

Vice President Mike Pence also noted Friday that he has spoken with Colorado officials about a meat packing facility from which 14 people have become hospitalized with COVID-19.

All the people working in food supply “continue to have our gratitude,” Pence said.