President Donald Trump on Thursday hosted a White House event with farmers and ranchers hurt by the administration's ongoing trade war with China, just hours after the White House announced a new $16 billion farm and ranch aid package for those most affected.
"We will ensure that our farmers get the relief that they need — and very, very quickly," Trump said in remarks from the Roosevelt Room. "We want to get them back to the point where they would have had a good year."
Trump said he directed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to draw up the $16 billion aid package to help farmers impacted by the retaliatory tariffs from China.
The president said the trade package for agricultural producers "will be paid for by the billions of dollars" the Treasury is taking in from tariffs on Chinese imports. He said the amount of money the U.S. government will collect from those tariffs is "far more than the $16 billion that we're talking about."
"But the $16 billion of funds will help keep our cherished farms thriving and make clear that no country has veto on America's economic and national security," Trump said. "Can't let that happen, ever."
The centerpiece of the aid deal is a series of cash payments totaling $14.5 billion to farmers of a variety of crops as well as dairy and pork producers impacted by retaliatory tariffs. U.S. tariff revenue collected by the Treasury would be used to support the program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"The package we're announcing today ensures that farmers will not bear the brunt of those trade practices by China or any other nation," Perdue told reporters on a call early Thursday.
In addition, the government plans bulk purchases of about $1.4 billion of fresh produce and other food products impacted by tariffs. The food would be used to help food banks, pantries and school meal programs.
The USDA also plans a $100 million trade promotion program for livestock producers and certain crops to help industry sectors develop new markets. A similar program was launched as part of the administration's 2018 trade relief program for agriculture.
The latest round of farm aid follows the Trump administration last year providing assistance to agricultural producers impacted by the trade war with China and others.
Producers of soybeans received the most relief money in last year's $12 billion aid package for farmers. The program announced Thursday includes direct payments to farmers of more than two dozen agricultural commodities, including grains, oil seeds and specialty crops, as well as dairy and pork.
According to the USDA, the top five states where farmers received trade aid as part of last year's program were Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Indiana. Trump won all but one of those states — Illinois — in the 2016 presidential election.
"The American farmers have been used as a vehicle for China to try and hurt our country," Trump said. "China has openly stated they are going to use the farmer. The reason is because I got the farmers' votes."