Trump touts $16 billion in coronavirus direct payments for farmers

Excess meat, dairy, produce will be purchased to be distributed to non-profits, food banks

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President Trump touted $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers struggling because of challenges like the loss of restuarant business caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"The American farmer is the backbone of our country. ... There’s no president that’s treated the farmers like Trump," the president said at the White House on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump speaks during an event on the food supply chain during the coronavirus pandemic, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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Farmers can sign up starting May 26 and payments will start being issued within one week of receiving applications, Trump said.

On Friday, the administration celebrated the launch of the Farmers to Families Food Box program, which will buy up to $3 billion in fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat to distribute to food banks and nonprofits.

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump, speaks during an event on the food supply chain and the coronavirus pandemic, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Farmers welcomed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recent approval of $1.2 billion in contracts for the program earlier in May. Trump said Tuesday the program was up to 198 contracts.

The focus on farmers comes after coronavirus outbreaks at meat processing facilities sparked fears of a meat shortage and efforts to curb panic buying at supermarkets. Commodity farmers who were expecting a much brighter 2020 economy are hurting because of gaps in the supply chain. For example, the National Pork Producers Council says U.S. pork farmers may be forced to euthanize as many as 10 million hogs by September because of the processing bottleneck.

From left, Coastal Sunbelt Produce CEO John Corso, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump, tour Coastal Sunbelt Produce, Friday, May 15, 2020, in Laurel, Md. (AP Photo/An

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall praised the Farmers to Families Food Box program earlier in May.

"We applaud the USDA for its quick action and flexibility in finding a way to get food from America's farms to the dinner tables of those who need it most," Duvall said in a statement. "These food purchases will help the hungry while providing income to farmers and ranchers who have seen some markets for their food disappear during the COVID-19 pandemic."

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The program is part of the $19 billion coronavirus farmer's assistance program, which was included in the administration's $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

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