Trump Touted $28 Billion Aid to Farmers in His Speech. The Biggest Beneficiary Was a Corrupt Brazilian Firm with Ties to the Maduro Regime.

Trump Touted $28 Billion Aid to Farmers in His Speech. The Biggest Beneficiary Was a Corrupt Brazilian Firm with Ties to the Maduro Regime.

Sarah Rumpf – Wednesday

At the beginning of former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign announcement speech Tuesday evening, he touted what he considered several accomplishments of his time in the White House, including a $28 billion bailout to American farmers hurt by a trade war with China, but over $100 million of that money went to a subsidiary of a Brazilian company with a corrupt and troubling history.

During the speech, Trump bragged that China was “reeling and back on its heels” from the heavy tariffs his administration had imposed.

“You had never seen that before,” he claimed. “The United States was outdoing them on every front and China was paying billions and billions of dollars in taxes and tariffs. The farmers know that because they got 28 billion of it. No president had ever sought or received one dollar for our country from China until I came along.”

(He also joked that this made people believe that China “played a very active role in the 2020 election, just saying,” but that’s an entirely separate mess of tin foil hattery.)

As CNN’s Daniel Dale and Paul LeBlanc reported, Trump’s claim that he was the first president to generate money from tariffs imposed on China was not true, and these tariffs imposed costs on us domestically. “American importers, not Chinese exporters, make the actual tariff payments – and study after study during Trump’s presidency found that Americans were bearing the cost of the tariffs,” they wrote.

But what about the aid sent to American farmers to counteract the tariffs’ burden? For an ex-President who loves to brag about being “America First,” in reality this program was actually “Corrupt Brazilian Billionaires First.”

Trump rolled out the bailout program in 2019 amid his trade war with China, ostensibly to help ease the financial burden to U.S. farmers caused by Chinese boycotts and tariffs on American crops, but was also viewed as an effort to shore up support for Trump with a core part of his base in advance of the 2020 election. An initial bailout effort of $12 billion eventually ballooned to $28 billion.

The aid was distributed through an existing program called the Commodity Credit Corporation, which supports American farmers by purchasing their crops, as well as launching a new initiative that purchased other agricultural products affected by the trade war to provide them to food banks, public school meal programs, and other welfare programs for the poor.

But “[w]hat was meant to be a financial lifeline for struggling farmers has been widely derided by critics as a corporate bailout for big agriculture companies and those who live in metropolitan areas but own farms in rural America,” wrote Maggie Haberman and Alan Rappeport for The New York Times, and more eyebrows were raised by the millions of dollars sent to American subsidiaries of foreign agricultural conglomerates.

The program’s single biggest beneficiary was JBS USA, the Colorado-based American subsidiary of JBS S.A., a Brazilian company that is the world’s largest meat processing company, handling beef, chicken, pork, and by-products from those meats. The largest shareholder of JBS S.A. is a holding company called J&F Investimentos that is solely owned by Joesley Batista and Wesley Batista, the sons of company founder José Batista Sobrinho. The two brothers’ net worth is estimated to be over $6 billion.

According to reporting by Chris Sommerfeldt at the New York Daily News, JBS USA “raked in at least $140.3 million in Trump administration bailouts,” paid out over a series of contracts to purchase its pork products despite mounting bipartisan objections to taxpayer funds intended for “struggling American farmers” going to a foreign company with a” long history of corruption.”

The Batistas were “a couple of notoriously corrupt Brazilian brothers who have spent time in jail and admitted to bribing hundreds of government officials in their home country,” wrote Sommerfeldt in a Jan. 10, 2020 article, with their business operations being investigated by the Department of Justice and vociferously criticized by members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) have been among JBS’s most vocal critics, citing reports that the company likely funded the launch of its American subsidiary with bank loans that were substantially obtained through bribes issued to government officials and other criminal activity.

The Batistas previously pled guilty to corruption charges in Brazil in 2017, and then through an attorney for their holding company admitted to additional illegal bribes in 2020. From an Oct. 14, 2020 Daily News article by Sommerfeldt:

J&F Investimentos, the controlling shareholder of the sprawling JBS meatpacking empire, had one of its attorneys admit in a video conference that it dished out nearly $150 million in bribes to top Brazilian officials between 2005 and 2017 in exchange for getting state-backed financing to expand its meat business into the U.S.

As part of the plea, J&F — which is controlled by Brazil’s infamous Batista family — agreed to cough up $256 million in fines, capping a lengthy investigation by the Justice Department and adding to the record-breaking $3.2 billion fine that the company had to pay in 2017 to settle a similar probe in its home country.

The brothers also have ties to Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, another concern raised by Rubio and Menendez in an Oct. 8, 2019 letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, which highlighted JBS’s global business dealings “with a range of dubious partners” connected to the Maduro regime, and “personal relationship with sanctioned Venezuelan official Diosdado Cabello.” U.S. intelligence identified Cabello as the instigator behind an order to assassinate Rubio, according to the Miami Herald.

Fox News reported on additional concerns related to the Batista brothers’ near monopoly on the U.S. meat industry and implications for national security in Oct. 2019. “More than 80 percent of the beef industry in the United States is controlled by just four corporations and two of those are Brazilian corporations,” said Angela Huffman, the Communications and Research Director for the Organization for Competitive Markets. “So the growing trend of foreign investment in our food system really demands increased attention and scrutiny in order to safeguard our nation’s food supply.”

A JBS spokesperson denied wrongdoing in a statement to Fox News, pointing to the thousands of American employees they hired and U.S. farmers and ranchers partnered with them, but Fox News reporter Emily DeCiccio reviewed court records and found multiple lawsuits and complaints filed by American ranchers and JBS employees, with claims that “range from accusations including violations of federal laws and workplace ordinances to anti-competitive behavior, such as price-fixing and employer misconduct.”

Rubio and Menendez followed up with an Aug. 13, 2021 letter to Janet Yellen, the current Treasury Secretary in the Biden administration, expressing how they were “deeply concerned by [JBS’] habitual use of criminal practices to obtain the funds to acquire U.S. companies,” especially since they were “planning further U.S. acquisitions in the near future.” JBS had also “repeatedly used its significant presence in the U.S. meatpacking sector to inflate its profits at American families’ expense,” they wrote, citing several examples of the company being caught engaging in price-fixing.

Troubling news about JBS continued even this month, with a Nov. 11 report by CBS News about children working illegally at JBS meat processing plants in Minnesota and Nebraska.

According to the report, a federal judge granted a request by the Department of Labor for a nationwide restraining order against Packers Sanitation Services (PSSI), the clean-up provider used by JBS at its facilities to clean floors where animals are slaughtered and sanitize dangerous machinery with corrosive cleaning chemicals. Labor Department officials accused PSSI of hiring at least 31 children ranging in age from 13 to 17 at two JBS plants and a third owned by Turkey Valley Farms. The children were working in overnight shifts, which was a violation of federal law for the workers under 16, and several of them were injured, including one 13-year-old who suffered caustic burns from the cleaning chemicals.

Watch the video above, via Fox News.

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