Relief strategy: Almond and cherry subsidies added to Trump’s bailout package for farmers

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24 Sep 2018 --- Producers of shelled almonds and fresh sweet cherries will be able to apply for part of a bailout package aimed at mitigating the losses suffered by US farmers in the midst of country’s trade disputes. In July, President Trump pledged a US$12 billion emergency bailout package for producers affected by escalating trade disputes. At the time much, the US Administration said that much of the aid would be directed towards payments to farmers of soybeans, sorghum and wheat, but now it’s been extended to include almonds and cherries.

US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced the addition of commodities to the trade mitigation package aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage due to what it calls “unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations.” Starting today (Monday, Sept. 24), producers of shelled almonds and fresh sweet cherries may apply for Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments at their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. The move has been welcomed by major almond player Blue Diamond Growers. 

Perdue announced in July that USDA would act to aid farmers in response to “trade damage from unjustified retaliation.” President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets, in the long run, to help American farmers compete globally. These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet some of the costs of disrupted markets.

The sign-up period for MFP for other eligible commodities is now open and runs through Jan. 15, 2019, with information and instructions provided at www.farmers.gov/mfp. The MFP is established under the statutory authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation CCC Charter Act and is under the administration of USDA’s FSA. Eligible producers should apply after harvest is complete, as payments will only be issued once production is reported.

A payment will be issued on 50 percent of the producer’s total production, multiplied by the MFP rate for a specific commodity. A second payment period, if warranted, will be determined by the USDA.

The initial MFP payment rates starting Sept. 24:
•Shelled Almonds – $0.03 per pound
•Fresh Sweet Cherries – $0.16 per pound

MFP payments are capped per person or legal entity at a combined US$125,000 for shelled almonds and fresh sweet cherries.

Eligible applicants must have an ownership interest in the commodity, be actively engaged in farming, and have an average adjusted gross income (AGI) for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016 of less than $900,000. Applicants must also comply with the provisions of the “Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation” regulations.

Blue Diamond Growers, the world's leading non-profit almond processing and marketing cooperative, said it applauds congressional leaders and the industry coalition led by Almond Alliance of California in securing recognition for the significant contributions of almonds in the state, national and global economy. “Majority Leader McCarthy and Chairman Jeff Denham led a bipartisan effort to underscore the critical importance of exports to the almond industry, along with the significant damage being incurred by growers as a result of retaliatory tariffs by key trading partners. The bipartisan group included Chairman Devin Nunes, Congressman David Valadao, Congressman Doug La Malfa, Congressman Jim Costa and Congressman Jimmy Panetta. The two California senators helped as well,” a statement read.

"The mobilization of California's almond growers was a key factor in achieving this positive outcome, demonstrating the strength and coordination of this industry. The almond community is proud of their self-reliance to produce, process, and market almonds successfully and should be equally proud of their advocacy," states CEO Mark Jansen.

As announced today by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, growers of California almonds are now eligible to apply for direct payments of $.03 per pound as part of the $12 billion mitigation package announced earlier this month. The damage assessment figure assigned to almonds is $63.3 million. Blue Diamond appreciates the efforts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide direct payments to almond growers impacted by the retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and Turkey. 

Almonds rank third among all US agricultural production exports with 67 percent of the crop exported per USDA reports, and with an export value in 2017 of US$4.48 billion, ranking number one among US commodities. Accounting for 80 percent of the world supply, almonds are the number one agricultural export from California, contributing US$104 billion to the state economy. 

“Blue Diamond Growers continues to encourage the President and his trade negotiators to be proactive in securing trade deals that provide new and expanded market access, enabling our growers to continue to successfully market their almonds around the world. This is the help and support most needed by US agriculture,” a statement concluded. 

The news comes amid a tariff frenzy, with a battle emerging between China and the US, in particular.

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