Brazil Subsidiary Hoovers Up $62 Million In Trump Trade War Aid Intended For Farmers

"Why is the USDA bailing out plants operated by the biggest meatpacker in the world?" asks an activist.

A Brazilian company’s U.S. subsidiary is being paid over $60 million in aid aimed at helping American farmers weather President Donald Trump’s trade war, according to media reports.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is paying $40.1 million to buy pork from JBS USA — a subsidiary of Brazil-based JBS SA — using American taxpayer bailout funds intended to help U.S. farmers. That’s in addition to previously awarded pork contracts for $22.3 million, The Greeley Tribune reported Thursday.

“Why is the USDA bailing out plants operated by JBS, the largest meatpacker in the world, with a program designed to help domestic companies and producers under economic duress?” Food & Water Watch lobbyist Tony Corbo asked the New York Daily News, which first reported the payments.

The money led Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to introduce a House bill last week “to require that purchases of agricultural commodities made by the Secretary of Agriculture ... be from domestically owned enterprises.”

“It is clear the president is not the least bit knowledgeable about trade policy, nor aware of the chaos his failed approach has caused‚” DeLauro told the News.

“We now know that tens of millions of these dollars went to large, multinational corporations — including Brazilian-owned JBS — who are racking up profits while family farmers face collapse. That is outrageous.”

The Brazilian company has been involved in corruption scandals in its home country. The U.S. Justice Department has also launched an investigation into owner brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista, who have confessed to bribing top Brazilian officials, and served time in jail there.

The Justice Department is probing JBS for possible violations in the U.S. of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal anti-bribery law, according to filings in an unrelated court case reviewed by the News. U.S. investigators interviewed JBS shareholders late last year as part of that investigation, Reuters reported.

JBS told the Tribune in a statement that “all eligible JBS USA pork products” it purchases (to in turn sell to the USDA) “come from American livestock raised on American farms by U.S. family farmers, and are processed in American facilities in rural American towns.”

Last November, Smithfield Foods, a Virginia company owned by a Chinese firm, pulled its bid for $240,000 in pork payments from the USDA after Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) complained that money intended for local farmers was going to an international firm.

HuffPost could not immediately reach the USDA for comment about JBS. But a USDA statement to the News on Thursday said that “regardless of who the vendor is, the products purchased are grown in the U.S. and benefit U.S. farmers.” JBS, therefore, “qualifies as a bidder under this criteria,” and is apparently then eligible for American subsidies.

Trump is considering up to $20 billion in additional subsidies to help farmers survive the new round of tariffs he imposed last week on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. In retaliation China then announced it will hike tariffs June 1 on $60 billion of U.S. imports. Trump’s new farmer subsidies are in addition to the $12 billion already earmarked for farmer aid last year.

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