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Feds pay $24 million to Idaho agriculture operations over trade war

Farmers say the payments don't begin to cover what they've lost.
File image of dairy cows

BOISE, Idaho — The federal government has paid $24 million to Idaho farms and dairies in an effort to help them survive financial losses caused by President Donald Trump's trade wars.

But farmers and industry leaders across the state say the payments — ranging from $2 to nearly $400,000 — don't begin to cover what they have lost.

"It's not even worth coming to town for," Gordon Gallup, a wheat farmer in Ririe, told the Idaho Statesman . He received $4,728 in October 2018, an amount he said barely makes a dent in operational costs for a farm his size. He produces roughly 400,000 bushels of wheat, barley and grain a year.

"As far as helping out, for a $2 million operation to get $4,000, you do the math," he said in a telephone interview.

Farms and dairies are still feeling the effects of last summer, when several countries placed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products in response to the Trump administration's tariffs on imported products like steel. The retaliatory tariffs on products like milk, wheat and cherries hit Idaho particularly hard, with industry leaders saying some farmers and dairies were losing thousands of dollars a day. In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rolled out a "trade mitigation" program, giving money to farmers who suffer the most under the retaliatory tariffs.

MORE: China imports from US plunge 31% in June amid tariff war

The first round of payments for the 2018 crop year sent $24 million to Idaho farms and their local and out-of-state owners. On Thursday, the USDA said an additional $16 billion will be distributed to U.S. farmers this year.

Payments ranged from $395,084 to a dairy in the Magic Valley to $2 mailed to a farmer on Bureau of Indian Affairs land in Lapwai.

Rick Naerebout, executive director of the Idaho Dairymen's Association in Twin Falls, said 15 Idaho dairies closed in 2018. Another 20 have closed so far this year.

"It's frustrating from our dairymen's perspective, knowing the losses to be 10 times as great as that tariff relief payment," Naerebout said. "They didn't ask to get in the middle of this trade war, but they are being asked to bear the burden — a far greater burden than other people."

Payments to Canyon County totaled nearly $1.4 million, while Ada and Owyhee county payments totaled a little more than half a million dollars each. The Magic Valley received the most money in the first round, with more than $2 million each sent to dairies and farms in Gooding, Jerome and Cassia.

The three highest payouts went to dairies. Box Canyon Dairy in Wendell received $395,000. Big Sky Dairy in Wendell received $332,000. Double A Dairy in Jerome received $250,000.

Many Idaho farmers received far less than Gallup, the Ririe farmer who said it wasn't worth the trip to town to pick up his check. About 1,600 payments were less than $1,000, about 230 were less than $100, and 15 farmers received $10 or less.

"If you're going to have a program, we're hoping for meaningful payments," said Stacey Katseanes Satterlee, the executive director of the Idaho Grain Growers Association, based in Boise. "Farmers are suffering. The acknowledgment is nice, but the bottom line is a big deal. If you're going to have payments to offset some of these losses, hopefully it offsets some of the losses."

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