US agriculture secretary: farm aid details may be disclosed Monday

CORTLAND, New York, Aug 23 (Reuters) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Thursday that details of a planned $12 billion aid package for U.S. farmers hurt by the Trump administration’s trade wars may be disclosed on Monday.

Perdue, who had told Reuters that the plan would include between $7 billion and $8 billion in direct cash relief for farmers, said it was being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.

The OMB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Perdue said he hoped to have the program up and running after Labor Day and declined to give further details before he met with farmers in upstate New York.

The aid package, announced in July, was expected to include cash for farmers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy and hogs as well as government purchases of fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and nutrition programs.

Perdue had said it would include some $200 million for a trade promotion program to develop new markets.

Trade publication Agri-Pulse reported this week that the preliminary proposal was for a payment rate of $1.65 per bushel to soybean farmers and 1 cent per bushel for corn farmers, citing officials close to the decision-making process. Perdue declined to comment on the report.

Based on the USDA’s forecast for a soybean crop of 4.586 billion bushels, that would be worth $7.6 billion in aid for soybeans alone.

China has traditionally bought some 60 percent of U.S. soybeans but has been out of the market since implementing retaliatory tariffs.

“It’s not going to seem like it’s equitable,” Perdue said of the aid allocation on Thursday.

The aid plan is intended only for the current crop cycle, Perdue has said.

The package was seen as a temporary boost to farmers as the United States and China negotiate trade issues. It has divided Republicans, some of whom favor free trade and were troubled by what they viewed as the kind of welfare programs their party has traditionally opposed.

The United States and China escalated their trade war on Thursday, implementing punitive 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of each other’s goods, even as mid-level officials from both sides resumed talks in Washington. (Reporting by Mark Weinraub; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)