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US details up to US$14b in new aid for farmers

[CHICAGO] The US Agriculture Department (USDA) on Friday released details of a second round of Covid-19 aid for farmers, which will pay up to US$14 billion to growers of major crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat, as well as livestock, dairy and tobacco.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday night announced that a new round of pandemic assistance would be available to farmers at a campaign rally in Wisconsin, a crucial battleground state.

The new assistance follows a US$19 billion relief programme announced in April to help US farmers cope with the impact of the virus, of which less than US$10 billion has been paid out to date.

The Trump administration had already provided US$28 billion in trade aid to the farm sector, which widely backed the president in the 2016 election, over 2018 and 2019.

The new package, which will largely be funded by the Commodity Credit Corporation, also includes money for growers of specialty crops and dairy, livestock and poultry farmers.

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"We listened to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organisations about the impact of the pandemic on our nations' farms and ranches, and we developed a programme to better meet the needs of those impacted," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

USDA also said that up to US$100 million in aid for tobacco farmers will come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

In the North Carolina, the top tobacco-producing state, Republican Senator Thom Tillis trails his Democratic challenger, former state Senator Cal Cunningham, who has also steadily outraised him in campaign donations.

The government said that major row crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat were eligible for the relief programme because the national average price for them fell at least 5 per cent between mid-January and late July.

Prices have rallied sharply since then, with a surge in buying from China pushing the soybean futures market to its highest in more than two years. Corn was trading at its highest in more than six months and wheat recently hit a five-month top.


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