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Somerset County farmers sound off about farm aid

September 29, 2018

Somerset County farmers heard the news last month about aid that would be given to them and their peers across the country as part of President Donald Trump’s effort to alleviate economic hardship in the American agricultural sector.

Some farmers in the area are recipients of it.

“It helped,” said Glen Stoltzfus, who owns Pennwood Farms in Berlin. “But my first thought is we’d rather have trade. But it’s help and we won’t turn it down. Farmers don’t like to stick their hand out. It’s hard to take. But when something like this comes through we think about why we can’t have a market to support us rather than this type of aid. I understand why he’s doing it. I don’t think there’s a farmer out there that will say I won’t take it.”

The Trump administration is providing up to $12 billion in emergency relief funds for American farmers, with roughly $6 billion in an initial round. The three-pronged plan includes $4.7 billion in payments to corn, cotton, soybean, dairy, pork and sorghum farmers, according to the Associated Press.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last month that soybean growers will get the largest checks, at $1.65 per bushel for a total of $3.6 billion. China is the world’s leading buyer of American soybeans, purchasing roughly 60 percent of the U.S. crop. But since Beijing imposed a 25 percent tariff on soybean imports, prices have plunged.

Stoltzfus said the help is too little, too late for some. For him it will be beneficial, but it’s not going to turn his financial situation around. Nonetheless, he’s grateful for assistance.

“Anytime you’re having trouble cash flowing your business and there is an opportunity to increase your income, that’s going to help,” he said. “In our situation, it’ll help for a month or two and that’s about it. We’re going to have to wait and see how much it’s going to be. That has yet to be determined. But we’re certainly thankful for it. But it’s not exactly what we wanted.”

Bill Hunsberger, a Davidsville farmer who raises corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, said the bailout isn’t going to compensate for the loss of money brought on by the retaliatory tariffs. He also said taxpayers would have to foot the bill.

“I’d rather have the market we lost. I don’t think it’s fair,” Hunsberger said. “Why should taxpayers pay for that? Why don’t we just have a market for soybeans?”

Mark O’Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said the money sent to eligible farmers should have a negligible impact on the state’s agricultural industry.

“Farmers, who are eligible to receive some aid under the trade mitigation package would much rather earn their money through fair and free trade agreements with foreign countries,” O’Neill said. “The reality is that any payments received by farmers will fall well short of making up for the losses they have incurred as part of the so-called ‘trade war.’”

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