July 20–Planting and monitoring crops are two of only a small number of tasks Iowa farmers are juggling this summer, not least of which is keeping an eye on Washington as they wait out tense trade negotiations between the U.S. and its allies.
Iowa’s junior U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst met this week in Washington, D.C., with Iowa corn lobbyists, including the Corn Promotion Board and Iowa Corn Growers Association. Ernst, a Republican, said the conversation centered on four main topics: “trade, trade, trade and the RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard).”
“We engaged in a really good conversation about the real hardships our corn farmers are facing,” said Ernst. “Not only are they being hit because corn prices are low, they’re being hit because soybean prices are low.”
Data compiled by Iowa’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency show the average price per bushel for corn in 2018 is $3.42, while the average price for soybeans is $9.50. For corn, those prices represent a 45 percent decrease during the past five years and a 32.8 percent decrease for soybeans.
Ernst said Thursday in a conference call with reporters she recently has met with U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump about how the uncertainty surrounding the tariffs levied against trading partners Mexico, Canada and China have impacted agricultural markets around the world, particularly in the Midwest.
“I do think there’s a level of optimism in the administration, but, as I’ve stressed to all of them, you can’t take that optimism to the bank. We have to see it in our market prices, those prices need to start coming back up again.”
President Trump has been critical of multi-lateral trade agreements like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) since his presidential campaign and while he’s been in the White House, arguing they have led to job losses in America and outsourcing of U.S. companies.
Ernst and Iowa’s senior U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, however, have voiced concern about how the president’s posture toward trade negotiations has impacted their constituents.
“We have to demonstrate to the president that this is not upholding his commitment to America’s farmers by putting them at risk,” Ernst said.
Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, a Democrat representing Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, which includes Henderson County, was one of about 50 House members selected by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to help write the 2018 farm bill.
“While I was disappointed by the partisan Farm Bill that passed the House, we have a real chance at a fresh start,” said Bustos, in her third term as a congresswoman. “Only by working together will we be able to develop a Farm Bill that provides our farmers with the support and certainty they need as they work through a challenging agricultural economy that’s only getting tougher because of President Trump’s trade war.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Bustos said the Senate farm bill included language from four bills she helped introduce “to bolster small towns and rural communities across America.”
Her proposals included modifications to existing federal agriculture loans, making it more affordable for young farmers and veterans to acquire farmland; resources to combat the national opioid addiction epidemic; a designated liaison at the department of agriculture to improve health care in small towns; and a broadband bill increasing access to high-speed internet.
“Northwest and Central Illinois have some of the hardest working farmers who are responsible for feeding not only our country, but the world, and I am proud to fight for them in this effort,” Bustos said.
Bustos is part of the House contingent chosen for the conference committee, made up of a select group of lawmakers tasked with merging the House and Senate farm bills into a final piece of legislation. The Senate, Ernst said, has yet to select its committee members.
“I certainly am lobbying very hard to be a part of that conference committee,” Ernst said, “and certainly would appreciate the opportunity to speak up for Iowa’s farmers and ranchers.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.