Agribusiness  July 26, 2019

Colorado farmers get a minor cut of new trade aid package

WASHINGTON — Northern Colorado farmers are due to get a minor cut of the second round of farm aid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA is distributing the funds on the orders of President Donald Trump to cover some of the financial losses farmers sustained over the past two years of a trade war with China. In addition to direct payments, the federal agriculture agency is buying unsold commodities to distribute to local food banks and giving commodity groups grants to spur trade in new foreign markets.

Farmers in Boulder County can receive $16 per acre planted, while producers in Larimer and Weld County are eligible for $19 per acre. The payments are eligible only for certain crops particularly affected by hampered trade with China, such as corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat.

The highest payout potential in Colorado is in El Paso County, at $30 per acre.

The USDA weighted those payments by how much it believes each county’s economy was hurt by hampered trade. That suggests farmers in Northern Colorado haven’t been deeply affected compared with counties in the Midwest and southeastern states, where dozens of counties in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia could see payouts over $100 per acre.

Dawn Thilmany, an agribusiness professor with Colorado State University, said Colorado’s agriculture industry is heavy on livestock and hasn’t seen as much loss in revenues compared with grain-producing states.

Cattle and milk accounted for 62.7 percent of the state’s agricultural sales in 2017, according to the latest U.S. Agriculture Census. Grain farmers planted 2.25 million acres of wheat last year, compared to 1.47 million acres of corn, according to USDA data.

That mix of crops and animals means Colorado producers aren’t nearly as hurt as soybean and corn growers who were getting relatively high commodity prices thanks to Chinese demand.

“We just haven’t seen the effect on the meat and animal product market,” she said. “…China is one of our major discussion points, but they really have never been a big wheat customer, they’ve been a soybean customer.”

Dave Eckhardt, a Weld County farmer and president of the Colorado Corn Growers Association, said the $16 to $19 per acre payment producers in the region are looking at isn’t going to help all that much. He is also unhappy that farmers in Northern Colorado are looking to get a relatively small slice of support compared to counties that produce more soybeans or other particularly affected crops.

Eckhardt also fears that corn prices are going to fall further in the future if producers around the country decide to shift soybean acreage into corn acres en masse, creating more supply in an already-flooded market.

Ultimately, Echkardt said farmers across the country would rather see trade deals solidified between the U.S. and China and the U.S., Canada and Mexico than get financial support from the USDA.

“I appreciate the sentiment for the difficulties we’re having, but honestly, we need to get a trade deal done. I’d much rather have that out of the way and let the markets take care of themselves,” he said.

WASHINGTON — Northern Colorado farmers are due to get a minor cut of the second round of farm aid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA is distributing the funds on the orders of President Donald Trump to cover some of the financial losses farmers sustained over the past two years of a trade war with China. In addition to direct payments, the federal agriculture agency is buying unsold commodities to distribute to local food banks and giving commodity groups grants to spur trade in new foreign markets.

Farmers in Boulder County can receive $16…

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
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