Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Biden would move some ag funds to climate change, but he’d still pay farmers

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If Your Time is short

  • There was not $30 billion that Trump “left for farmers.”

  • A $30 billion fund created in 1933 can be used broadly for supporting agriculture.

  • Biden’s nominee for agriculture secretary has said the administration would use the fund, in part, to pursue climate change goals by paying incentives to farmers for sustainable farming practices.

Is President Joe Biden taking $30 billion that former President Donald Trump intended for farmers and using it for climate change instead?

That’s the claim of a widely shared image on Facebook. Alongside a photo of Biden, it states:

“Biden will redirect the $30B — that Trump left for U.S. farmers — to ‘climate change.’”

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The $30 billion fund was created in 1933 to support agriculture broadly; it wasn’t something left behind by Trump. Trump used it to pay farmers who suffered from retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other U.S. trading partners. Biden would use at least some of it to pursue climate change goals, but that money would still go to farmers.

Where the money comes from

The $30 billion reference is to the Commodity Credit Corp., a government corporation created in 1933 with an executive order by President Franklin Roosevelt. Overseen by the Agriculture Department, the corporation has borrowing authority of $30 billion at any one time from the U.S. Treasury to broadly support the agriculture industry. Annual appropriations from Congress replenish its borrowing authority.

The Trump Administration used CCC’s authority to respond to retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other trading partners on U.S. agricultural exports. That included authorizing up to $12 billion in payments to farmers in 2018 and up to $16 billion in 2019.

But CCC funds are not something that Trump could reserve; and its funds are not strictly for farmers.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the funds can be directed to programs that include “commodity and income support, natural resources conservation, export promotion, international food aid, disaster assistance, agricultural research and bioenergy development.”

The Agriculture Department told us the CCC currently has a balance of about $17.8 billion in borrowing authority.

Biden’s CCC plans include climate change

Biden’s nominee for agriculture secretary is Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor and the secretary of agriculture during the Obama administration. Vilsack said during his Senate confirmation hearing Feb. 2 that the administration wants to use CCC funds to create a carbon bank. It would be used to pay producers for practices that capture carbon in soil. He said the fund could provide incentives to reduce tillage of soil that can release carbon into the atmosphere, and keep vegetation growing on fields longer so that it can withdraw more carbon from the atmosphere.

But no plan is in place and there is some question about whether Biden would need legislation to use the fund toward climate initiatives.  It’s also not clear how much of the fund would be used toward climate change versus other initiatives.

In his stimulus plan, Biden identified the fund as a potential source of economic relief for restaurants and bars, as many have suffered financially during the pandemic.

Our ruling

An image widely shared on Facebook claimed that Biden “will redirect the $30 billion” that Trump “left for U.S. farmers to ‘climate change.’” This is a false choice.

Biden’s nominee for agriculture secretary has said the administration wants to tap a $30 billion fund that’s available for supporting agriculture broadly to pay farmers to use farming practices that meet climate change goals. It wasn’t started by Trump.

But no plan has been announced, and Biden has indicated he also wants to tap the fund for other purposes, such as helping restaurants that have suffered financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

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