Nervous North American farmers set to ‘seed in faith’ into parched soils

By Rod Nickel and Julie Ingwersen

WINNIPEG, Manitoba/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Fields across the Canadian Prairies and the U.S. Northern Plains are among the driest on record, raising production risks in one of the world’s key growing regions for canola and spring wheat.

As planting season begins, the dusty soils generate fears that seeds will fail to germinate or yield smaller crops in a year when demand for canola already far outstrips supply. Unusually strong wheat exports to China for animal feed have also lowered global supplies of the main ingredient in bread and pasta.

Prices of canola, which is processed into vegetable oil and animal feed, hit all-time highs in February and Canadian supplies look to dwindle by midsummer to an eight-year low.

Spring wheat futures are trading near their highest levels since 2017, the last time significant drought gripped the northern U.S. Plains.

“I guess we seed in faith, hoping it’s going to rain,” said Steven Donald, 41, a fourth-generation member of a family-owned grain and cattle farm near Moosomin, Saskatchewan. “It’s the driest that we can remember.”

Donald’s fields are powder-dry. His pastures crunch under his boots and contain gaping cracks.

In eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, a dry winter followed scant rainfall during the last growing season, said Bruce Burnett, director of markets and weather at Glacier FarmMedia.

Much of western Manitoba had the driest or close to the driest winter in more than a century of records, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada data. Most of arable Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan faces severe to extreme drought, the federal department said on Friday.

Many farmers are adjusting by scaling back canola plantings, said Neil Townsend, FarmLink Marketing Solutions’ chief market analyst, citing surveys. Canola is especially vulnerable to drought that can prevent seeds from germinating.

RECORD-BREAKING DRYNESS IN NORTH DAKOTA

Across the border in North Dakota, the top U.S. spring wheat producer, the last six months have been the driest in records dating to 1895, said Adnan Akyuz, the state’s official climatologist. The latest weekly U.S. Drought Monitor showed 70% of North Dakota in “extreme drought,” up from 47% the previous week.

The Drought Monitor shows a better outlook for corn and soybeans, the main U.S. cash crops, mostly grown farther south.

Rain and snow are expected in North Dakota this week, according to meteorologist Greg Gust with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But it is unlikely to amount to much relief, although showers are possible in the 16-30-day period, said Joel Widenor, agriculture meteorologist with the Commodity Weather Group. Most of the state’s wheat crop is planted in late April and May.

Statistics Canada will issue its first report on planting intentions on April 27. Farmers are likely to seed 4% more canola, mainly in northern areas with more soil moisture, Agriculture Canada said on March 18.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last month projected that North Dakota farmers would plant 7 million acres of soybeans, making it the state’s most-planted crop, while spring wheat acres would fall 2% to 5.6 million.

Soil erosion is a concern as winds whip the region, said Jim Peterson of the North Dakota Wheat Commission. As a result, wheat may lose more acres to soybeans, which farmers can plant into June without stirring up fields to apply fertilizer, he said.

Conditions are the driest that Minto, Manitoba, farmer Jake Ayre and his family have seen since emigrating to Canada from England in 2002. But most planting in the region, known for its volatile weather, occurs in May.

“We’re not panicking,” Ayre said. “My dad said, ‘We’re always three weeks away from a drought, three weeks away from a flood.'”

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Julie Ingwersen in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Coronavirus costs climb as Europe’s farmers seek seasonal workers

By Joan Faus and Nigel Hunt

BARCELONA/LONDON (Reuters) – Fruit and vegetable harvests are underway in western Europe with seasonal workers gathering crops in top producer Spain, but costs are rising as farmers fear a third wave of COVID-19 might cause a repeat of 2020’s damaging disruptions in labor supply.

Harvests rely heavily on workers from Africa and eastern Europe, but many couldn’t travel a year ago as borders closed in the first wave of the pandemic. Shortages of key goods appeared in supermarkets while prices rose as consumers hoarded.

Coronavirus cases are surging again in Europe, raising the risk of crop losses and adding to farmers’ costs on everything from extra transport to keep workers socially distanced to buying protective gear for seasonal laborers.

In Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region, farmer Josep Cabre said he had spent about 6,000 euros ($7,000) on masks and other protective equipment for seven seasonal workers from West Africa working on his farm picking apples, pears and peaches.

“We have been lucky and, as far as we know, none of us has contracted COVID-19,” Cabre said, adding that shutting his business for 15 days could mean a 150,000 euro loss.

“A bar or shop can close for 15 days … but if I don’t pick the fruit at its right time and I do it later it would be damaged. To stop for 15 days would be an economic disaster,” he added.

Cabre tries to give workers tasks to keep them distanced. He has stopped using a nine-seat van to take them to fields near the city of Lleida, instead using several vans and reimbursing transport costs to workers who travel alone.

Lleida saw a infection cluster last summer, partially linked to migrants seeking seasonal jobs to pick fruit.

This year, thousands of workers have arrived on chartered flights from Morocco to help gather crops in Spain for the first major harvest of strawberries in the southern Huelva province.

“COVID measures have forced us to take on more people to do the same job,” Fernando Gomez of Murcia’s Proexport growers organization said, adding that a hike in Spain’s minimum wage also put pressure on margins.

TOUGHER CHECKS

Growers in Germany still expect to have enough workers from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and elsewhere for the asparagus harvest. But workers face tougher health and safety checks.

“The extensive corona-regulations and hygiene measures are creating great challenges, both organizational and financial,” Daniela Rixen, spokesperson for the LKSH agricultural chamber representing farmers in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Bernhard Kruesken, secretary general of German national farming association DBV, said normally about 300,000 seasonal harvest workers come to Germany every year but fewer are expected in 2021 for the second year running.

France needs about 1 million seasonal workers each year. Fruit and vegetable growers have been seeking to attract local students and jobless people to compensate for lower numbers of foreigners if new travel restrictions are imposed.

Last year, France raised a so-called “shadow army” to pick crops from furloughed workers in other sectors including hotel receptionists, restaurant waiters and hairdressers.

Non-European Union workers account for about 25% of seasonal workers in France.

“You never know. At any moment rules can change and borders can be closed,” Jerome Volle, deputy-chairman of France’s largest farm lobby FNSEA said.

Similar concerns are rising in Britain, which needs about 70,000 seasonal workers with the highest demand during the berry season in late May to June.

“There is a concern that European borders end up shutting down or that people can’t travel and that will put huge pressure on the availability of seasonal workers,” said Tom Bradshaw, vice president at Britain’s National Farmers Union.

In a normal year, just 1% of the seasonal workforce comes from Britain.

Despite the challenges, there is still little likelihood of fruit shortages this year, said Natalia Aguilera, head of the Andalusian chapter of the cooperativas agro-alimentarias cooperative.

“If there weren’t any (shortages) last year, complicated as it was during the pandemic, this year there is absolutely no chance,” she said.

($1 = 0.8531 euros)

(Additional reporting by Nathan Allen in Madrid, Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris and Michael Hogan in Hamburg; Editing by Veronica Brown and Edmund Blair)

Farmers fight back: Making animal feed from a locust plague

By Baz Ratner

LAIKIPIA (Reuters) – Kenya is battling some of the worst locust plagues in decades, but start-up The Bug Picture hopes to transform the pests into profits and bring “hope to the hopeless” whose crops and livelihoods are being destroyed by the insects.

Unusual weather patterns exacerbated by climate change have created ideal conditions for surging locust numbers, which have destroyed crops and grazing grounds across East Africa and the Horn.

Scientists say warmer seas are creating more rain, waking dormant eggs, and cyclones that disperse the swarms are getting stronger and more frequent.

The Bug Picture is working with communities around the area of Laikipia, Isiolo and Samburu in central Kenya to harvest the insects and mill them, turning them into protein-rich animal feed and organic fertilizer for farms.

“We are trying to create hope in a hopeless situation, and help these communities alter their perspective to see these insects as a seasonal crop that can be harvested and sold for money,” said Laura Stanford, founder of The Bug Picture.

In central Kenya’s Laikipia, clouds of locusts are devouring crops and other vegetation. The Bug Picture is targeting swarms of 5 hectares or less in inhabited areas not suitable for spraying.

Swarms can travel up to 150 km (93 miles) a day and can contain between 40-80 million locusts per square kilometer.

“They destroy all the crops when they get into the farms. Sometimes they are so many, you cannot tell them apart, which are crops and which are locusts,” said farmer Joseph Mejia.

The Bug Picture pays Mejia and his neighbors 50 Kenyan shillings ($0.4566) per kilogram of the insects. Between Feb. 1-18, the project oversaw the harvest of 1.3 tons of locusts, according to Stanford, who said she was inspired by a project in Pakistan, overseen by the state-run Pakistan Agricultural Research Council.

The locusts are collected at night by torchlight when they are resting on shrubs and trees.

“The community … are collecting locusts, once they (are collected) they are weighed and paid,” said Albert Lemasulani, a field coordinator with the start-up.

The insects are crushed and dried, then milled and processed into powder, which is used in animal feed or an organic fertilizer.

(Reporting by Baz Ratner; Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Indian govt offers to suspend farm reforms; farmers may call off protests

By Mayank Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s government on Wednesday offered to suspend implementation of three new farm laws that have triggered the biggest farmers’ protests in years, which farm union leaders said they would now consider calling off.

The cornerstone of the reform, introduced in September, allows private buyers to deal directly with farmers.

Angry farmers, who say that will make India’s traditional wholesale markets irrelevant and leave them at the mercy of big retailers and food processors, have camped out on major highways outside New Delhi for more than two months.

Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government was open to suspending the laws for up to 18 months, during which time representatives of the government and farmers should work to “provide solutions” for the industry.

Bilateral talks have so far failed to break the deadlock – landing Prime Minister Narendra Modi with one of his most significant challenges since he was re-elected in 2019.

The next round of talks is due on Friday, and farm leader Dharmendra Malik said the unions would let the government know then if they would accept the offer and call off the protests.

The government was “sympathetic to farmers’ concerns and is trying to end the stalemate,” it said in a government, thanking them for maintaining “peace and discipline” during the protests.

Farmers plan a tractor rally through New Delhi on Jan 26, India’s Republic Day, which the Supreme Court on Wednesday declined a government petition to ban.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; additional reporting by Suchitra Mohanty and Nigam Prusty; editing by John Stonestreet)

U.S. House pauses vote on bill to fund government and avoid shutdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives put on hold an expected Tuesday vote on a bill to fund the government through Dec. 11, while bipartisan congressional leaders discussed whether to include farm aid sought by President Donald Trump, lawmakers and aides said.

The delay “relates to numerous agriculture provisions” in the bill, one Democratic aide said. With government funding lapsing on Sept. 30, House Democrats announced Monday they had filed the stopgap funding legislation, but they angered Republicans by leaving out some farm money that Trump wanted.

The bill generally continues current spending levels, avoiding a government shutdown when funding runs out on Sept. 30. It would give lawmakers more time to work out spending through September 2021, including budgets for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.

“At some point in the next day or two, we expect that there will be a continuing resolution on the floor that will continue the current spending agreement until December,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, who have the majority. He said he hoped it would be “bipartisan in nature.”

The version that House Democrats filed on Monday did not include $21.1 billion that the White House sought to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, a program to stabilize farm incomes, because Democrats considered it a blank check for political favors. Trump had promised more farm aid during a rally in Wisconsin last week.

Republicans protested the omission, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arguing that farmers need the help.

“The talks continue, and hopefully we’ll reach an agreement,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.

A House Republican aide said Democrats had earlier walked away from an agreement that included the farm aid.

“Republicans will continue to fight for these provisions to be included,” he said.

Leaders of both parties say they are not interested in a standoff that could lead to a government shutdown, amid a pandemic and just weeks before the Nov. 3 elections.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bernadette Baum)

House Democrats file bill to fund U.S. government but leave out new farm money

By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The

By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress this week will consider legislation funding the federal government through mid-December, with lawmakers hoping to avoid the spectacle of a government shutdown amid a pandemic and just weeks before the Nov. 3 elections.

House Democrats announced Monday they had filed the legislation, which leaves out new money that President Donald Trump wanted for farmers. A Democratic aide said the bill could be on the House floor as soon as Tuesday. The Senate could then act later this week.

The new federal fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

The bill is designed to give lawmakers more time to work out federal spending for the period through September 2021, including budgets for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.

The spending proposal “will avert a catastrophic shutdown in the middle of the ongoing pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes, and keep government open until December 11, when we plan to have bipartisan legislation to fund the government for this fiscal year,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

But the measure’s December end date will require Congress to return to the government funding question again during its post-election lame-duck session, either during or after what could be a bruising fight to confirm Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And the legislation does not include $21.1 billion the White House sought to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, a program to stabilize farm incomes, because Democrats considered this a “blank check” for “political favors,” said a House Democratic aide who asked not to be named. Trump promised more farm aid during a rally in Wisconsin last week.

Republicans were not happy. “House Democrats’ rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter. Republicans could seek to amend the document to add in the provision.

The bill proposes spending $14 billion to shore up a trust fund that pays for airport improvements and air traffic control

operations. It also proposes extending surface transportation funding for another year, directing $13.6 billion to maintain current spending levels on highways and mass transit.

Pelosi said the bill would also save America’s older citizens from an increase in Medicare health insurance premiums of up to $50 per month.

Congressional Democrats have had a stormy relationship with the White House over federal funding since Trump took office early in 2017. He has sought deep cuts in domestic spending while ramping up military funds.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

this week will consider legislation funding the federal government through mid-December, with lawmakers hoping to avoid the spectacle of a government shutdown amid a pandemic and just weeks before the Nov. 3 elections.

House Democrats announced Monday they had filed the legislation, which leaves out new money that President Donald Trump wanted for farmers. A Democratic aide said the bill could be on the House floor as soon as Tuesday. The Senate could then act later this week.

The new federal fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

The bill is designed to give lawmakers more time to work out federal spending for the period through September 2021, including budgets for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.

The spending proposal “will avert a catastrophic shutdown in the middle of the ongoing pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes, and keep government open until December 11, when we plan to have bipartisan legislation to fund the government for this fiscal year,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

But the measure’s December end date will require Congress to return to the government funding question again during its post-election lame-duck session, either during or after what could be a bruising fight to confirm Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And the legislation does not include $21.1 billion the White House sought to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, a program to stabilize farm incomes, because Democrats considered this a “blank check” for “political favors,” said a House Democratic aide who asked not to be named. Trump promised more farm aid during a rally in Wisconsin last week.

Republicans were not happy. “House Democrats’ rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter. Republicans could seek to amend the document to add in the provision.

The bill proposes spending $14 billion to shore up a trust fund that pays for airport improvements and air traffic control

operations. It also proposes extending surface transportation funding for another year, directing $13.6 billion to maintain current spending levels on highways and mass transit.

Pelosi said the bill would also save America’s older citizens from an increase in Medicare health insurance premiums of up to $50 per month.

Congressional Democrats have had a stormy relationship with the White House over federal funding since Trump took office early in 2017. He has sought deep cuts in domestic spending while ramping up military funds.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

Trump EPA sides with farmers over refiners in biofuel waiver decision

By Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Trump administration said on Monday it rejected scores of requests from U.S. oil refiners for waivers that would have retroactively spared them from their obligation to blend biofuels like ethanol into their fuel, delivering a win for farmers and a blow to the oil industry just ahead of the November presidential election.

Reuters had reported last week that U.S. President Donald Trump, under the advice of his allies in the Midwest, ordered his Environmental Protection Agency to deny the waivers because they had become a lightning rod of controversy in the Farm Belt, an important political constituency.

“This decision follows President Trump’s promise to promote domestic biofuel production, support our nation’s farmers, and in turn strengthen our energy independence,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement announcing the agency was denying 54 applications that the Department of Energy had reviewed.

Refiners say the waivers are crucial for reducing regulatory costs for small fuel producers and keeping them in business, but the corn lobby argues the exemptions undermine demand for corn-based ethanol at a time farmers are already suffering from the impacts of a trade war with China.

CONTENTION LAW

Under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, refiners must blend some 15 billion gallons of ethanol into their gasoline each year or buy tradable credits from those that do. Small refiners have also been able to seek an exemption if they can prove financial harm from the requirements.

The Trump administration has roughly quadrupled the number of exemptions given out to refiners in a trend that had angered the biofuel industry.

In January, an appeals court handling a case initiated by the biofuel industry cast a cloud of doubt over the EPA’s waiver program, ruling that waivers granted to small refineries after 2010 should only be approved as extensions. Most recipients of waivers in recent years have not continuously received them.

That triggered a wave of requests for retroactive relief by refiners seeking to comply with the court decision. Since March, 17 small refineries in 14 states submitted 68 petitions, Wheeler said in a memo. The Department of Energy, which advises EPA on the waiver requests, had transmitted its findings on 54 of the petitions.

“(T)hese small refineries did not demonstrate disproportionate economic hardship from compliance with the RFS program for those RFS compliance years,” Wheeler said.

It is unclear what will happen to refining facilities that had benefited from waivers in recent years that are non-compliant with the court’s ruling. But sources told Reuters the administration may seek to offer them another form of financial relief to compensate.

It was also not immediately clear how this would affect 28 pending waiver applications for 2019 and three pending applications for 2020.

The Trump administration’s decision on Monday is a major victory for biofuel advocates in the long-standing battle between the deep-pocketed Corn and Oil lobbies.

“This is outstanding news for biofuels producers, farmers, and RFS integrity,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw. “With gap year waivers denied, the number of refiners eligible to even apply for – let alone receive – an RFS exemption going forward is reduced to single digits.”

Some in the oil industry criticized the decision. “EPA has turned a blind eye to merchant refineries and their workers in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas,” said the Fueling American Jobs Coalition, a group that includes union workers and independent refiners.

Trump over the weekend also tweeted that he would allow states to permit fuel retailers to use their current pumps to sell gasoline with higher blends of ethanol, or E15, a move that could help lift ethanol sales.

“Today’s announcements will help provide more certainty to our biofuel producers, who have for too-long been yanked around by the EPA, and help increase access to E15, which drives up demand for corn and ethanol,” said Iowa Senator Joni Ernst.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Dan Grebler and Marguerita Choy)

Trump says he is speeding help to farmers hurt by coronavirus dislocation

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)

Canada, U.S. farms face crop losses due to foreign worker delays

By Rod Nickel and Christopher Walljasper

WINNIPEG, Manitoba/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Mandatory coronavirus quarantines of seasonal foreign workers in Canada could hurt that country’s fruit and vegetable output this year, and travel problems related to the pandemic could also leave U.S. farmers with fewer workers than usual.

Foreign labor is critical to farm production in both countries, where domestic workers shun the hard physical labor and low pay.

In Canada, where farms rely on 60,000 temporary foreign workers, their arrivals are delayed by initial border restrictions and grounded flights. Once they arrive, the federal government requires them to be isolated for 14 days with pay, unable to work.

In the United States, nearly 250,000 foreign guest workers, mostly from Mexico, help harvest fruit and vegetables each year. The State Department is processing H-2A visas for farm workers with reduced staffing, though some companies are still having a hard time getting workers in on time.

Watermelon and asparagus farmer Mike Chromczak, who is waiting for labourers to arrive and begin their mandatory quarantine against coronavirus disease (COVID-19), poses at Chromczak Farms in Brownsville, Ontario, Canada April 2, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

Ontario farmer Mike Chromczak said he was afraid he might be unable to harvest his asparagus crop next month unless his 28 Jamaican workers start arriving by mid-April.

“It would be well over 50% of our farm’s revenue” lost, Chromczak said. “But I see it as a much bigger issue than me. This is a matter of food security for our country.”

Steve Bamford’s 35 Caribbean workers are just starting to trickle in to his Ontario apple orchards. Then they are isolated and paid for 40 hours per week during that period without touching a tree. Pruning work, a critical step to maximize yields, is now overdue.

“It’s an extreme cost. You don’t plan on bringing people in and not work for two weeks,” Bamford said.

Some Canadian farmers expect to reap smaller fruit and vegetable harvests this year if foreign labor is not available soon, said Scott Ross, director of farm policy at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

In the United States, “delays are potentially very hazardous to farmers who were counting on that workforce to show up at an exact period of time to harvest a perishable crop,” said Dave Puglia, CEO of Western Growers Association, which represents fruit and vegetable companies in states like California and Arizona.

He said workers in the United States do not have to wait 14 days before they start working, although more efforts are being made to space workers out on the farms.

Dannia Sanchez, president of D & J and Sons Harvesting in Florida, is awaiting approval to bring in some 200 temporary agriculture workers, while blueberries in Florida ripen and Michigan asparagus nears harvest.

Abad Hernandez Cruz, a Mexican farmworker harvesting onions in Georgia, said he is working 12 or more hours a day.

“A lot of people are missing,” he said, referring to farmworkers whose visas weren’t approved after the United States scaled back some consular activities in response to coronavirus.

“If the farm doesn’t produce, the city doesn’t eat.”

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Chris Walljasper in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio)

Trump says U.S. may give farmers more money until trade deals ‘kick in’

Trump: U.S. may give farmers more aid until trade deals ‘kick in’
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States may give American farmers additional money until trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and other countries fully go into effect, President Donald Trump said on Friday.

“If our formally targeted farmers need additional aid until such time as the trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and others fully kick in, that aid will be provided by the federal government,” Trump wrote in a Twitter post entirely in capital letters.

It was not immediately clear how large the aid package would be or how long it would last.

The Trump administration set aside a $16 billion aid package to farmers in 2019, and $12 billion a year earlier. In January, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said farmers should not expect another bailout package in 2020.

Trump is seeking re-election in the Nov. 3 presidential election. Farmers form a key part of his electoral base, but they have been badly bruised by low commodity prices and Trump’s tit-for-tat tariff dispute with China.

The White House declined to comment. The Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Last month, Trump signed a trade deal with Canada and Mexico into law, along with a separate Phase 1 accord with China that went into effect in mid-February.

Canada has not yet ratified the deal and experts had been skeptical that China, which had pledged to increase its purchases of U.S. goods by $200 billion over two years, would be able to meet the goal even before a coronavirus outbreak hit the country’s imports and exports.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; editing by Susan Heavey and Bernadette Baum)