WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he has directed his agriculture secretary to expedite help to farmers, especially small farmers, hurt by the economic disruption caused by the new coronavirus outbreak.
On Twitter, Trump also said he expects Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue “to use all of the funds and authorities at his disposal to make sure that our food supply is stable, strong, and safe.”
Trump did not specify what he expected Perdue to do, but farmers are waiting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to announce how it will disburse $9.5 billion Congress set aside for the industry in the coronavirus relief bill signed by Trump last month.
Farmers are an important part of Republican Trump’s political base as he seeks re-election in November.
Also on Twitter, Perdue said the USDA “is using all financial resources we have been given to develop a program that will include direct payments to farmers & ranchers hurt by COVID-19 & other procurement methods to help solidify the supply chain from producers to consumers.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation said last week that farmers need immediate help and it urged the USDA to make special direct payments to dairy and cotton producers, livestock farmers and cattle ranchers, among others.
The group said certain sectors have been particularly hard-hit, including dairy farmers and specialty crop producers, such as vegetable and fruit farms.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Grant McCool)