When traveling Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District speaking with farmers, producers, and folks who rely on agriculture to make a living for themselves and their family, I hear how low prices for farm products and commodities have hurt families and our rural communities. These continually low prices make it difficult for folks to break even, let alone make a profit, hire workers, provide for their families, and invest in our communities. And according to the Congressional Research Service, new farm income is down 50 percent since 2013.
One reason why prices are low is a lack of markets for Iowa goods.
Iowans not only put food on the tables of families all over the world, but also manufacture farm equipment, produce fuel for vehicles, and develop products to better our health. All are sent to consumers around the world and bring back billions of dollars to the hard-working folks here in the heartland.
A few months ago, I traveled to China with a bipartisan group of colleagues from Congress. My main goal was to promote Iowa agricultural products and work to open up Chinese markets. We educated Chinese agriculture, commerce and trade officials about products which would benefit both our countries, such as distiller’s dried grains (DDGS) which is a byproduct of ethanol production. When President Trump visited the country shortly after, China announced they were reducing taxes on imported DDGS.
Iowa is fortunate to have a strong advocate for agriculture in the administration with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. He has joined me in the Third District multiple times, stopping for roundtable discussions participating in a town hall event, and touring Iowa’s Living History Farm. Secretary Perdue understands how badly Iowa needs more markets so we can be a stronger leader in feeding and fueling the world.
Last year, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which was a group of 12 nations working together through trade. The group was working on a multilateral trade deal which would have opened up new global markets to Iowa goods. While I understand the President’s concerns, I did not agree with his decision to withdraw from this important agreement which would have been a great benefit to our entire state.
President Trump said both during the campaign and during his first year in office he wanted to form bilateral – country to country – agreements. That’s his decision, and he needs to act faster to reach those agreements to help sustain and grow our agricultural economy and rural communities.
I have been advocating to President Trump to negotiate trade deals as soon as possible. Last year, I authored and led a bipartisan letter with over 50 other members of Congress to President Trump asking him and his administration to prioritize trade agreements. We asked President Trump to negotiate strong and fair trade agreements to reduce tariffs on American-made goods, promote U.S. products and jobs, and address other trade barriers which would inhibit growing our economy.
While I am proud to lead on these efforts in Congress, the administration is slow to take action opening markets for Iowa. I will continue my fight to push the administration to open new markets because exporting Iowa goods throughout the world is beneficial for the entire agriculture economy and our rural communities.
Iowans expect their government to advance policies making our agricultural economy healthier and heartland families stronger. I’ll continue my work to lead with the goal of delivering for them as our farmers and producers consistently deliver for us.