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Trade war red meat: The Trump administration sends millions to criminal Brazilian meatpackers


The bad Brazilian bribing Batista brothers. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Trump administration’s trade war with China was foolish from the start. Exactly how foolish is underlined twice in red in a series of Daily News reports by Chris Sommerfeldt.

Last year, President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products provoked punishing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products. In turn, the administration created a $12 billion fund to alleviate U.S. farmers’ economic pain, as well as the political pain unleashed by farmers furious over their damaged livelihoods.

As part of that desperate bailout, over the last five months, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has bought $62 million in pork from Brazilian-owned meatpacking giant JBS SA, owned by brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista — convicted in Brazil for bribing hundreds of officials.

Technically, the $62 million went to the Colorado-based subsidiary JBS USA. Thus, USDA says the pork “pork” is, um, kosher. Yet in November, a far smaller sum — $240,000 — was blocked from going to the Virginia-based Smithfield Foods when Sen. Chuck Grassley noted that the firm was owned by a Chinese conglomerate.

So how did JBS slip through the cracks at this “America First” administration, especially considering the Batistas are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? We’re old enough to remember when Republicans railed against the idea of indiscriminate multi-billion-dollar corporate bailouts, especially ones that might benefit foreigners.

There’s an old Brazilian saying: Comprar gato por lebre. It means to buy a cat thinking it was a rabbit, or to prop up foreign crooks in the name of aiding patriotic Americans.