Government

Grassley: Pence visit may calm trade fears

(File photo) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) talks with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff (not pictured) as he does an interview in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Mar. 20, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(File photo) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) talks with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff (not pictured) as he does an interview in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Mar. 20, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Sen. Chuck Grassley stopped short of saying Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the Midwest, including Cedar Rapids, was damage control, but said part of the mission is to calm farmers’ fears about President Donald Trump’s trade policies.

Grassley told reporters Wednesday morning ahead of Pence’s visit to defense contractor Rockwell Collins that the vice president likely will “try to calm the fears that farmers have — and they have a lot of fears as you heard in my town meetings.”

Most of all, they’re worried about the uncertainty caused by U.S. tariffs and retaliatory tariffs by other nations that affect exports of agricultural goods, Grassley said, adding that “I’m very worried about it.”

He expects Pence, who also has stops planned in Kansas City and Chicago, will talk about the $117 million the Trump administration awarded Cedar Rapids for flood control because “every time (candidate Trump) was in Cedar Rapids that was brought up to him by everybody.”

More importantly, Grassley suggested Pence “will hear some of the things I hear — common sense coming from Iowans.”

Although he is concerned that Congress has delegated too much authority on trade issues to the president, Grassley said it would be inappropriate for Congress to get involved while the president is in negotiations with trade partners. Although he didn’t plan to support a non-binding resolution calling for congressional involvement in setting national security tariffs, Grassley voted for it Wednesday after the language was changed.

Trade issues came up at each of his 10 county meetings last week, but farmers are not telling him the president shouldn’t be trying to renegotiate trade policies. That tells him “people want the president to succeed because they think we have been unfairly treated.”

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“They also know that if the president doesn’t get a better deal for the United States and his brinkmanship takes us over the brink, it’s going to be catastrophic,” he said.

With soybeans selling for less than $8 a bushel and corn prices close to $3, Grassley said farmers “are hurting already.”

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

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