Depending on which crop you're growing, harvest season could begin as early as August, but Trump's bailout for farmers is still months away according to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Speaking to Reuters, Perdue says farmers will begin receiving cash money in October.
The aid plan, a response to retaliatory trade measures on U.S. farm exports, is intended only for the current crop cycle, he said. “It’s for the 2018 crop. We do not expect to do this over a period of time,” Perdue said. [...]
The aid will make use of a Great Depression-era program. Starting on Sept. 4 farmers can apply for help. They will be asked to provide data on their current crops.
“We expect the checks to go out in late September or October. As soon as they prove their yields,” Perdue said. “They will be based on actual production, not historical averages.”
While harvest season begins as early as August for some crops, others such as soybeans may not be harvested until November so it's not entirely clear what this means for soybean farmers. If this program is for the 2018 crop, will applications remain open until the end of the calendar year?
I don't necessarily buy the idea that this is only for the 2018 crop because there's currently no reason to think conditions will be any different next year.
Even if you're feeling generous enough to predict that Trump will eventually back away from his trade war with Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, that leaves China and China is the biggest market in the world for American agriculture. Or at least it was before Trump's trade war.
Trump recently imposed tariffs on over $30 billion in Chinese goods and he's currently planning to impose tariffs on as much or more than $400 billion in additional goods.
If the Chinese market is permanently closed off to American agriculture, bailouts could become the new normal. The only way to avoid a repeat of this process next year may be to plant entirely different crops and that appears to be what Perdue is suggesting.
“I think we’ll see more corn planted next year rather than soybeans. But that’s not for me to determine,” Perdue said.
“We want people to plant according to market signals rather than government programs,” he added.
Even if farmers plant corn instead of soybeans, it still comes back to who they're going to sell it to.
Agriculture is the only thing America produces more of than we consume. That's why exporting it is such a big deal.