WASHINGTON – The Environmental Working Group has petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture for all records concerning its decision to pay up to $12 billion to farmers harmed by retaliatory tariffs levied on U.S. agribusiness by China and other nations in response to the Trump administration’s trade war.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, EWG is seeking details on how the USDA determined farmers’ eligibility for direct payments through its Market Facilitation Program, or MFP. EWG requested the following information:
The model, method, and/or criteria for determining eligibility for direct MFP payments announced on August 27, 2018, for corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers. This request includes all records reflecting communications (including emails, email attachments, text messages, telephone call logs, meeting notices, meeting agendas, informational material, talking points, draft legislation, or other materials) regarding development and implementation of the model, method, and/or criteria for direct MFP payments and initial commodity payment rates.
“The American people deserve to know exactly how the Trump administration devised this scheme,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “It’s safe to assume the bulk of the money will flow to the wealthiest agribusiness operations and city slicker farmers – not to the struggling family farms that need the most relief from the president’s ill-conceived trade war. On behalf of taxpayers, EWG is determined to find out.”
According to the USDA, soybean farmers stand to see the largest share of the initial $4.7 billion in payments through the Market Facilitation Program. Producers of cotton, corn, sorghum, wheat and pork will also receive payments, which will start on Sept. 4.