Farm groups in California say they're happy with the $16 billion trade aid package announced by President Donald Trump on Thursday, but add it won't make up for losses from scuttled overseas contracts.
Almond Board of California president Holly King attended the Trump briefing in Washington, D.C., and was assured that almonds are included in the package, she says. However, the industry has invested heavily in developing the Chinese market over the last 20 years and is anxious to get back to work under a new trade deal, she says.
The Almond Board worked with the Almond Alliance, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and members of Congress to make sure almonds were part of the second mitigation package, officials say.
“While we appreciate almonds’ inclusion in the second package, almonds continue to be impacted by the increase in tariffs and we’ve seen significant decline in shipments to China, our third-largest export market," says Julie Adams, the Almond Board's vice president of global, technical and regulatory affairs. "“Getting back to normal trade is critical.”
The $16 billion package includes $14.5 billion for the Market Facilitation Program, $1.4 billion in surplus commodity purchases through the Food Purchase and Distribution Program and $100 million in Agricultural Trade Promotion funding, according to a news release. Almonds will be included in the Marketing Facilitation Program.
According to the USDA's release, “Tree nut producers, fresh sweet cherry producers, cranberry producers and fresh grape producers will receive a payment based on 2019 acres of production.”
Disappointed in funding level
Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Western Growers, says he's disappointed that funding for the export promotion program was cut in half, to just $100 million, despite the fact that it was "massively oversubscribed" during the last round of trade assistance.
"As a silver lining, we see this situation as an opportunity to open up new markets for American agricultural products in other parts of the world," Nassif says.
“Regardless, it is important to acknowledge that the current trade aid package – as was the case with the last one – will be insufficient to make the industry whole," he says. "Indeed, it will take American farmers many years, if ever, to recover from the lost trade revenues and, more importantly, lost markets that have resulted from the continuation of trade disruptions with China."
The groups say the trade disputes underscore the need to build diverse, healthy export markets. For instance, the almond board recently started marketing programs in Italy, Mexico, Germany and re-entered Japan. The board has also ramped up marketing activity in Germany and India, according to its news release.
However, the industry needs normalized relations with China, the almond board's King argues.
"We have invested heavily in developing the market for California almonds in China for more than 20 years," she says, "and hope the administration is successful in negotiating a new trade deal soon so we can get back to business as usual."
Trade deals needed
The officials' remarks echo those made on Thursday by California Farm Bureau Federation president Jamie Johansson, who voiced appreciation for the Trump administration’s broadened programs to ease the impact of retaliatory trade actions on American farmers but reiterated a need to resolve the disputes at the root of the issue.
Johansson was also in Washington, D.C., Thursday when the administration announced the tariff-assistance package.
“It’s clear that the administration wants to do what’s best for American farmers and ranchers,” Johansson said, “and we appreciate this second round of assistance for those who have suffered loss of markets and crop value due to retaliatory tariffs.”
Johansson noted that farmers are heading into a second straight harvest season in the middle of a trade war.
“Ultimately, the best assistance for farmers and ranchers would be to resolve the trade disputes and open markets for California farm products,” he said.