( File photo )

Targeting sweet cherry growers for a total of more than $100 million in relief, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching the second and final round of trade mitigation payments.

“The President reaffirmed his support for American farmers and ranchers and made good on his promise, authorizing the second round of payments to be made in short order,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release. “While there have been positive movements on the trade front, American farmers are continuing to experience losses due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations. This assistance will help with short-term cash flow issues as we move into the new year.”

The release said producers of certain commodities will now be eligible to receive Market Facilitation Program payments for the second half of their 2018 production.

A good number of Northwest cherry growers have taken advantage of the Market Facilitation Program, said Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash.

“I know that the growers have been going to (USDA) local offices and applying for the assistance, and you know with the way things are going with China right now it looks like there’s a good chance that the market will still be affected in the 2019 season,” Powers said.

The Northwest Horticultural Council estimated $96 million in economic impact to the Northwest cherry exports from the retaliatory tariffs.

“The USDA (estimate) of $111 million (of damage to all cherry growers from retaliatory tariffs) seems reasonable to us,” Powers said. Unless retaliatory tariffs are removed in China, Powers said growers may face another difficult year in 2019.

Perdue had announced in July that USDA would act to aid farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation, and in September the USDA initiated three programs to aid American agriculture in sustaining the short-term damages associated with the trade disputes and securing long-term, stable export markets.

  •  The USDA’s Farm Service Agency has been administering Marketing Facilitation Program to provide the first payments to almond, corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, fresh sweet cherry, and wheat producers since September 2018 for the first 50% of their 2018 production.
  • USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is administering a food purchase and distribution program to purchase up to $1.2 billion in commodities unfairly targeted by unjustified retaliation. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is distributing these commodities through nutrition assistance programs, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program and child nutrition programs. So far, USDA has procured some portion of 16 of the 29 commodities included in the program, totaling more than 4,500 truckloads of food. AMS will continue purchasing commodities for delivery throughout 2019, according to the release.
  • The USDA said that through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s Agricultural Trade Promotion program, $200 million is being made available to develop foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products. The agency said the program will help U.S. agricultural exporters identify and access new markets and help mitigate the adverse effects of other countries’ restrictions.

The application period closed in November with more than $600 million in requested activities from more than 70 organizations, according to the USDA. Awards of ATP funding will be revealed in early January.

The USDA said the Market Facilitation Program sign-up period in September and runs through Jan. 15. Information about the program is available at the program website www.farmers.gov/mfp.

According to the agency, producers must complete an application by Jan. 15 but have until May 1 to certify their 2018 production. The MFP provides payments to almond, cotton, corn, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, fresh sweet cherry, and wheat producers who have been significantly impacted by actions of foreign governments resulting in the loss of traditional exports, according to the release.

For those farmers who have already applied, completed harvest, and certified their 2018 production, a second payment will be issued on the remaining 50% of the producer’s total production, multiplied by the MFP rate for the specific commodity.