By Mike Dorning and Teaganne Finn
President Donald Trump is set to unveil rules Tuesday for a $19 billion coronavirus farm aid package covering a broad swath of American agriculture that producers can begin claiming by next week.
Farmers who suffered a 5% or greater price loss will be eligible for direct payments of up to $250,000 per person, said two people familiar with the rules.
Trump will announce the payment rules today at a White House event where he will be joined by representatives of major farm groups.
The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a hard blow to American farmers, a steadfast Trump constituency already struggling from years of depressed prices amid a global commodity glut and the president’s trade war with China.
The crisis upended food supply chains and damaged overseas markets as the global economy slid into recession. Dairy farmers have been dumping milk they cannot sell. Hog farmers have been forced to destroy market-ready animals and leave them in compost heaps as slaughterhouses closed or slowed production because of outbreaks among employees.
The aid program will include dairy farmers, livestock producers, fruit and vegetable growers and farmers of traditional row crops such as grains, soybeans and cotton.
Farmers will receive 80% of the payment upon approval of their application, which they can submit as soon as May 26, said the people familiar with rules.
Congress allocated money for farm aid in the last coronavirus relief package. The program includes $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and $3 billion for purchases of commodities including dairy products, meat and fruits and vegetables.
Trump, whose overwhelming support in rural areas was crucial to his narrow election victory, has assiduously courted farmers throughout his presidency. He authorized $28 billion in two trade bailouts to make up for farmers’ losses in the tariff war. And he regularly lavishes praise on farmers and ranchers.
During the past year, he has averaged three mentions a week of farmers on his Twitter feed.