Farmers reeling from Trump’s trade war were offered a hand last year. But as it turns out, a Brazilian company is getting taxpayer money meant for Americans.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS is getting $5 million from Trump’s $12 billion farmer bailout program, which is buying 1.8 million pounds of pork from the company. This is a significantly larger payment than the $240,000 given to Chinese-owned Smithfield, which was rescinded after blowback from Congressional leadership.
“Why is USDA rewarding another foreign-owned meatpacker through its meat procurement program after the blowback it received from purchasing pork products from Chinese-owned Smithfield?,” Food and Water watch Lobbyist Tony Corbo told the Post.
However, the Trump administration defended the payout as necessary, saying that the money is for agricultural products that are “100 [percent] American produced.
“[The U.S. Department of Agriculture] only buys American commodities, produced on American farms by American farmers,” a USDA spokesperson told the paper. “Approved vendors who choose to participate in USDA food purchasing programs, regardless of their business structure or domicile, provide direct benefits to U.S. farmers and ranchers.”
The Brazilian company’s U.S. division is one of the largest meat producers in the United States, employing 73,000 people at nearly 50 plants around the country. Trade journal National Provisioner found that JBS USA recorded more meat and poultry sales than any other meatpacking company in the U.S. in 2017. JBS S.A. is the parent company, headquartered in the Brazilian city of São Paulo, and is the world’s largest meat producer with 150 plants around the world.
A $5 million aid check to a Brazilian company might come as a shock to smaller American farmers, many of whom are fearing that the checks from the Trump administration may not be enough to account for the losses incurred from the trade war. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported in November that of the thousands of Wisconsin farmers who applied for help, 11 of them got $50,000 in aid, and 237 others got as little as $100. Thousands of others received funds between those two amounts.
Farmers are in an even more precarious position given the ongoing federal government shutdown. The Post reported Wednesday that farmers who grow soybeans — one of the products directly impacted by Chinese tariffs — are unable to seek additional aid as the U.S. Department of Agriculture will not be operational until the government is reopened.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.