Government compensation reported for Upper Valley farmers, more expected in 2020

Upper Valley farmers received $1,034,033 in compensation from the Trump administration. The money was provided to make up for increased tariffs in foreign countries such as China and Mexico.

UPPER VALLEY — Thanks to President Trump’s promise to aid farmers negatively impacted by trade wars, Upper Valley farmers received a combined $1,034,033 last year to compensate for money lost during the trade wars with foreign countries. Of that money, Fremont Growers received $447,782 while Madison County received slightly more at $586,251 in reimbursement.

The Idaho Statesman first reported on the reimbursements last month and noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided the funds via the “trade mitigation” program in hopes of helping farmers who suffered from “retaliatory tariffs.”

“Roughly 98% of the money distributed in Idaho farms and farmers went to wheat and dairy farmers,” the Statesman reported.

The federal government plans to release another $16 billion in government aid next year, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a July 25 news release.

The USDA’s Farmers.gov website said the government compensated farmers to the tune of $8.59 billion last year. Perdue announced in May that the program would continue this year. The first payments are being sent out now. The second compensation payments will be made in November with the third being dispersed in January 2020.

Madison County University of Idaho Area Cereals Extension Educator Jon Hogge said that while Madison farmers had received some funds, it wasn’t as much as other counties had received.

“It is really shabby. Our county is getting peanuts over a county a little bit to south. We grow the exact same (crops), and we’re getting $18 bucks an acre. Bingham County is getting $30 bucks an acre, and Madison is getting $18 bucks an acre. That’s a lot of difference when you talk about acres,” he said.

The Statesman reported that Madison County farmers received between $24 and $53,379 in compensation.

In Fremont County, farmers received individual payments ranging from $8 to $101,740, according to payout data obtained by the Associated Press.

Fremont County Extension Agent Lance Ellis said he hadn’t heard from any farmers about their reimbursements.

“At the end of the day, complaining about it is not going to solve any problems. The bigger issue that we are dealing with are problems like the pressure foreign markets have been putting on to our commodities in eastern Idaho,” he said.

Ashton farmer Brett Bowersox reported the federal government compensated him on his 2918 wheat crop.

Bowersox raised 40 acres of wheat last year and received just over $100 in compensation.

“I never did figure it out. It was such a small amount. I didn’t pay much attention to it,” he said.

Wheat prices were down last year, Bowersox said.

“It wasn’t a money making deal raising the wheat. (The compensation) was kind of a bonus in a way. I wasn’t expecting it,” he said.

Bowersox said that the new retaliatory tariffs imposed are unfair to farmers. Despite that, Bowersox says he believes that Trump is working to create fair trade.

“For the most part, President Trump is going in the right step. That’s my guess. It’s, hopefully, for the better. Sure it’s hurting us a little bit right now. Hopefully, things will turn around,” he said.

Bowersox mainly grows barley and hay both of which were not included in the recent compensation payments. He believes those crops will eventually be a part of reimbursements for farmers.

Bowersox says that his farm continues to do well, and that he hasn’t been drastically hurt by the trade wars.

“I’m not really too upset. I feel it’s probably for the better. I’m sure it’s hurting some of the farmers, but for us locally, I don’t believe it is,” he said.

The government is accepting sign ups for the next round of compensation from now through Dec. 6, 2019.

For information on the compensation program, visit farmers.gov/manage/mfp.

To contact Lisa Dayley Smith write to lsmith@uvsj.com