On Thursday, at an event that turned into a prolonged train wreck of Trump making personal attacks on Nancy Pelosi and adding some names to his death list, Trump promised to pay American farmers $16 billion to compensate for the losses generated by his tariffs. That’s on top of the $12 billion Trump paid out last year.
To get a sense of how big a chunk of change that really is, the disaster bill scuttled by Texas Republican Chip Roy covered hurricane damage in Texas and Puerto Rico, wildfire damage in California, flooding in the Midwest, community block grans, highway repair, and even $3 billion directly for farmers and ranchers. With all that, it came in at $19 million.
In other words, the disaster created by Donald Trump’s trade war is much, much bigger than every natural disaster slung at the country over the same period. Or, as Trump scores it, Trump: 1, God: 0.
But those huge numbers are deceptive when it comes to what average farmers are actually receiving. As The Des Moines Register reported last year, the average payout to farmers was only $7,236. That’s a tiny fraction of what most farmers lost due to the tariffs. For corn farmers in Iowa, payments were tallied at 1 cent per bushel, but the decline in corn prices was 58 cents. These payments were little more than token gestures, and in fact hundreds of farmers got checks that were barely enough to cover a single lunch.
But that’s not to say some people didn’t get more. As The Chicago Tribune reported U.S. taxpayers shelled out over $5 million to a Brazilian-owned meatpacking firm. That kind of payment, to large ag-related factories and enormous corporate farms, is where by far the majority of the money actually went. When a billion dollars is carved up into payments of several million dollars each, it really doesn’t end up in all that many hands.
And those big farms are using their big checks for a big purpose—picking up land from smaller farms at a bargain rate as they solidify their control over the nation’s food supply.
As the Mason City Iowa Globe Gazette reports Trump’s tariffs aren’t the only problem plaguing farmers but they’re often the last. “Right now, soybeans are running about $2.50 below cost per bushel,” [Aaron Putzke, director of communications and external relations for the Iowa Soybean Association] said. “So say you’re a North Central Iowa farmer and you’re growing 60 bushels an acre. That’s a $150 loss per acre. Say you’re planting 400 acres. The crop you’re getting ready to plant is already in the red $60,000.”
A check for $7236 … is not going to fix that.