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Agriculture Secretary: ‘We Knew’ Farmers Would Be Hurt By Trade War With China

Agriculture Secretary: ‘We Knew’ Farmers Would Be Hurt By Trade War With China

Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue expressed optimism that trade disputes with China, which have adversely affected farmers in significant ways, could be resolved by the end of 2019, but also acknowledged that the trade war has hurt those in the heartland the hardest.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Farmers “are one of the casualties with trade disruption,” Perdue said in an interview with CNN this week.

Perdue also acknowledged that the administration was well aware that their dispute with China, which has lasted nearly a year, would result in farmers being targeted.

“We knew going in that when you flew the penalty flag on China, the retaliation, if it came, would be against the farmer,” Perdue told CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich.

China has placed billions of dollars on tariffs on American imports, including on products like wheat, soybeans, and corn, which came in response to President Donald Trump’s own tariffs that his administration imposed on Beijing products coming into America, reported Al Jazeera in 2018.

To help farmers who were hit by the Chinese tariffs, the administration produced a $28 billion bailout designed to help those struggling to make ends meet during the trade wars.

It might not be enough, however, as farmers continue to show signs of financial hardships during the past year.

Already facing difficulties before the trade wars began, the default rate for farm loans is now the highest it’s been in seven years. Farmers are set to have nearly $430 billion in debt this year, the highest rate since the farm crisis of the 1980s, Politico reported. Net income for farmers overall has shrunk in half since 2013.

In spite of Perdue’s sunny disposition on what the future would hold, when asked whether the administration was prepared to create another bailout for farmers next year, the Agriculture Department secretary was reticent to make such a commitment.

“I’m not going to promise anything for 2020,” Perdue said.

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