Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Zirpoli: Promoting welfare instead of markets for farmers

Supporters of President Donald Trump don’t like handouts — unless the handouts are for them, evidently.

Trump announced the latest round of handouts to American farmers — $16 billion — because his trade war policies are killing their exports to China and causing many farmers to go out of business. This follows a $12 billion handout he gave to them in 2018.


Republicans would normally refer to these handouts as a form of “socialism” if the money was going to help American children get health care or food. But because the handout is going to farmers — mostly Republican farmers in Republican states — the Trump administration is referring to the handouts as “a $16 billion facilitation program.” I’m not quite sure what they are facilitating except for votes in 2020.

In their defense, I’ve heard many farmers say that they would rather have their markets back than accept handouts from the federal government. Yet, 78 percent of farmers surveyed by either “strongly approved or somewhat approved of the way Trump is conducting his job.”


Trump recently said that the handouts were going to be paid by China through tariffs on Chinese imports. In fact, the American people are paying Trump’s tariffs and for Trump’s handouts to the farmers. In other words, farmers are getting a check while we are getting billed twice.

I don’t mind helping out the American farmer after a farm crisis such as a drought or other natural disaster. Americans are generous and do this all the time after hurricanes and tornadoes. I do mind sending farmers $28 billion dollars of our tax dollars to cover for the actions of the president they voted for and, for the most part, continue to support.

Personal responsibility, something Republicans once endorsed, means taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s behavior. If American farmers want to vote for Trump and his policies, that is their right, of course. But if Trump continues to be their guy, then farmers should embrace the consequences of his policies without asking us to pay the bill.

I’m sure Republican farmers accepting these handouts will think twice before judging people on food stamps or other types of federal aid.

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I’m also sure that the Republican politicians supporting these new handouts will require farmers to take drug tests before qualifying for these federal handouts, just like they proposed for other Americans accepting federal aid. Will there be work requirements for the aid?

It is funny how Trump is so quick to throw money at farmers hit by a disaster he created but is so hesitant to give money to the folks in Puerto Rico following a hurricane. I wonder if it has anything to do with skin color and electoral votes — Puerto Ricans have too much of one and none of the other.

I recently read a conservative column stating that socialism makes people lazy and dependent on the government. The columnist’s concern was targeted at federal assistance for health care, early childhood programs, and college tuition assistance. He didn’t mention handouts and other farm assistance programs for farmers.

Even without this additional $28 billion gift from Trump, farmers already receive a significant amount of federal agricultural assistance. American farmers receive billions of dollars of taxpayer money for a laundry list of programs that help them with special loans, crop disaster assistance, marketing assistance, conservation, and so on. Subtracting nutrition programs included in the 2018 Farm Bill, farmers will receive $78 billion for insurance assistance, $61 billion for a variety of commodity programs, and $60 billion for conservation programs over the next 10 years.


Trump is unlikely to win his trade war with China because Chinese government officials don’t have to worry about running for reelection.

Trump, on the other hand, does. The Chinese can read polls in American farm states as well as anyone else. Their people may suffer, but Chinese officials will not. Also, the Chinese government is not having trouble finding new sources for the farm products they once purchased from American farmers.

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, American farm exports to China during President Barack Obama’s administration increased from $14 billion in 2008 during his first year in office to $25 billion in 2016 when he left office. Soybeans represented about 52 percent of those exports. Right now, China is buying Soybeans from Brazil, not from American farmers. It seems that their guy is driving them out of business and on to the welfare rolls.