October 18, 2019 Vada - Workers harvest field corns at Worsham Farms in Vada on Friday, October 18, 2019. It's been six years since Florida took its long-running water rights grievances against Georgia to the Supreme Court, and since then the focus of its suit has shifted from metro Atlanta to the farmland of SW Georgia. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Jolt: In Trump farm bailout, Georgia gets the most cash per acre

new report from Democrats in the U.S. Senate has found that the Trump administration, in a bailout intended to keep farmers afloat during the trade war with China, has showered more subsidies on Southern farmers than anywhere else.

And there’s an implication that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the former Georgia governor, has engaged in a bit of home cooking. You might not be surprised to discover which state benefited the most from the first round of distributions in 2019. From the Kansas City Star

Perdue’s home state of Georgia received the most money per farm acre, according to the study, at $52.35 per acre. The next four top recipients per acre were all states in the South: Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas.

“Farmers in Georgia have already received over $50 per acre in the first round of 2019 payments, while farmers in 34 other states received $25 or less, including 14 states that received $10 or less,” the report states.

The Democratic report also includes this passage:

In addition to the wide regional disparities in payment rates, there are significant differences across nearby county lines as well. These differences are the most extreme where MFP payments are high, but even in states where the maximum payment rate is less than $100 per acre, there often are adjacent counties with rates that vary by two or three times for no discernible reason. 

The report notes that in east Georgia, the payment rate was $150 per acre in Hancock County, but only $15 per acre in adjacent Baldwin County.

More from the Associated Press:

[The report] also asserted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has done nothing to target the assistance to vulnerable small, medium and beginning farmers. Instead, it said the agency doubled the payment limits, directing even more money to large, wealthy farming partnerships.

The USDA said in a statement that payments are based on trade damage, not regions or farm size.

"While we appreciate feedback on this program, the fact of the matter is that USDA has provided necessary funding to help farmers who have been impacted by unjustified retaliatory tariffs," the statement said. "While criticism is easy to come up with, we welcome constructive feedback from any member of Congress with recommendations as to how the program could be better administered."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the program also lacks any plan for rebuilding or replacing the markets that farmers have lost since they became caught up in the trade war last year. She leveled the charges in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that accompanied the 12-page report.

"This Administration's chaotic trade agenda has irreparably harmed farmers, on top of the market instability and extreme weather challenges they already face," Stabenow wrote in the letter signed by 14 other Democratic senators, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York.

The agency has set aside nearly $16 billion under MFP for the current crop year, up from the $12 billion inaugural edition for 2018 crops. The agency has paid farmers over $6.8 billion so far in first installments. According to the USDA, the states collecting the highest overall totals as of Tuesday — more than 60% of the total funds — are Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, and Kansas.

A separate analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation released later Tuesday backed up the USDA's assertion the dollars have flowed mostly to the Midwest, even though the per-acre rates are higher in parts of the South. The Farm Bureau report said that's because most of the acres planted in crops that are eligible for MFP payments are planted in the Midwest. The group did not address the Democratic senators' claim that the formula is unfair.

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The first impeachment hearing aimed at a U.S. president in 21 years begins at about 10 a.m. today. WSB Radio’s Jamie Dupree can point you to the rules laid out for participating members of Congress -- which will also explain why you’re not likely to hear much from individual lawmakers, whether Republican or Democrat.

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Ultimately, the findings of the impeachment inquiry will be transmitted to the House Judiciary Committee, which would make the formal decision on whether to proceed with articles of impeachment.

The signature of U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, is at the top of a letter addressed to Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that lists GOP demands for the proceeding. As with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller, control of underlying documents will be an issue.

But with the partisan roles reversed. From the GOP letter:

“First, we expect the Committee to receive all underlying evidence and materials pertaining to the impeachment inquiry gathered or demanded by other committees pursuant to any investigation of the President. To that end, we hope you will join us in requesting that Chairman Schiff ensure all documents, evidence, and testimony are expediently transmitted to this Committee. This step is necessary in preserving any ounce of credibility left in this process. Without it, America will be left to wonder what Chairman Schiff chose to keep to himself….”

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This morning’s print column looks at the four-sport effort to bring sports betting to Georgia. Proponents want to follow the path blazed by Tennessee this spring.

But things are happening in Alabama, too. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, a tribe comprised of roughly 4,000 individuals, is offering to pay the state of Alabama $225 million “for exclusive gaming rights in the State through a compact,” according to the Alabama Political Reporter.

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Republicans have come across a video of U.S. Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson speaking in Decatur a few days ago about the Green New Deal, the sweeping proposal to tackle climate change popularized by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

The former Columbus mayor tells the group that climate change is a “crisis” and that American taxpayers are already paying the price. She continues

“So people can stop complaining about what they think the, quote, ‘Green New Deal’ or any other bold idea might cost us because we're already paying for the effect, so we might as well be paying to limit and stop the climate change and not just pick up the pieces after the disaster.”

The Georgia Action Fund, a pro-David Perdue group, pointed to an estimate from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders that put a $16 trillion price tag on his version of the proposal. John Burke, the group’s director, called it a “socialist scheme that would destroy our economy.” 

Tomlinson’s response? A shrug. What she was recorded saying is part of her regular message. Her campaign pointed to her policy paper supporting new tax credits for electric vehicles and “grants, partnerships, incentives and targeted carbon cost assessments” to offset the public cost of climate change. 

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State Sen. Nikema Williams, who chairs the state Democratic party, will be part of a five-member delegation sent to El Salvador, prosecutes and imprisons women for homicide if they are suspected of having an abortion. The trip is being sponsored by a pro-choice group.

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