Nine U.S. senators called on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to stop making trade mitigation commodity purchases that benefit foreign-owned companies as part of the trade aid package aimed at aiding U.S. growers harmed by tariffs as a result of ongoing trade disputes.
The nine senators are led by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Other senators joining Stabenow in signing the letter to Perdue are Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Under the Food Purchase and Distribution Program, one of the three parts of the trade aid, which also includes direct payments to farmers and trade promotion, the USDA has awarded purchasing contracts to Smithfield Foods, a subsidiary of the Chinese-owned WH Group, and JBS USA, which is owned by Brazilian parent company JBS SA. Smithfield terminated its $240,000 contract. JBS, however, was awarded several contracts, with USDA purchasing $62.5 million in pork products from JBS USA.
“It is unacceptable that American taxpayers have been subsidizing our competitors through trade assistance,” the senators wrote in a letter to Perdue. “We ask that you ensure these commodity purchases are carried out in a manner that most benefits the American farmer’s bottom line –not the business interests of foreign corporations.”
In a written response, Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney said USDA would take no action to prevent foreign companies from receiving the payments. USDA “awards purchases to the lowest bidder through their procurement process and will not manipulate the integrity of the process to exclude particular companies.”
“Whether it’s the WH Group, which is closely tied to the Chinese government, or JBS SA, which is benefitting from the U.S’s loss of market share in certain countries, it is counterproductive and contradictory for these companies to receive assistance paid for with U.S. taxpayer dollars intended to help American farmers struggling with this administration’s trade policy,” the senators wrote.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue defended the purchases from JBS, saying USDA mandates and verifies that vendors provide only U.S.-origin agricultural commodities and products. “This helps U.S. farmers by supporting prices.” – Feedstuffs
The $62.4 million paid to JBS has industry watchdogs questioning how the payments help U.S. producers. – New York Daily News
American retailers are warning consumers to brace for higher prices as a result of the tariffs on China. The question for retailers is how much of a hike are consumers willing to absorb. – South China Morning Post