Southside farmers: Too early to tell what impact aid in response to tariffs will have

U.S. ag secretary announced Tuesday nearly $12 billion available for farmers

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. – Federal aid is coming to farmers to help lessen the impact of the tariffs being imposed by the U.S. and China.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that nearly $12 billion has been made available for farmers.

But how it will be administered and exactly how it will compare to the losses in revenue from the tariffs remain to be seen.

Farmers in Pittsylvania County, just like farmers all across America, are in survival mode, according to Pittsylvania County Farm Bureau President Bob Harris.

"Everybody's hurting because of commodity prices in general," Harris said.

That means the nearly $12 billion in aid is welcome news to farmers, even though a lot is still unknown about it.

"It's so new right now, nobody knows how it's going to work, how it's going to be administered, what that means for the bottom line in the farmers' pockets," Harris explained.

The impact also depends on the exact impact of the tariffs, which is still largely unknown.

The U.S. Agriculture Department says the aid will be used to make payments to soybean, corn, dairy and pork producers, purchase some surplus from farmers and build out the U.S. agriculture market.

Pittsylvania County farmer Tim Shelton has 350 acres of tobacco, 1,000 acres of grain and 500 beef cattle.

While he welcomes the federal aid, he said it's really just putting a Band-Aid on the situation.

"This $12 billion across the ag sector in the United States is, maybe, $25 or $30 per farm," Shelton said.

His biggest concern right now is that the tariffs could force young farmers out of business.

"It's very concerning to me as a 56-year-old farmer and being a sixth-generation farmer on a lot of our real estate," Shelton said. "The big question is, what are we going to do to get our prices up so that we can compete?"

The federal aid is expected to be available around Labor Day.