Durbin Statement On GAO Report Confirming USDA Mishandled Payments To Illinois Farmers For Trade Damages

New Data Reveals How The 2019 USDA Market Facilitation Program Favored Southern Growers

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), both members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, to announce a new report from the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found the Trump Administration’s payments to farmers harmed by the President’s trade policies ultimately favored southern cotton growers who were less harmed compared to Illinois farmers and crops.  The report is the result of an independent GAO investigation requested by Stabenow in February after concerns about unfairness and mismanagement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Market Facilitation Program.

“Today’s report confirms that the Secretary of Agriculture, a former Georgia governor, used USDA’s trade-aid program to favor, per acre, cotton growing Southern states over soybean growing states like Illinois. Illinois farmers experienced far more financial damage from this President’s erratic trade approach with China, but ended up with the short end of the stick. The Trump Administration must explain itself,” Durbin said. 

The GAO report found that Southern farmers benefitted significantly compared to other regions. Eight of the top nine states with the highest payments per acre were in the South.  The program paid farmers in Illinois an average of $71 per acre, compared to farmers in Georgia who received an average of $119 per acre. Georgia leads the nation with average payments of $42,545 per farmer, compared to the average payment in Illinois of $14,765.

The full report is available here. A summary is available here.

The data in the GAO report confirms previous findings that the Trump Administration picked winners and losers between regions, crops, and farms in their attempt to assist farmers harmed by President Trump’s turbulent trade agenda. In November, Senate Democrats released a comprehensive report detailing concerns that the Administration has distributed trade payments unevenly across the country, benefiting regions and farms that have experienced less trade damage. The Trump Administration has ignored suggested improvements and a subsequent analysis showed continued bias in the trade assistance program. Kansas State University researchers further validated these findings in an economic analysis of the distribution of trade assistance, finding that cotton payments were 33 times more than the estimated trade damage.