President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the United States should consider terminating trade deals under which it imports cattle as the federal government moves to help agricultural producers hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
“I read yesterday where we take some cattle in from other countries, we have trade deals. I think you should look at terminating those deals,” Trump said at a White House event on food aid. “We have a lot of cattle in this country.”
Mexico exports more than 1 million cows across the border each year that become part of the U.S. beef supply.
Trump made the comments at a White House event held to discuss how the $19 billion in coronavirus relief approved by Congress to help farmers will be distributed.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday it will begin on May 26 accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses.
“These payments will help keep farmers afloat while market demand returns as our nation reopens and recovers,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement
The $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers will include $9.6 billion for the livestock industry – with $5.1 billion for cattle, $2.9 billion for dairy and $1.6 billion for hogs.
Long lines have formed in recent weeks at various food banks around the country for needy Americans, with millions of people losing their jobs and incomes amid the public health crisis.
At the same time, farmers and ranchers have struggled to get their goods to market because of disruptions caused by the pandemic, forcing some to throw out food and call for government help.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Will Dunham)