At the tail end of last August, the US Department of Agriculture pledged to purchase $1.2 billion worth of food from pork, beef and produce farmers to offset the effects of trade sanctions from the White House.
That didn’t happen.
According to a report from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, the USDA only purchased 11 percent of the amount of food the agency promised.
Between the end of October and early February, the agency bought about $137.5 million in domestic meat, rice, fruit, vegetables and nuts. Pork products accounted for more than 38.5 million pounds of those purchases. Most of the purchased food ends up going to food banks, school lunch programs, programs for the elderly or food assistance to Indian reservations.
The purchases were part of a relief package to offset the millions of dollars in lost markets due to the tariffs. The U.S. imposed 25 percent tariffs on imported raw materials like steel and aluminum , and China retaliated with tariffs on American agricultural exports, especially soybeans.
A new trade deal between the U.S. and China is on the table, but a resolution isn’t expected until at least April.
Other effects of the trade war include rising equipment costs due to steel and aluminium prices. Companies like John Deere have taken a hit on stock prices as banks ascribe more financial risk to agriculture investments.
Effects of the trade war have struck at a time when farm income is already flagging. Many farmers can only keep their operations running with income from other jobs.
The USDA said in February that U.S. soybean exports are down $2 billion due to the trade war.