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Secretary Perdue unsure when third MFP payment will hit mailboxes

Trump Administration to begin work immediately on Phase Two of China deal.

AUSTIN, Texas -- As the Trump administration promises the third tranche of its Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payment is coming soon, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says the administration is “hoping and expecting” that recent and upcoming trade deals will mean further MFP payments won’t be necessary.

READ MORE: More trade-war payments 'coming very quickly,' Trump tells farmers 

In particular, Perdue says he thinks the Phase One agreement with China announced last week, which the administration expects will bring as much as $80 billion in purchases over the next two years, will curb the need for supplementing farmers’ income. MFP payments are intended to financially assist farmers and ranchers who have been directly and adversely impacted by foreign retaliatory tariffs imposed because of the trade war with China, and a the third upcoming payment has been estimated at $3.625 billion.

Perdue, who made his comments Monday during a press conference at the annual American Farm Bureau’s conference in Austin, Texas, says he thinks the trade deal with China, as well as other countries, will bring enough fiscal benefit to the agriculture community in 2020. “It may be the summer or fall before we see the full benefit of that $40 to $50 billion. The president has demonstrated his ability to do what it takes to preserve the ag sector in this country,” Perdue says.

The administration will begin immediately begin working with China on Phase Two of its trade deal, Perdue says, as it also enters into discussions with countries such as India and in the European Union. Last week, the Senate passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump this week.

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Trump also appeared at the conference Sunday night to speak about the various trade agreements he has made and in the works, arguing that his negotiations earned the U.S. greater respect in China and elsewhere. “We have a formula that I think is working out very well. If it’s not, call me directly and I’ll give Sonny hell,” Trump said Sunday.

Perdue didn’t have a time line on when the third MFP payment would be coming, other than to say it is assured and imminent.

On labor, Perdue says that he has been pushing the administration to implement a temporary legal guest worker program for farmers who need workers. “That’s what agriculture needs, and that’s what we want. It doesn’t offend people who are anti-immigrant because they don’t want more immigrant citizens here,” he said during closing remarks for the conference.

There had been speculation that the administration might make an announcement about a replacement for the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which the Obama administration expanded in 2015 to allow the regulation of a broader set of waterways, much to the consternation of the agricultural community. The EPA and the Department of the Army announced in September a repeal of the 2015 rule. The move restored the previous regulatory standards.

While a replacement rule wasn’t announced, Trump did bring up the topic Sunday.

“I terminated one of the most ridiculous regulations of all: the last administration’s disastrous Waters of the United States rule,” Trump says. “As long as I’m president, government will never micromanage America’s farmers. You’re going to micromanage your own farm, and that’s the way it should be.” Trump also says he is removing a water supply rule that allowed the federal government to restrict farmers’ access to water.

“I am directing the Corps of Engineers to immediately withdraw the proposed rule and allow states to manage their water resources based on their own needs and based on what their farmers and ranchers want,” Trump says.

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Written by David Holley, a freelance writer for Agriculture.com

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