To Ease Pain of Trump’s Trade War: $12 Billion in Aid for Farmers

A soybean field in Missouri. One study estimates that soybean, corn and wheat farmers have lost $13 billion in the trade war.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it would provide up to $12 billion in emergency relief for farmers hurt by the president’s trade war, moving to blunt the financial damage to American agriculture and the political fallout for Republicans as the consequences of President Trump’s protectionist policies roll through the economy.

Unveiled two days before the president is scheduled to visit Iowa, a politically important state that is the nation’s top soybean producer, the farm aid appeared calculated to show that Mr. Trump cares about farmers and is working to protect them from the worst consequences of his trade war.

But the relief money, announced by the Department of Agriculture, was also an indication that Mr. Trump — ignoring the concerns of farmers, their representatives in Congress and even some of his own aides — plans to extend his tit-for-tat tariff wars.

“The actions today are a firm statement that other nations cannot bully our agricultural producers to force the United States to cave in,” Sonny Perdue, the secretary of agriculture, said during a call with reporters to unveil the program.

The move drew swift condemnation from many farm groups and lawmakers, including several in his own party, who worry about a cascade of unintended consequences that may be just beginning. One farm-group study estimates that corn, wheat and soybean farmers in the United States have already lost more — $13 billion — than the administration is proposing to provide as a result of the trade war. The prospect of retaliation has upended global markets for soybeans, meat and other American farm exports, and farmers are warning that tariffs are costing them valuable foreign contracts that took years to win.

“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,” Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “It’s hard to believe there isn’t an outright revolt right now in Congress.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, asked how the president could single out farmers for help when the manufacturing and energy industries also stand to lose in the trade war.

“Where do you draw the line?” Ms. Murkowski asked reporters.

Mr. Trump could be forced to prop up other domestic industries as retaliatory taxes imposed by trading partners begin to sting automobile manufacturers, distillers and other impacted sectors. Republicans who cherish their party’s reputation as the bastion of free markets and fiscal responsibility wondered aloud on Tuesday about the president picking winners and losers in a trade war he is bent on waging.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to put a band-aid on a self-inflicted wound,” Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, wrote on Twitter. “This bailout compounds bad policy with more bad policy.”

Farmers have borne the brunt of Mr. Trump’s decision to impose tariffs, which is already costing American producers billions of dollars and threatens to inflict political pain on Republicans in farm states in the midterm elections in November.

“Tariffs are the greatest!” Mr. Trump declared on Twitter on Tuesday morning. “Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on Trade negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hit with Tariffs. It’s as simple as that — and everybody’s talking! Remember, we are the ‘piggy bank’ that’s being robbed. All will be Great!”

The European Union, Canada, Mexico, China and other countries have responded to Mr. Trump’s tariffs on steel, aluminum and $34 billion worth of Chinese products by imposing taxes of their own. They have often targeted farm country, the source of some of America’s biggest exports and an important political base for the president. American…

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