The program to compensate farmers for low crop prices caused by the trade war with China has paid higher rates in the South, sparking some regional resentment, April Simpson of Stateline reports.

"The payments are intended to support farmers for crops like soybeans and corn that were subject to retaliatory tariffs from China," Simpson explains. "In North Dakota, which typically sends more than two-thirds of its soybeans to China, it’s more expensive to send exports to new markets such as Europe. Lawmakers, academics and farmers question whether the aid has favored certain regions and states, and whether the payments line up with farmers’ actual economic losses."

The rates for the Market Facilitation Program vary even within states. Farmers in western North Dakota are generally getting a lower rate than those in the eastern part of the state. The program has picked “winners and losers between regions and crops,” Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee said in a November report.

"The minority members represent the Corn Belt, West and Northeast," Simpson notes. "The report provides evidence that the 2019 MFP awarded 95 percent of top payment rates to Southern farmers; helped wealthy farms and foreign companies; and offered no long-term investment or plan for rebuilding lost markets."

This year's payments were calculated differently than last year's, which were based on production and county averages. "A lack of transparency in how this year’s payments were calculated has opened the USDA to criticism," Simpson writes. "This year’s payment rates were distributed on a per-acre basis and range from $15 to $150. Rates of more than $100 an acre are concentrated in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Arizona, according to the University of Illinois publication farmdoc daily. The difference is caused in part by the increasing MFP payment per pound of cotton, which went from 6 cents to 26 cents between 2018 and 2019. Cotton is largely produced in the South. By contrast, the payment per pound of corn went from 1 cent to 14 cents. Counties in the West, upper Midwest and Eastern seaboard tended to be paid at rates below $50 an acre." Read more details here.