Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

The US Department of Agriculture released details on Monday of subsidies to be handed out to farmers in an attempt to ease the pain caused by tariffs, acknowledging that farmers “cannot pay their bills with simple patriotism.”

The initial payments will total around US$4.7 billion, with the bulk of the payouts going to soybean producers. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue said in a statement Monday that the plan “buys time for the President to strike long-lasting trade deals to benefit our entire economy.”

The program, announced earlier this summer, could handout subsidies of as much as US$12 billion, according to the department.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross struck a confident tone last week, saying in a televised interview that of China and other trading partners who have imposed retaliatory tariffs: “The thing they’ve been underestimating is how patriotic the Americans – including the ones who’ve been hit with retaliation – are. They’ll know that pretty soon.”

But, for farmers, “problems caused by unjustified tariffs could not have come at a worse time,” Secretary Purdue was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal. They “cannot pay their bills with simple patriotism.”

Ross’ confidence will be tested soon, as midterm elections across the country in November will decide whether the Republican Party maintains control of the House of Representatives.

A new poll, released by NBC News/Marist, could be cause for concern, finding that voters in three key battleground states are wary of the tariff policies. A solid plurality of those surveyed said the tariffs will hurt the US economy.

In Illinois and Pennsylvania, close to twice as many respondents felt the tariffs would hurt the US economy as opposed to helping. In Texas 40% of the voters asked said the tariffs would cause harm, while 30% felt they would be beneficial.