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North Dakota small farmers looking to Washington for more help

Agriculture

In the next few months, close to $20 billion will be disbursed by the government for farmers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, but some farmers are worried that they won’t see all the financial relief they need from Washington.

KX News shares the frustrations of farmers and what they want to see happen next.

“It’s actually a double blow. There has been no recovery,” said Mark Watne, President of North Dakota Farmers Union.

Over the last two years, $28 billion was administered to farmers to aid with damages from the U.S. trade war with China. But most of that money went to larger farms and bypassed traditional small and medium-sized farms.

“We have not gotten the markets back, we’ve seen a little bit of trade. Our prices are lower than they were even a year ago right now,” said Watne.

Watne says now, producers are dealing with the ramifications from the coronavirus pandemic. And just like during the trade war bailout, many farms don’t think they will see as nearly as much money as they should.

He added, “Larger farms tend to get support on many more acres and on much more of their production than a smaller farmer may. And a lot of the smaller farmers fall into the category of the payment limits and is some respect aren’t compensated enough.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue defended the trade war bailout and the payments to farmers that were based on the number of crops produced in 2018, and by planted acreage in 2019.

“Most of our production in America is done by large farmers. That’s just the way it happens. These are awards based on the production, but we did try. We’ve got payment limits that cut people off,” said Perdue.

But those payment limits don’t always cut people off. The limit, or the cap, designed specifically for the biggest operators, used to be $125,000 per person or legal entity. But that cap was raised last year to $250,000. North Dakota farmer Tyler Stafslien says until Congress changes how they design a farm bill, smaller farms will continue to suffer.

“They are kind of putting a band-aid on a gushing wound. It somewhat helps, but it’s certainly not making us whole,” said Stafslien.

For now, many farmers are looking forward to planting spring crops and hoping the market will be there to sell. But until then, a government check may just have to do.

According to an economics report, U.S. farmers are expected to lose $20 billion in net income in 2020.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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