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  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Senate Committee on Finance
    IntroducedJuly 24th, 2018

What is it?

This bill — known as the Assistance for Farmers Harmed by Tariffs on Exports Act — would make Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) available to farmers and producers whose exports are hurt by retaliatory tariffs caused by U.S. tariff increases. To qualify for assistance under this bill, farmers would have to qualify as a class of producers (i.e. soybean growers), and then each farmer would need to meet specific program requirements to demonstrate that trade actions and policies have negativity caused the commodity that they produce to decline.

Currently, TAA only gives assistance to farmers when commodity prices are driven down by excessive imports. Farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs aren’t eligible for direct financial assistance from TAA.

Impact

Farmers; producers; and Trade Adjustment Assistance.

Cost

A CBO cost estimate for this bill is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced this bill to help farmers and ranchers recover from their losses from President Trump’s trade war:

“North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers don’t want a handout – they want access to markets to sell their goods. But as long as the administration pushes a trade war that lowers commodity prices and puts North Dakota agriculture at risk, Congress should act to give farmers and ranchers some certainty that they’ll be protected from losses caused by retaliatory tariffs against their goods. As producers watch prices for the crops in their fields decline, this legislation would give them some peace of mind that they’ll be able to access help if they need it – but the only truly long-term solution to strengthen our farm economy is to give up this misguided trade war and work to expand markets for our farmers and ranchers. Right now, I fear that farmers and ranchers will feel long-term ramifications from this trade war because of the loss of contracts and markets, many of which took years to create. We can and must modernize current trade deals to meet the changing needs of our economy, but this trade war is treating rural America like collateral damage – and that has to end.”

Daren Bakst, an agricultural expert at the Heritage Foundation, is skeptical about aid to farmers to mitigate the effects of the trade war. He said, “a bad tariff policy shouldn’t be used to justify other bad policies,” adding that “the administration hasn’t made the case why existing programs aren’t sufficient for [the] alleged harm [caused to farmers by the trade war].” Bakst notes that farm households are now wealthier than most, and argues that they will not be unduly burdened by the trade war’s impact.

Adding to Bakst’s argument, the financial impact on soybean growers — who should be most affected by the trade war by virtue of their products being America’s single largest agricultural export to China — has been limited thus far. To some observers, this raises questions about the necessity of aid to farmers.

At the international level, too much farm aid may cause the U.S. to run afoul of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Under WTO rules, countries are limited in how much aid they can offer to agriculture. The U.S. can only offer about $19 billion a year in subsidy-like supports to its agriculture industry without getting in trouble — and it can be tricky to properly calculate and categorize different kinds of farm support into accepted and unacceptable boxes.

Joe Glauber, a former chief economist at the USDA notes, “This is a lot of money, and it’s difficult to try to make it fit into these WTO boxes; there’s some potential to go over… One way or another, this will get a lot of attention in Geneva other the next six months.” Additionally, there is also the risk that other countries could file a challenge if they believe U.S. farm support distorts global markets in any way, which they could successfully make a case for.

While farmers and agricultural lobbies have cautiously welcomed assistance to help mitigate the brunt of the administration’s trade war, most have stressed that they’d prefer to have more access to overseas markets such as those that would’ve been opened by the Trans-Pacific Partnership or a similar trade pact with the European Union. Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, made the following statement after the Trump administration announced $12 billion in aid for farmers affected by the trade war:

“[A]gricultural assistance… will provide a welcome measure of temporary relief to our farmers and ranchers who are experiencing the financial effects of the trade war. This should help many of our farmers and ranchers weather the rough road ahead and assist in their dealings with their financial institutions. We are grateful for the administration’s recognition that farmers and ranchers needed positive news now and this will buy us some time. This announcement is substantial, but we cannot overstate the dire consequences that farmers and ranchers are facing in relation to lost export markets. Our emphasis continues to be on trade and restoring markets, and we will continue to push for a swift and sure end to the trade war and the tariffs impacting American agriculture.”

Brian Kuehl, executive director of the pro-free trade Farmers for Free Trade, argues that aid does not meet farmers’ need for contracts, rather than government assistance, for stability. He argues that “the best relief for the president’s trade war would be ending the trade war. [Aid] would only be a short-term attempt at masking the long-term damage caused by tariffs.”

Some farmers’ organizations also oppose aid as another complication in the maze of federal subsidies and regulations they must already wade through to make a living. Casey Guernsey, a Missouri farmer and spokesman for Americans for Farmers & Families, an anti-tariff group, says, “We don’t want to be dependent on another government program. We already are very much in a situation in farming, in agriculture across the board, where we are held hostage to decisions made in Washington.”

There are no cosponsors of this bill.


Of NoteTrade Adjustment Assistance was created in 1962 to help workers harmed by changing trade policies. In 2002, it was adjusted to make farmers eligible for assistance if commodity prices were driven down by excessive imports.

TAA is currently authorized at $90 million per year — which will not go far in the current situation. Therefore, Sen. Heitkamp has suggested using money from increased tariffs to fund the TAA to help producers affected by retaliatory tariffs.

Since the beginning of President Trump’s trade war, the administration has announced over $12 billion in programs to assist farmers and ranchers. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, along with USDA officials, announced three programs on July 24th: the market facilitation program, which will provide payments to producers dealing with disruptive markets; the food purchase and distribution program, which will purchase surplus goods and distribute them to food programs and food banks; and the trade promotion program, which will work with the private sector to develop new trade markets. All three programs are authorized under the Commodity Credit Corporation, a Depression-era program that was originally created to compensate farmers for losses sustained due commodity price fluctuations.

The market facilitation program focuses on producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs — U.S. agricultural products targeted by retaliatory tariffs. The food purchase and distribution program will look to buy fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and various segments of dairy.

Sen. Heitkamp has expressed mixed feelings about USDA’s $12 billion aid package. While she acknowledges that anything to “bridge” the short-term impact of the trade war is helpful, she worries about the cost of the program, pointing out that “this is $12 billion that we are borrowing. We don't have $12 billion sitting around. We already have a huge deficit problem in this country."

Similarly, Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) have all expressed doubts about aid to farmers to mitigate the effects of the trade war, albeit for different reasons. Sen. Corker opposes borrowing money to fund aid:

“You have a terrible policy that sends farmers to the poorhouse, and then you put them on welfare, and we borrow the money from other countries… It’s hard to believe there isn’t an outright revolt right now in Congress.”

And Sen. Murkowski questions the decision to single out farmers for help when other industries, such as manufacturing and energy, also stand to lose in the trade war. She asks, “Where do you draw the line?” on providing aid.

Finally, Sen. Sasse contends that aid to farmers are a band-aid solution:

“This trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers, and the White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches. This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again, they’re just going to make it 1929 again.”

Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStock.com / fotokostic)

AKA

Assistance for Farmers Harmed by Tariffs on Exports Act

Official Title

A bill to amend the Trade Act of 1974 to provide adjustment assistance to farmers adversely affected by reduced exports resulting from tariffs imposed as retaliation for United States tariff increases, and for other purposes.

    This trade war was beyond foolhardy and is hurting Americans more than anyone else. Helping bolster farmers’ bottom lines will help them ride out this adjustment period.
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    Suck it up, buttercups. They put that imbecile into office. The government need to stop subsidizing business profits on the taxpayers. If they want to stop this stupid trade war, they can vote in November like the rest of us. It’s their bullet, bite it.
    Like (355)
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    “Elections have consequences.” You cannot/may not rail against “big government” on the one hand and then ask that same government to lend you a hand when things don’t work out as you wanted. No way to see this as anything other than an entitlement.
    Like (251)
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    Your POTUS made a decision, you have to live with it
    Like (158)
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    I’m sorry that they’re hurting (and I know it’s horribly bad), but others are hurting badly, too! [THEY VOTED FOR THIS]. You cannot bail one group out because it’s making the news the most. The US needs to feel what the SO-CALLED Leader in Chief is doing to our economy. As bad as it may hurt - it MUST be felt.
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    I do have empathy for the farmers and under normal circumstances I would say yes. However, with the amount of additional debt we currently have I have to say no. These tariffs are going to be painful for everyone and the government isn’t going to bailout everyone.
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    How does this make economic sense? Badly thought out tarrifs which hurt America's farmers, then a bailout for those farmers using Billions in taxpayer money which is then not available for healthcare and other vital social programs. This is Trump's idea of economics at its worst
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    No they should not. This is the group that voted for Trump and they should suffer the consequences like the rest of us. You get what you vote for, especially if you state you would vote for him again as they are losing their farms.
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    You voted for a moron that lies, he does what he said on the campaigned with immigrants, tariffs, NAFTA, ACA, tax cuts and climate change to help himself, the wealthy and corporations, now the voters that voted for him need to be baled out. Like duh! What did they expect would happen? Well, Cost of goods gone up wiping out any gains in wages, Jobs are being lost in some markets wiping any gains in others. Unemployment is down because people ran out and no longer are being counted. Homeless is on the rise. Social programs are being cut due to tax cuts for the 1% and corporations. The deficit is higher then world II and corporation are setting on the largest cash in history. The stock market high because corporation buy backs, which doesn't necessarily mean growth. Need to Watch what you wish for, your wish may come true, only to regret it! The taste of poor quality, lingers long after the taste of cheap price.
    Like (51)
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    They voted trump in, they should reap what they sow, besides a lot of these farmers are standing with trump
    Like (45)
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    As with all other citizens impacted by trade and laws, farmers must also understand the impact of their legislative vote.
    Like (43)
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    They’re the same people that voted for the guy who is enacting tariffs. Now sleep in the bed you’ve made
    Like (42)
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    No. How many times must we, the taxpayers, pay for the poor decisions being made by the narcissist currently residing in the White House? A man who honestly believes that every president before him was horrible, the worst ever. I’m done giving this administration my hard earned dollars to use to make up for their poor decision making. NO MORE!
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    This group overwhelmingly voted for Trump. The tax payers should not have to shield them from the consequences of their actions. Let them go bankrupt.
    Like (30)
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    Why should the country aid the Trump Administration’s incompetence with trade negotiations. Repeal the tax break for the rich, that should cover the cost of this bill and then some.
    Like (29)
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    So long as their financial assistance is funded from the holdings and properties of President Donald Trump himself, yes. And if he has to liquidate some of his properties to cover the bill, then I think that's only fair.
    Like (26)
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    Most voted 🗳 for the idiot...let em reap what the “benefits” of that MORON!!!
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    Sorry, but No. There are a lot of industries that get affected by a number of issues, that never get bailed out. The fact that these farmers generally voted for Republicans and supported the Republican Tariffs, they do not deserve special interests benefits. Republicans have created all recessions in the United States. They have profited hugely off each and bailed out corporations during each while the Citizens lost jobs, houses, marriages, families, their lives. The Citizens never really received bailouts for the Republican-created recessions. People need to learn that Republican’s ideas do not work. They cost everyone and they serve only special interests. Republican ideas are the Root Cause of many of the world’s issues, especially here in the United States. Conservative ideologies are self-serving, greed, oppressive, unhealthy, unethical, immoral, harmful to all Citizens of the world.
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    Do not vote for someone who does not know what they are doing. Stand up and vote for change. Only vote for someone who has your best interests as a goal, not a party puppet or self-serving person. Eliminate crippling tariffs.
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    They wanted him, they got him. Now live with it!!
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