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Nebraska food banks benefitting from trade war with China

Posted at 10:20 PM, Nov 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-11 23:35:46-05

OMAHA, Neb. (kmtv) — As U.S. farmers are feeling the pressure from the trade war with China, local food banks across the nation are benefiting.

It's a multi-billion dollar plan from the Trump administration to assists farmers.

in 2018, the United State Department of Agriculture launched the trade mitigation program aimed at helping farmers suffering from tariff retaliations from China.

More than a year later, our government is still buying this product that would normally be sent across seas and distributing it to food banks to feed those in need.

Foodbank for the Heartland saw an increase of 1.4 million pounds of food and they say a large chunk of this is coming from the ongoing trade war.

"We've received about twice as many products from the USDA because of trade mitigation than we have in the past," CEO of Foodbank for the Heartland Brian Barks said.

He says they started seeing the influx in December of 2018 when the trade war was starting to impact the farming community.

For growers, this can be frustrating - but Barks says the farmers he's talked to are at least happy the food is not being wasted.

"The product is being used," Barks said. "It is seen as highly valuable by food banks and is being put to use by what we need to do, which is feed people that need assistance."

It's not just the quantity of product the food bank has received, Barks says the donations from the trade war have led to healthier options for those in need of food.

The USDA states on their website they planned on buying roughly $1.2 billion of fresh product in the first round of trade mitigation. They will be focusing on pork, apples, dairy, potatoes and other products.

Barks says until a deal is made with China, they will take as much as they can get.

"That's going to be difficult on our end... that's an impossible amount of food for us to make up," Barks said. "We're grateful for when we get it, we're grateful for the quality of product that it is and that we are able to feed people who need it."

The Trump administration hinted that the U.S. is getting closer to a trade deal with China, but no time frame has been set.

Barks added they do receive a a slight reimbursement for the government for the cost of storing and distributing the extra food, but it does not cover the bill fully.