DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds, joined by Iowa farm leaders Tuesday, said she has received assurances from top federal officials that Trump administration officials are working on plans to “mitigate” losses to Iowa farmers that may result from an international trade dispute with China.
Citing a “very fragile agricultural economy,” the governor said expectation of federal help coming soon for Iowa farmers was the outgrowth of a conversation she had with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Mick Mulvaney, the president’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, but she did not have details she could release.
“They’re working on an option for Iowa farmers. They don’t want them to be the casualty in this trade dispute and they’ve made that very clear,” said Reynolds, who noted a federal program of “some kind” was being worked on to help lessen the economic losses farmers may incur due to a potential tariff war.
“They’re working through the details,” the governor told reporters at her weekly news conference.
“The fact of the matter is they’re talking, they’re working and the president has asked them to do something,” Reynolds added. “I would think it’s forthcoming. I don’t know if it will be tomorrow or the next day. I can just tell you that they’re working on it and that the secretary’s assurance to me is that it can be done through USDA and he also said that he knows that the president and the Congress also understand the impact that this has to farmers and so they would be willing to also be a part of making sure that we could mitigate some of the damages caused by the trade dispute.”
At the same time, there was obvious nervousness among the leaders of commodity groups and farm organizations who joined the governor in pushing for a swift resolution of a trade dispute that could carry long-range negative consequences for manufacturers, farmers and workers in Iowa.
“Iowa stands to face a disproportionally negative impact if this dispute is not resolved in a timely manner,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, who noted the state exports $1 billion of pork and $14 billion in soybeans to China.
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Greg Hora, a Webster County farmer who is president of the roughly 6,000-member Iowa Pork Producers Association, said pork farmers already have been hit with declining prices even through no tariffs have taken effect while Bill Shipley of the Iowa Soybean Association said trade wars involving food are a “lose-lose” proposition and food should not be “a pawn” in trade negotiations.
“To say China matters to U.S. soybean farmers would be an understatement,” said Shipley, who invited Trump to visit his Nodaway farm to see production agriculture in action during the spring planting season.
“We’re pretty well locked into what we’re going to plant this year already. We can’t change that,” Shipley said. “If allowed to take hold,” a prolonged trade war “could jeopardize the ability of Iowa farmers to do business in China for generations,” he added. “I would hate to see those relationships go by the wayside.”
Steve Sukup of Sukup Manufacturing in Sheffield said his company uses about 1 million pounds of U.S.-made steel per week — and the price of that steel has gone up 40 percent. The price of the company’s grain bins and other products has gone up about 20 percent.
“There hasn’t been a trade war that the U.S. has won and farmers, manufacturers and Iowa workers have the most to lose,” said Sukup, a former state representative who ran an unsuccessful 2002 bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Iowa.
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