Government

In Cedar Rapids, Pence promises farmers 'will start winning again'

CEDAR RAPIDS — As Iowa farmers and manufacturers worry about the prospects of an extended trade war, Vice President Mike Pence offered assurances Wednesday that “our farmers will start winning again.”

“I just want to assure all my friends in Iowa and all across the region, under President (Donald) Trump’s leadership, we are always going to stand with American farmers,” he said while visiting defense contractor and avionics company Rockwell Collins.

Pence told about 150 members of the Rockwell employee political action committee and company executives the Trump administration is “making significant progress on reforming NAFTA and we’re going to make it into a deal that works for American farmers and American manufacturers in the long term.”

Pence, who toured the city’s largest employer that develops products for commercial and military aviation, was introduced by Gov. Kim Reynolds and 1st District Rep. Rod Blum, both Republicans facing election this year. He later participated in a fundraiser for Blum at the home of CRST International leaders John and Dyan Smith of Cedar Rapids.

Blum and Reynolds came in for criticism from Democrats for failing to stand up to “a Republican, D.C. administration that tosses Iowans overboard without a second thought … while Iowa families are on the verge of losing everything.”

And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Blum “can’t be bothered to take action (despite) the negative impact of the Republican trade war is disproportionately hurting Iowa farmers.”

However, Pence defended the Trump administration’s actions to improve export markets for farmers and manufacturers like Rockwell, which reports that about 40 percent if its sales are to customers outside the United States.

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“We’ve taken decisive action to lower trade barriers for American agricultural exports,” Pence said in a 20-minute speech. Since Trump became president, exports of pork and beef to Argentina and Brazil, respectively, are increasing “and for the first time in 13 years, American beef is going to China.”

Protest and Pride during Mike Pence's visit to Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids

For too long, he said, one-sided trade agreements have given trade partners “unbridled access to our marketplace” while American exporters faced tariffs, obstacles “and subsidies that are a barrier to our goods.”

However, the administration’s efforts aren’t limited to trade policy, Pence said. Trump is “getting back to what we know works,” such as cutting red tape and approving energy pipeline development and rolling back the Clean Power plan to lower costs.

The Trump tax cuts, which Pence estimated will save a typical Iowa family of four $2,500 a year, also will benefit companies like Rockwell. The corporate tax rate was cut from about 30 to 18 percent, “giving this company millions of dollars to invest in its workers, its businesses and your future.”

In April, Rockwell reported that it saw a “significant decrease” in its effective tax rate, which dropped to 8.2 percent for the first six months of its current fiscal year, down from 28.2 percent for the same time a year prior.

“It’s exciting to see the way corporate America has been responding,” Pence said. He reported that since the president signed the tax cut legislation, 3.7 million jobs have been created, including 15,100 in Iowa, and more than 600 companies announced tax cut bonuses for than 6 million Americans including nearly 20,000 workers in Iowa.

“We’ve got a record I’m proud of. We’re just getting started,” Pence said.

That’s what worried demonstrators outside Rockwell. About 60 members of NextGen Iowa and Indivisible Iowa protested what they called the “backward politics” and anti-LGBTQ record of Pence and Blum.

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Pence ended on a personal note, thanking Rockwell employees for their efforts to “give our warfighters what they need to accomplish their mission, protect our families and come home safe to theirs.”

Before speaking to the employee PAC, Pence had toured Rockwell’s Concept Flight Deck where he piloted a flight simulator, which according to Blum, Pence successfully got off the ground. He also saw a variety of products the company is developing, including the F-35 helmet-mounted display system that is being upgraded with a color organic light-emitting diode to replace a monochrome display.

That hit home for Pence, whose son, Michael, is a Marine Corps jet fighter pilot who may be flying either the F-35 or F-18 when he completes training.

“I have to tell you, when I look at the men and women in this room and I think about what you do each and every day for the courageous men and women who answer the call of this country, as your vice president, I’m inspired and I’m grateful,” Pence said. “As a father I’m even more grateful.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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