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California dairies and farms collect $10 million in trade-war aid

California dairies and farms collect $10 million in trade-war aid
Dairy cows feed at one of the barns at Robert Gioletti & Sons Dairy in Turlock, Calif. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

California dairies collected $10.5 million in emergency federal aid for losses caused by the trade war ignited by President Trump’s tariffs on steel and other products, according to federal data.

The beleaguered sector was by far the biggest recipient of U.S. Department of Agriculture “market facilitation” payments to California, according to the data, released in response to a public records request from the Environmental Working Group, a longtime critic of farm subsidies.

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Trump created the program, among others, to compensate for agricultural losses when China, Mexico, Canada, the European Union and other countries retaliated against his imposition of stiff tariffs on imported steel, aluminum and other products this year.

Nationwide, soy farmers in the agricultural heartland flanking the Mississippi River received $215 million of the $356 million in payments, followed by hog farmers, with $51 million, and dairy, $50 million.

Environmental Working Group criticized the payments as bailouts, paid through borrowing, and doled out to “city slickers” in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and other urban areas — rather than to family farms.

For California, however, that was hardly the case: About a third of the payments went to 50 large dairies in the state’s agricultural heartland of the San Joaquin Valley. The largest payment, $140,804, went to Verwey Farms in Hanford in rural Kings County. The average payment to California’s more than 1,000 recipients was about $10,000.

The five Los Angeles recipients, by contrast, received a total of $7,745 for losses to wheat, soy and corn crops, while their San Francisco counterparts collected $4,671.

California is the largest dairy producer in the country, exporting about $1.4 billion in dairy products, about 30% of which goes to Mexico. The industry, however, has been steadily shrinking over the last decade — more than 100 have shut down in the last five years, according to industry figures.

Even Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), who touts his “local farm boy” credentials, got out of the business long ago and moved his operations to Iowa, as reported by Esquire. The Nunes Bros. dairy in Tulare, owned the by congressman’s uncle, remains in operation. It collected $23,092, according to the data.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council predicts Trump's tariffs will cost the industry $2.7 billion over the next several years.

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