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Washington lawmakers weigh in on Trump’s $12 billion farm aid

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced plans to provide $12 billion in emergency aid to help farmers impacted by President Trump’s agricultural tariffs. The announcement sparked criticism from both sides of the aisle with lawmakers calling for an end to to the tariffs rather than a short-term solution.

That sentiment was echoed in Washington State where Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers released a statement calling on the Trump Administration to discontinue the escalating trade dispute.

“Farmers want trade, not aid,” said McMorris Rodgers. “That’s why I’m continuing to urge the administration to walk back these tariffs so we can protect and expand markets for our farmers to sell their goods and make a living.”

McMorris Rodgers also said she plans to meet with White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro, Director of Trade and Industrial Policy, on Thursday to discuss the needs of Eastern Washington farmers and expanding trade markets.

The $12 billion in emergency aid will be used to make payments to “producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs” and to implement a “Food Purchase and Distribution Program” to purchase surpluses of items such as fruits, legumes, beef, and pork. The third component of the aid will be put toward a “Trade Promotion Program” to support the growth of new export markets.

Fruit growers in Washington, who produce 90 percent of the county’s apple exports and 83 percent of the Northwest’s cherry harvest, will not be eligible for the incremental payments. They could, however, benefit from the purchase and distribution program and the development of new markets.

Following backlash from Democrats and from some within the GOP, Trump met with a group of Republican lawmakers on Wednesday afternoon to discuss tariffs, trade, and agriculture. Included in the meeting were Washington Representatives Dan Newhouse and Dave Reichert.

Rep. Reichert is the Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. In a statement following the Wednesday meeting, Reichert said,

“I appreciated the opportunity to speak with the President directly and share examples of how the Section 232 and 301 tariffs are hurting farmers, workers, and consumers in my home state of Washington. From contracts cancelled by customers abroad to increased costs on imported equipment, our agricultural industry is feeling the pain both from the Administration’s tariffs on certain U.S. imports and the retaliatory tariffs placed by our trading partners on our exports. While I share the Administration’s goal of helping America’s farmers, we can best support their efforts with a long-term solution that provides certainty and not only protects their access to overseas markets but opens up new market opportunities.”

Rep. Newhouse also issued a statement after the meeting but made no reference to the $12 billion aid proposal. Instead, Newhouse focused on the president’s Wednesday meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and was congratulatory of Trump’s efforts.

“This President is working to level the playing field as no one has done before to address unfair trading practices,” said Newhouse. “In our meeting, I brought up the challenges of Central Washington cherry-growers who are facing retaliatory tariffs as one example of export-reliant American industries that have been paying the price for rising tension. The European Union’s agreement to increase imports of American products, as well as working toward the goal of zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies is a very positive step.”

While Trump and Juncker agreed to hold off on additional tariffs and work toward a deal to eliminate trade barriers between the U.S. and the European Union, the outlook for farmers in Washington remains precarious.