Farm income is at $92.5 billion this year, thanks to $14.5 billion in Market Facilitation Program payments That's a six-year high and up 10 percent from just a year ago in 2018.
Direct government payments account for 31 percent of farm income this year.
The scale of the farm rescue package in now more than twice the $12 billion cost of the auto industry bailouts under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and some experts think the cost of the payments are more than the costs incurred by the trade war.
"It's clear that the payment rates overstated the damage suffered by soybean growers," said Joseph Glauber, the USDA's former chief economist who published a review of the research in late November.
"Based on what the studies show, the damages were about half that," Glauber added.
Who is receiving the payments, and how much they're getting, is also up for debate among experts. In general, the bailout payments favor larger producers. Payments ranged from as little as $2 for some small-scale farmers to more than $1 million each for some corporate agricultural enterprises.
A report by the Environmental Working Group and data obtained by The New Food Economy through the Freedom of Information Act shows that the top 1 percent of recipients received an average of more than $180,000 each. Eighty-two farmers received more than $500,000 each.
Farmers in the bottom 80 percent received an average of less than $5,000.
Almost 40% of projected U.S. farm profits this year will come from the government in some form, whether through trade aid, disaster assistance, federal subsidies and insurance payments. This large amount of money has some wondering if the bailout payments are a prop in garnering the rural vote.
While the payments are helping some cash-strapped farmers, experts are saying the effects of the trade war could result in huge long-term losses for the market, as overseas customers build relationships with replacement suppliers.
"You're ruining a huge export market," said Yuqing Zheng, an agricultural economist at the University of Kentucky. "Longer term, we don't know for sure what the impact will be. Even if there is no future tariff, China might import less from the United States."
The bailout payments do not account for future losses.
Trump's $28 Billion Trade War Bailout Is Overpaying Farmers (Bloomberg)
Trump dispenses billions of dollars in aid to farmers, hoping to shore up rural base (Los Angeles Times)
Farm income is highest in six years, thank to Trump's trade-war bailout (Food & Environment Reporting Network)
- Trump's $16 billion farm bailout will make rich farmers richer, report says (The Washington Post)