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Trump's Trade War Has One Big Winner: Food Banks

Is Trump accidentally feeding poor people as a result of his tariff tactics?

by Billie Brownstein
Jun 20 2019, 4:17pm

HAUPPAUGE, New York — As President Trump's trade war with China heats up and some U.S. farmers are feeling the pain, there does seem to be at least one winner in the mix: America's food banks.

Long Island Cares Food Bank in Hauppauge, for instance. They've received an additional 2.2 million pounds of food since late last year, thanks to the government's recently launched "trade mitigation" program.

Starting in June 2018 when the Trump administration slapped tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese imports, China responded with its own tariffs on American agricultural products, including but not limited to pork and soybeans. As the commodities piled up in farmers’ storehouses and market prices plummeted, Trump penned a bailout package that included $1.2 billion to purchase products that had been "unfairly targeted by unjustified retaliation."

So what does the federal government do with millions of pounds of extra fruits, veggies, dairy and meat? Pass them out to the nation’s food banks.

Long Island Cares has received so much of it that they've exceeded their current storage capacity. "We are in the process right now of having a second mezzanine installed in our warehouse so that we can put more trade mitigation food on the floor," CEO Paule Pachter told VICE News.

But that's just the first wave of trade mitigation. Last month the president issued a second bailout, which will result in several more millions of pounds of food for food banks. "We're probably going to have to look at leasing additional warehouse space somewhere on Long Island to store it," Pachter said.

Pachter is elated at the additional resources coming in via the federal government, but he can't help but wonder if Trump realizes the effect of what he's doing.

"This is an administration that looks at entitlement programs and considers cutting them. It's an administration that's looking at immigration and wanting to close our borders, when at the same time, people who are poor in this country are getting fed because of the actions of President Trump and his trade policies. So I really wonder sometimes, 'Is he aware of this?'"

This might seem like a silver lining to a difficult and ongoing conflict, but Pachter points out that the food purchase program cannot be a long-term solution.

"What worries me about trade mitigation is how far we're going to be able to push this concept. I'm not sure that you can sustain feeding the hungry in America through bailouts to farmers. In no way do I see this as solving hunger. This is feeding the hungry; but in order to solve hunger, we need more long-term solutions."

This segment originally aired June 12, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

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