Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was one of the senators who supported President Donald Trump’s $12 billion bailout for U.S. farmers, suffering at the hands of his trade war with China.
Now, it seems the senator might be the one reaping thousands of dollars worth benefits from it.
What seemed like Grassley’s innocent support of trade war-struck farmers, actually had much deeper roots for the senator, who has applied for the federal funds for his 750-acre Iowa farm, The Washington Post reported.
Jon Tester (D-Mont) is also applying for the same funds.
The Agriculture Department has already sent out bailout checks, worth over $25 million for farmers, across the United States.
Trump, when he took office, promised a growing market to American farmers, a demographic that helped him get elected in the first place. The situation deteriorated after the U.S. announced targeting $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.
Grassley’s family has been into farming and agriculture for decades. His office defended him eyeing the bailout money because apparently he has always supported U.S. farmers.
“Sen. Grassley participates in farm programs for which he is legally eligible, including this program, like every other farmer,” said the spokesman, Michael Zona. “Grassley receives no special treatment and is always transparent about his participation. As a family farmer, Sen. Grassley brings firsthand knowledge and experience on behalf of agriculture and rural America to the policymaking tables in Washington.”
Although Grassley is a millionaire, there is no rule that restricts senators from participating in the bailout program. However, he and Tester were the only lawmakers who acknowledged applying for the funds; 12 other lawmakers said they would not apply.
Critics say Grassley and Tester’s participation highlights exactly what is wrong with the bailout program: the rich get richer and poorer farmers still struggle to make ends meet as they battle Chinese tariffs, thanks to Trump.
“Many taxpayers would be shocked to learn members of Congress who are receiving what by any measure is a lot of money are now also receiving a bailout check ostensibly designed to help struggling farmers,” Scott Faber, senior vice president for governmental affairs at the Environmental Working Group, said. “It underscores exactly what’s wrong with the bailout program — that many of the recipients of farm bailout funding are doing just fine.”
Many farmers, who do not have a senator’s annual salary of $174,000, complained the bailout program would not cover their losses instigated by the tariffs.
“It’s pretty obvious that the rural agriculture communities helped elect this administration ... [but] if these issues haven’t been resolved, there could be a change in the way farmers vote,” Kevin Skunes, a corn and soybean grower in North Dakota, told the Associated Press.
While applying for the same funds, Grassley’s office in a statement said the senator has always supported market over aid.
“The recently announced aid package by the Trump administration allows farmers to sign up for assistance based on set guidelines that are the same for everyone,” the statement read. “Additionally, since the threat of retaliatory tariffs against agricultural products, Senator Grassley has made clear several times to President Trump that farmers want markets, not aid.”
But the program is essentially programmed to profit wealthy farmers, since only 150,000 farmers produce about 90 percent of the nation’s crops.
“If you want to protect that sector of the economy, the assistance needs to go to those 150,000 farmers,” Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at INTL FCStone, said.
According to an analysis based on 2017 numbers, Grassley could get up to $34,000 in bailout checks, Faber said.
Tester, on the other hand, called for the end of tariffs that has impacted the farmers’ market.
“Like most Montana farmers, [Tester] is feeling the impacts of the escalating trade war,” said Marnee Banks, a spokeswoman. “Jon is frustrated with the lack of certainty in the marketplace and is calling for an end to the tariffs that are hurting producers across America.”
For all their aversions, aid for Grassley and Trump’s tariffs for Tester, both the lawmakers have received hundreds of thousands in subsidies in 21 years.
Grassley has received more than $360,000 in commodity subsidies; Tester has received $252,798 in farm subsidies, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert