ST. ALBANS — Better than nothing, but not by much.
That’s how farmers, industry officials and members of Congress are characterizing the Trump administration’s plan to aid dairy farmers hit by tariffs as a result of the President’s “trade war.”
The proposal includes direct relief of 12 cents per hundredweight on half of a farm’s 2018 production, totaling $127.4 million nationwide, and $84.9 million in purchases of dairy products.
This summer dairy farmers experienced between $1.8 billion and $2 billion in losses as a result of tariffs, according to dairy economist Bob Wellington. Mexico, Canada, China and the European Union imposed tariffs on cheese and dairy products in response to Trump’s tariffs on goods from those countries.
Asked for his view of the administration’s plan, Wellington said, “I think it’s an insult to dairy farmers whose income was hurt by the tariffs.”
The proposed relief, he said, is the equivalent of 1 cent on a pound of cheese.
Highgate farm owner Jacques Rainville agreed, saying, “It’s a slap in the face.”
In 2017, Vermont farmers made 2.7 billion pounds of milk, according to the USDA. Assuming 2018 production is close to that number – it’s likely to be lower – Vermont can expect to see $1.6 million in assistance to be spread amongst all Vermont dairy farms.
Wellington contrasted the size of the dairy relief package with that given to soy growers – $3.6 billion in direct relief. Estimates from researchers at Ohio State and Illinois University place the losses for soy farmers at $2 billion, on par with dairy.
Although the administration promised $12 billion in relief, just $6 billion has been announced so far, with nearly three-quarters of that assistance going to soy.
The other major beneficiary of the relief package is the pork industry. Hog farmers will receive $290.3 million in direct aid and $558.8 million in government purchases of pork.
With the exception of corn, no fruit, vegetable or nut growers are receiving direct assistance, although some funds were allocated to purchasing products. Almond growers, who suffered years of drought that ended in 2017, are expected to lose $1.5 billion as a result of the tariffs, according the University of California-Davis, but just $63 million has been allocated to bolster the industry, with no details on how that money will be spent.
“We were extremely disappointed,” Wellington said. “We really expected more from the Secretary (Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture) and President Trump.”
“They knew the suffering out there,” Wellington added. “Knew it was the result of their actions.”
Asked what impact the dairy commodity purchases may have, Wellington said, “It’s better than nothing, may have a small impact.”
Vermont’s Congressional delegation were also unhappy with the administration’s plan.