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Vilsack was in Iowa and spoke at a roundtable with Rep. Cindy Axne Thursday
WOODWARD — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Trade Representative Katherine Tai trumpeted President Joe Biden's economic agenda and said the administration is working to open U.S. agriculture to global markets in a roundtable with Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, on Thursday.
Vilsack praised Tai for working to push U.S. agriculture to new markets, including exporting potatoes to Mexico, pork to India and Vietnam, and beef in Japan.
"She has delivered on some really critical, important components,” Vilsack said. “ … We've been trying to get potatoes in the Mexican market for 15, 20 years. She got it done. We've been trying to get Japan to basically purchase more beef. She got it done."
U.S. exports saw a record year in 2021, with the U.S. exporting more than $2.5 trillion in goods and services that year, rebounding nearly $400 billion after exports dipped in 2020. Vilsack said he expects 2022 will break that record again.
Tai said the U.S. has been facing a volatile trade market over the past several years, from tensions with China to supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine. The Biden Administration’s focus, she said, is on building a trade system that can meet long-term goals.
"Our focus in the administration is to bring resilience to our economy and to the way that we design our trade rules so that we can assure ourselves that we are well positioned to be strong, and to grow, not just when times are good, but especially now over the course of past couple years, that we are building out rules to support American resilience when times get tough,” she said.
The officials were joined by representatives from Iowa agriculture groups and agriculture businesses. Representatives from Iowa’s corn and soybean growers associations said they wanted to see more trade agreements and global markets for their products.
U.S. soybeans, corn, and beef were the top U.S. agriculture exports in 2021, according to the USDA. Soybean exports reached $22.4 billion, followed by $18.7 billion in corn and $10.5 billion in beef.
“Exports literally are the difference between profit or not on all of our farms,” said Iowa Corn Growers Association CEO Craig Floss.
Farm representatives also asked Tai to give support requests for the Biden Administration to remove tariffs on phosphate fertilizers from Morocco, which he said is contributing to record-high input prices for farmers.
The National Farm Bureau Federation and national corn and soybean growers groups asked Biden last month to remove the tariffs, and Iowa’s congressional representatives have joined that call.
“We’re all for building American and having local domestic production of ag inputs, but it takes a while to do that and a lot of money,” said Iowa Farm Bureau Federation representative Daniel Heady. “And until we can get to that point we really need to allow for the free movement of ag products throughout the world.”
Tai said the administration is thinking “very, very intensely” about how to proceed with fertilizer tariffs while building a sustainable trade economy.
Vilsack, Tai and Axne also vouched for recent legislation passed by congressional Democrats, including the infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act.
Axne said the bill will bolster Iowa’s renewable energy industries, creating a $500 million fund to increase the production and sale of biofuels.
“We know that it will do multiple things, including continuing to lower the price of gas at the pump, creating great jobs here in Iowa and ensuring that we address the issues that climate change is causing for far too often for our farmers,” Axne said.
In an emailed statement, Republican National Committee spokesperson Kush Desai criticized Vilsack’s visit and the Inflation Reduction Act.
“As Iowa farmers face historic misery from inflation and regulatory overreach, it’s a tad on the nose for Cindy Axne and Tom Vilsack to visit a farm to tout the Democrats’ Bidenflation Scam Bill that will hike taxes and unleash 87,000 new IRS agents on working class Iowans,” Desai said.