The Trump administration’s multibillion dollar farm-aid program, managed by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, has poured a disproportionate amount of money into big farms and Southern states, including the secretary’s home state of Georgia, according to a report released last week by the Government Accountability Office.
The findings by the nonpartisan watchdog agency supported some of the criticisms leveled at the White House and President Donald Trump by Democrats and advocacy groups, who have accused the administration of mismanaging the $23 billion program that the president started in 2018 to blunt the effects of his trade war with China on American farmers. The study, which was requested by Senate Democrats, assessed the $14.5 billion in payments that were made last year.
The report, along with a separate analysis of it by Senate Democrats, found that Georgia farmers received an average of $42,545 from the program — more than twice the national average of $16,507 and the highest average per acre in the country.
It also found that eight of the top nine states — measured by average payments per acre of farmland — were in the South, a region at the heart of Trump’s political base. More generous payment rates for cotton and sorghum, which are grown in Southern states, were part of the reason for the disparity, the report said.
Big farms also received the largest payments, the report found, with the top 25 recipients getting an average of $1.5 million each.
In the midst of his trade fights with China, Europe, Canada and Mexico, Trump moved to lessen the blow to farmers, who were targeted for retaliation by those countries after the United States imposed tariffs on foreign metals and Chinese goods.
China, in particular, tried to inflict pain on American farms by limiting imports of soybeans, corn and pork, hurting Trump’s political base. Farm income has been weak across the United States since the trade war began, with bankruptcies rising.
Trump approved new payouts for farmers. Democrats accused him of paying off supporters to pursue policy goals.