How Congressional Republicans Enabled Trump’s Bailout for Farmers

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

Congressional Republicans obstructed the Obama administration in so many countless ways, it would be easy to forget about some of them.

In fact, I had forgotten about this specific instance.

The Huffington Post reminds us that the Obama administration once bailed out farmers for perfectly legitimate reasons using the same authority Trump is currently using to bail out farmers, but doing so was banned by congressional Republicans. Or at least it was until Trump took office.

Republicans quietly lifted the restriction they put in place under President Obama earlier this year.

[Former Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack's] USDA had used its Commodity Credit Corporation authority in 2010 to help farmers hurt by heavy rains in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. The agency spent $348 million on commodity purchases and payments to farmers that year, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Republicans shook their fists ― and in a 2012 appropriations bill restricted the USDA’s ability to buy commodities through the Commodity Credit Corporation. [...]

Shortly after he joined Trump’s Cabinet, [current Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue] complained about the constraints during a House Agriculture Committee hearing in May 2017 ― something Vilsack said that he’d encouraged Perdue to do.

“I’m not suggesting that USDA would take action in every instance where a commodity sector or group of producers is hurting,” Perdue testified, “but it would be helpful for the secretary to have authority to evaluate the needs of U.S. agriculture and use these tools when appropriate.”

In February of this year, Congress undid the restrictions that had been in place since 2012.

Perdue has not technically broken his word, at least not yet. We learned this week that the Trump regime isn't even bailing out all farmers equally so it might be fair say he isn't using this authority "in every instance."

What happens in the future after the first bailout remains to be seen, but there's plenty of reasons to think we'll see more bailouts. Purdue has said the current bailout is intended protect farmers while Trump negotiates an end to the trade war, but Trump isn't negotiating. He's not even capable of negotiating. This trade war isn't going to end anytime soon.

I don't believe congressional Democrats should reinstate the full restrictions if they regain control of Congress, but they should insert language that narrows applicable scenarios down to natural disasters and broad economic downturns. The law should not be abused for political purposes after a reckless executive launches a trade war of choice.