Washington | Reuters — The Trump administration is ready to provide more federal aid to farmers if required, a White House adviser said on Monday, after rolling out up to US$12 billion since last year to offset agricultural losses from the trade dispute with China.
“We have allocated $12 billion, some such, to farm assistance. And we stand ready to do more if necessary,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters (all figures US$).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had previously ruled out a new round of aid for 2019. As of March, more than $8 billion was paid out as part of last year’s program. On Monday, the department said it had extended the deadline to apply to May 17.
A constituency that helped carry Republican President Donald Trump to victory in 2016, U.S. farmers have been among the hardest hit from his trade policies that led to tariffs with key trading partners such as China, Canada and Mexico.
While farmers have largely remained supportive of Trump, many have called for an imminent end to the trade dispute, which propelled farm debt to the highest levels in decades and worsened the credit conditions for the rural economy.
Beijing imposed tariffs last year on imports of U.S. agricultural goods, including soybeans, grain sorghum and pork as retribution for U.S. levies. Soybean exports to China have plummeted over 90 per cent and sales of U.S. soybeans elsewhere failed to make up for the loss.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were scheduled to travel to Beijing on Monday for the latest negotiations in what could be the trade talks’ endgame.
Both sides have cited progress on issues including intellectual property and forced technology transfer to help end a conflict marked by tit-for-tat tariffs that have cost the world’s two largest economies billions of dollars, disrupted supply chains and rattled financial markets.
— Reporting for Reuters by Jeff Mason; writing by Humeyra Pamuk.