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USDA Official Weighs In On Trade With China, Federal Aid To Farmers While Visiting Indiana

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A Trump administration official visiting Indiana this week met with Hoosier farmers discussing issues currently facing the agriculture community including trade and the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China has hurt Hoosier farmers’s profits. 

In Phase 1 of the U.S. trade deal, the two countries agreed China would buy more than $35 billion of U.S. agricultural goods this year.

While recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows agriculture exports increased in August, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue said China may not meet the terms of the agreement.

USDA Undersecretary Ted McKinney said he’s not concerned yet, describing the relationship between the two countries as strong and open.

"We’ve got until the end of the year for China to fulfill its commitment,” said McKinney. “And it’s about six weeks to ship there, so we’ve got until mid-November until we really see, 'alright how is it going to come out?'"

He said China is doing well on purchasing most of the products that come from Indiana including soybeans, corn and pork.

The trade war has made Hoosier farmers dependent on government subsidies the past three years with no clear picture of when they will no longer need the aid.

The USDA announced in September an additional $14 billion in federal aid to help farmers affected by the pandemic.

This follows the original $16 billion handed out this summer for coronavirus relief and previous assistance due to the ongoing trade war with China.

McKinney said the trade war with China and COVID-19 have been an unusual situation driving the need for federal aid.

“So farmers don’t – they prefer not to be on the dole, not to be one these programs, and they want to run to run as far as they can from it,” he said. “I’m the same way. I think the government is the same way. So we recognize this is a critical time for them, but we’re anxious to exit from that as soon as we can.”

Indiana’s agriculture industry brings in an estimated $31.2 billion into the state’s economy.

Contact reporter Samantha at shorton@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @SamHorton5.

Last month, we welcomed Samantha Horton to our station. She is Indiana Public Broadcasting reporter, mainly reporting on business and economic issues in the States of Indiana for WBAA. After graduated from Evansville University with a triple majors degree (International studies, Political science and Communication), Samantha worked for a Public Radio at Evansville for three years, and then she joined WBAA because she wanted to take a bigger role on reporting. So far she enjoyed working in WBAA as business and economy reporter.