MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office takes a closer look at the 2019 USDA Market Facilitation Program that aided producers during trade disputes, raising concerns as the report says the program was unfair and mismanaged.
The USDA Market Facilitation Program was put in place to aid farmers and ranchers with commodities directly impacted by trade disputes and Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) said the funds were unfairly distributed.
“Basically favoring southern farmers and southern crops and large farmers and that’s really hurting Minnesota farmers, Minnesota crops and small farmers,” said Smith.
“Georgia got an average of $119 per acre and Minnesota got something more like $60 per acre and if you are a small producer or a hog producer or even if you grow corn or soybeans you got much, much less and that is just unfair,” said Smith.
The independent GAO investigation found that the average payment per farmer was $16,500 and the top 1% benefit from a payment limit increase received, on average, nearly $170,000.
“They really needed this help and I have not talked to a farmer in Minnesota who didn’t say to me, Tina, we need trade not aid...," said Smith, "and so, to find out that cotton, for example, got 40% of its cost returned to them, and cotton wasn’t really impacted by these trade disputes, but milk, in comparison, got just a little over 1% of their market value back and that just goes to show what unfairness there was here.”
The report also states that less than 10% of payments went to farms that produced specialty crops, dairy or hogs.