You've seen the stories about farmers culling their herds and plowing under their fields and you've seen the videos of American lined up in their cars for miles at food banks, but these stories are related in the worst way as things typically are under Trump.
Farmers have been forced to dispose of their crops and livestock at a time when demand at food banks has increased by 70 percent because Trump's Department of Agricultural did literally nothing until a week ago.
As soon as early March, farmers and produce associations were sending letters to the USDA asking them to take goods off their hands and distribute them to food banks, but Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue did not reply to them and, in fact, he still hasn't at the end of April.
“It’s frustrating,” said Nikki Fried, commissioner of agriculture in Florida. Fried, who is a Democrat, and much of the Florida congressional delegation asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue nearly a month ago to use his broad authority and funding to get more Florida farmers plugged into federal food purchasing and distribution programs as the food service market collapsed. “Unfortunately, USDA didn’t move until [last week].” [...]
In March, about a week after much of the country shut down restaurants, events and other food-service businesses, several produce groups wrote to USDA with an urgent plea to buy perishable commodities because at least $1 billion was “sitting stagnant in the supply chain.”
“There is no reason these high-quality, nutritious, farmer-grown products should be left in facilities to rot when there are so many American families who are suddenly faced with food insecurity,” the groups wrote to Perdue. “These growers and companies are already donating to food banks and others in need and will continue ... but they are also facing their own economic crises.”
The department did not make any fresh purchases in response to that request, according to USDA records. Perdue has yet to respond to the letter.
While Perdue sat on his ass and did nothing for over a month, he's also reportedly going to screw farmers twice over by imposing limits on the amount of damages they can claim in coronavirus bailout funds. At least some portion of their losses can be placed at Perdue's feet and he's going to place a cap on what they can claim.
I have to be honest and say this whole mess leaves me emotionally conflicted.
Farmers supported Trump in 2016 and many of them still do, and yet we can't let this economic conflagration expand because we all have to eat. I want to root for both sides to lose, but basic survival means supporting farmers against people who are worse than they are.
Even as businesses slowly reopen in the coming months, consumer demand won't be what it was for a much longer time; perhaps even years.
And just how low is demand right now? Some of these numbers are staggering.
Farmers in Florida, which provides much of the fresh produce to the eastern half of the U.S. during the winter and spring, left about 75 percent of the lettuce crop unharvested, along with significant portions of the state’s sweet corn, cabbage and squash. Up to 250 million pounds of tomatoes could end up left in the fields, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Florida officials estimate produce growers there have taken a half a billion dollar hit. In California, the industry is projected to lose more than $1 billion per month.
The next president could be forced to consider their own bailouts for farmers. We'll be paying for Trump's incompetence for a very long time to come.