As the trade war between the U.S. and China drags on, Nebraska farmers have pocketed $694 million in federal payments designed to cushion the blow of tariffs leveled against American ag exports.

The bailout payments were announced by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in 2018 to aid farmers, already feeling the sting of low corn and soybean prices, targeted by China during the escalating economic conflict initiated by President Donald Trump.

During the first 12 months of the program — September 2018 to August 2019 — the Market Facilitation Program made 78,621 payments to nearly 40,000 farmers and businesses in Nebraska, according to data provided to the Journal Star through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce said the voluntary program, which paid $8.5 billion to farmers across the U.S. in its first year, was designed to keep producers in business until the world’s top two economies can strike a new trade agreement.

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