Smithfield Foods, a Chinese-owned pork producer based in Virginia, is eligible for Donald Trump's tariff bailout payments. According to the Washington Post, the company, which was purchased by a Chinese conglomerate and renamed WH Group, is entitled to federal funds as part of the program created to help farmers hurt by the president's tariffs against China.
Agriculture Department spokesman Carl E. Purvis told the Washington Post that WH Group, along with Brazilian-owned pork producer JBS, qualifies for a portion of the $1.2 billion in funds set aside to shield farmers from the fallout of China's retaliatory tariffs. About $560 million of that funding is earmarked for pork producers in the United States.
The issue underscores the challenge for the government to create a system that benefits domestic producers without also helping U.S.-based foreign investors.
"USDA does not have the ability to police whether money will eventually 'filter to the Chinese.' The Department goes to great lengths to ensure we have registered, approved U.S. vendors that work closely with the Agricultural Marketing Service," a spokesperson for the USDA said.
Smaller pork producers are upset about the policy, which they fear will harm small, independent farmers while helping larger companies.
"It's just going to help the big boys, like JBS and Smithfield. I'm very concerned because of the political power and the power of money and big corporations. The taxpayers should be up in arms over this," said farmer Chris Petersen in Iowa.In January of this year, President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on China for things like solar panels and washing machines. Later, he added a tariff on steel and aluminum from the country, resulting in targeted retaliatory tariffs from China impacting $60 billion worth of U.S. goods.
China recently announced that it missed economic targets in the third quarter of this year, with the economy expanding 6.5 percent, shy of the 6.7 percent growth from the previous quarter. However, experts are not sure if tariffs caused this slowing or if it is due to unrelated domestic factors.
Critics of the tariffs say that they harm American workers and that the bailout system helps foreign companies.
"Framing this as support for farmers has always been problematic because only the biggest meatpackers, like Smithfield, can deliver pork to food banks, school lunches or other USDA feeding programs," said Patrick Woodall of the advocacy group Food & Water Watch.
Companies who provide food to programs like school lunches are not held to an income cap when seeking bailout money.
Smithfield was recently in the news after one of its employees urinated on the production line, ruining 50,000 pounds of pork, according to the Inquisitr. The company declined to comment on whether it would apply for funds.