WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Wednesday his agency is still “in the throes of constructing” an aid package for farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs, but he is not prepared to say when it will be ready.

Perdue said the Agriculture Department is reviewing feedback from producers about the strengths and weaknesses of last year’s relief package, valued at up to USD12 billion. This year’s package could range between USD15 billion and USD20 billion, Perdue projected.

He also predicted that the relief amount will be enough to offset losses that farmers are facing as a result of lower prices due in part to retaliatory tariffs.

US President Donald Trump tasked Perdue with putting together another aid package for farmers after talks with China deteriorated in recent weeks. The Trump administration responded by more than doubling tariffs on USD200 billion in Chinese imports and spelled out plans to target the USD300 billion worth that aren’t already facing 25 per cent taxes.

China retaliated with tariffs on USD60 billion in US imports. China and other countries hit by US tariffs have largely targetted American agriculture in response to Trump’s tariffs.

Perdue, speaking to reporters by telephone from South Korea, said Trump has asked that the relief package for farmers be expedited. He said it would likely include features from last year, including direct payments to farmers based on their production.

Some commodities fared better than others and are lobbying for changes. The National Corn Growers Association said last year’s programme gave corn farmers one cent per bushel. “A penny didn’t cut it then and won’t cut it now,” the group said on Wednesday.

United States Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. – AP