American farmer harvesting
Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Because Trump started a trade war with China, the federal government set aside $12 billion to help farmers cope with the losses they were incurring as a result. Back in November, Alan Rappeport reported that not much of the money allocated was actually being distributed to farmers due to red tape and long waiting periods.

But according to Chris Sommerfeldt at New York Daily News, the Department of Agriculture was able to get over $62 million of those funds into the pockets of a couple of Brazilian crooks.

The Department of Agriculture cut a contract in January to purchase $22.3 million worth of pork from plants operated by JBS USA, a Colorado-based subsidiary of Brazil’s JBS SA, which ranks as the largest meatpacker in the world…

But previously undisclosed purchase reports obtained by the Daily News this week reveal the administration has since issued at least two more bailouts to JBS, even as Trump’s own Justice Department began investigating the meatpacker, whose owners are Joesley and Wesley Batista — two wealthy brothers who have confessed to bribing hundreds of top officials in Brazil.

Both brothers have spent time in jail over the sweeping corruption scandal.

But it gets even worse.

Moreover, JBS appears to have benefited from the trade tensions between Beijing and Washington that the bailouts are supposed to mitigate.

The company’s exports to China ballooned to more than 24% in 2018, compared to less than 21% the previous year, according to public records, raising questions about the need for the Trump subsidy.

Given what we know about the Trump administration, it is not difficult to imagine that something like this could be related to sheer incompetence, which would be outrageous enough. But it is also worth noting that the current Secretary of Agriculture is former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, who faced 13 ethics complaints during his tenure. Mirroring his boss, Perdue refused to put his assets in a blind trust while governor, claiming that he had turned over the day-to-day operations of his business interests to others.

One story about Perdue’s tenure as governor involves the fact that he bought $2 million worth of land in Florida near Disney World from a developer he appointed to the state’s economic development board. He also saved $100,000 in state taxes after his lawyer, who also served in the Georgia House, inserted a few words into a bill making a tax break retroactive.

At this point, no one knows whether a $62 million payout to Brazilian crooks is a matter of incompetence or corruption. But farmers all over this country who are struggling as a result of Trump’s trade war need to hear about this story and demand some answers.

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