Wisconsin farmers will receive about $10 million in federal money from a tariff relief program.
U.S. Department of Agriculture data obtained by the Washington non-profit Environmental Working Group shows more than 4,800 farms in Wisconsin received a payment from the Market Facilitation program. The average payment for the state’s farmers is $2,145.
The program is meant to help offset the impact of increased tariffs on United States agricultural products. China, Mexico and other trading partners increased tariffs on everything from cheese to soybeans after the Trump administration placed new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
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In August, the USDA announced how it would spend the first half of the $12 billion allocated to the tariff relief program. That included $4.7 billion in direct payments to farmers based on production levels.
The data released by the Environmental Working Group shows 11 farms in Wisconsin received more than $50,000 each, while 237 farms got less than $100. Sixty-two farmers in the state received less than $20.
Darin Von Ruden, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, called the incredibly low payments that some farmers received “nonsense.”
“It’s going to cost the government more to administer that money than it’s going to help that farmer out,” Von Ruden said. “Nobody ever turns down any money at all, no matter what the amount is. But if we don’t see something more substantial (in the next round of payments), it really isn’t going to be enough to help any commodity farmer out.”
Paul Mitchell, director of the Renk Agribusiness Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he’s heard the payments described as “insulting.”
“It‘s a few hundred dollars, is what this person was saying. They would have preferred to not have to deal with the paperwork and all of the rigamarole,” Mitchell said.
With commodity prices projected to remain low in 2019, Mitchell said more farmers are starting to wonder if they’ll be in business long enough to see any positive impacts from the trade policy.
“Is it right to deal with these trade issues on the backs of some of these farmers? Particularly if they’re not going to achieve those benefits if you think they’re going to come,” Mitchell said.
Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy LLC was the top recipient of the USDA payments in Wisconsin. The Kewaunee farm received $81,026. Daluge Farm Inc. in Janesville received the lowest amount at $1.
The USDA is expected to release the details of the second round of tariff payments in December.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 5:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 with original reporting by WPR.
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