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USDA under President Trump overpaid corn farmers

USDA under President Trump overpaid corn farmers

The Government Accountability Office estimates corn farmers were overpaid by about $3 billion

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

American corn farmers received billions of dollars more than they should have under President Trump’s United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a new report suggests.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) “estimated that, for example, 2019 total (Market Facilitation Program) payments to corn producers were approximately $3 billion more than the USDA’s estimate of trade damage to corn…,” the GAO said in its December 20 report.

Payments to soybean, sorghum and cotton producers were lower than estimated trade damages.

The GAO, sometimes referred to as a federal watchdog, investigates federal spending and performance.

The Trump administration compensated farmers with $23 billion in 2018 and 2019 to compensate for lost exports due to tariffs from foreign trade partners.

The Market Facilitation Program allowed farmers to receive payments based on a pre-determined formula: total 2018 production multiplied by 50 percent, multiplied by an estimated payment rate.

But because the USDA used a county-based payment methodology, the 2019 MFP payments differed based on a farmer’s location.

“For example, though corn yields are higher in the Midwest and West, corn producers received an estimated average of $69 per acre in the South, $61 in the Midwest, $34 in the Northeast, and $29 in the West,” the GAO said in its report.

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee requested the report from the GAO.

The GAO’s findings show President Trump picked favorites, said Debbie Stabenow, chair of the committee.

“This report confirms that the Trump USDA picked winners and losers in their trade aid programs and left everyone else behind,” she said in a statement. “Making larger payments to farmers in the South than farmers in the Midwest or elsewhere, regardless of whether those farmers actually experienced a larger loss, undermines our future ability to support farmers when real disasters occur. I will continue to support all of agriculture through investments in infrastructure and support to farmers who suffer losses due to extreme weather, the COVID crisis, and other events beyond their control.”

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