Farmers could get relief from tariff losses

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Wilson County commodity growers could be eligible to receive payments to offset price disruptions resulting from foreign countries’ retaliatory tariffs.

Payments to producers of corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean and wheat in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Facilitation Program started last Tuesday, according to a news release from the USDA Farm Service Agency, which will administer the program.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the plan is “in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation by foreign nations.”

According to the release, President Donald Trump ordered Perdue to “craft a short-term strategy to protect agricultural produces while the administration works on free, fair and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets in the long run to help American farmers compete globally.”

The USDA is authorizing $12 billion in programs “to make sure our farmers did not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs.”

“We have the commodities that are being impacted through the tariffs, and we are one of the larger producers in the state of North Carolina, so obviously these kinds of payments will help the farmers in these stressful times,” said David McBryde, executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Wilson County.

McBryde said prices were set by the national office. Crop rates vary, with soybean prices at $1.65 a bushel, wheat at 14 cents a bushel, cotton at 6 cents a pound and corn at just a penny a bushel.

Farmers, McBryde said, have no control over commodity prices.

“Soybeans is one of our larger commodities grown in Wilson County, so that will probably have a large impact for sure,” McBryde said.

Soybeans account for the largest crop in Wilson County, with 36,098 acres planted this year. The county has 9,294 acres of corn, 9,670 acres of cotton and 6,955 acres of wheat this year.

“It can help us because with the tariff and China not getting as much as certain times, it is going to harvest with the price, but with this $1.65 a bushel, after we harvest, it will help bring that price on up,” said Bucky Robbins, chairman of the Wilson County AgriBusiness Committee.

“We have certainly seen some effects in the commodity markets in what the threat of the tariffs. The market actually responded before the tariffs had taken place,” said Norman Harrell, director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County.

Harrell said farmers are going to appreciate any assistance in trying to recoup some market losses.

“They’ve still got to grow and maintain their crops and go for high yields, but the markets are often out of their control, so this assistance I think will be very much appreciated,” Harrell said. “I think we could really see the most beneficial help out of the soybean part of this program.”

According to McBryde, the payments to farmers will be 50 percent of the calculated payment up front with a secondary payment established sometime after Dec. 3.

Rates for the secondary payment are not settled.

“They will have to decide because they are constantly looking at the pricing as they are doing these determinations, so if there is any kind of fluctuation in the pricing, that may have a bearing on the secondary price, but 50 percent will be issued initially as outlined in the handout,” McBryde said.

In addition to the Market Facilitation Program, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service will administer a “Food Purchase and Distribution Program” that will purchase up to $1.2 billion in commodities targeted by trade retaliation. The commodities purchased in the program will be distributed by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service through the Emergency Food Assistance Program and other child nutrition programs, the release states.

Additionally, the Foreign Agricultural Service Agricultural Trade Promotion Program will utilize $200 million being made available for the purpose of developing foreign markets for the country’s agricultural products.

Interested producers may apply “after harvest is complete, and they can report their total 2018 production.”

“Eligible applicants must have an ownership interest in the commodity, be actively engaged in farming and have an average adjusted gross income for tax years 2014, 2015 and 2016 of less than $900,000,” the USDA explains in the news release. “Applicants must also comply with the provisions of the ‘Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation’ regulations.”

The first payment periods began last week. The second payment period will be determined by the USDA if warranted, according to the release.

For information on payment rates or to access program applications, visit www.farmers.gov/mfp. Producers will also be able to submit applications in person, by email, fax, by phone at 844-325-6917 or by conventional mail to 1806 SW Goldsboro St., Wilson, N.C. 27893

For more information, call Karen Coleman at the Wilson County Farm Service Agency at 252-237-5147, ext. 2.