Government

Iowa Democrats call on Ernst, Grassley to call out Trump on trade policy

Fayette County farmer Tim O’Brien voices his concerns about crop prices to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, during a July 3 town hall meeting last year at the Fayette County Courthouse in West Union. Iowa Democrats on Thursday called on Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst to tell President Donald Trump how the trade war with China is hurting rural America. (Matthew Putney/Waterloo Courier)
Fayette County farmer Tim O’Brien voices his concerns about crop prices to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, during a July 3 town hall meeting last year at the Fayette County Courthouse in West Union. Iowa Democrats on Thursday called on Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst to tell President Donald Trump how the trade war with China is hurting rural America. (Matthew Putney/Waterloo Courier)

Iowa Democrats called on Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst to tell President Donald Trump his trade war with China is producing more casualties than victories in rural America.

“When President Donald Trump campaigned here in 2016, he promised to fight for farmers and for working Iowans,” former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge said Thursday. However, his trade policies have produced retaliatory tariffs by China and are “driving down income and creating uncertainty for producers.”

Iowans need leaders who will “stand up for Iowa’s agricultural economy and hold this president accountable,” said Judge, who ran against Grassley in 2016.

Grassley, who is third in line to the presidency, and Ernst “have the clout to speak to the president and have effect on his policies,” she said.

Since they “don’t seem to be able to do that, we need to hold them accountable,” Judge said during a conference call hosted by the Iowa Democratic Party.

Republicans pushed back, pointing out the trade dispute with China is not a partisan issue. They point to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s support for the president. He tweeted: “Hang tough on China, President @realDonaldTrump. Don’t back down. Strength is the only way to win with China.”

grassley bill

Also Thursday, Democratic 3rd District Rep. Cindy Axne signed on to Grassley Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019 to help farmers struggling with debt.

“I’d like to thank Sen. Grassley for championing this effort in the Senate and urge both chambers to pass this bill immediately,” she said in a release.

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“As a family farmer, Sen. Grassley has a firsthand understanding of the impact of the trade war with China. Iowa’s pork and soybean farmers are especially hurting as a result of China’s tariffs,” Grassley spokesman Michael Zona said.

“Iowa farmers know that America needs to stand up to China for its abusive trade practices, including the theft of American intellectual property and anticompetitive subsidies of Chinese industries,” he added.

Ernst’s office also pointed to action she has taken as vice chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee as well as in meetings with the president as recently as Sunday “to be extremely clear and transparent with the administration in the urgent need to get a fair trade deal done,” her spokesman Brenda Conley said

Ernst, who grew up on a Southwest Iowa farm, focuses is on supporting Iowa farmers, including co-sponsoring the farm debt relief legislation with Grassley and Axne, he said.

confidence shaken

Iowans believed the president when he said the trade war with China would be short and produce results quickly, said Tim Gannon, a farmer who was the Democratic nominee for Iowa agriculture secretary. As it has continued, especially in light of new tariffs imposed by both the United States and China in the past week, “it’s starting to shake that confidence.”

Gannon and Judge also called on the field of Democratic presidential candidates visiting Iowa to talk about the impact the trade policies are having on Iowa and rural America.

“It’s incumbent on the candidates who are traversing Iowa to talk about what they would do differently and lay out that vision for an economy that doesn’t leave agriculture and rural America behind,” Gannon said.

cost to iowa

Judge cited an Iowa State University report that found the Trump tariffs last crop year cost the state economy $2 billion. Lower commodity prices — the grain market is at a 42-year low, according to Bloomberg — resulted in $110 million less in Iowa tax revenue, she said.

“The field of candidates has a unique opportunity to call (Trump) out on his ridiculous trade tactics,” Judge said. “These candidates should step forward and engage rural Iowans. Democratic values, I believe, are rural values.”

Gannon called it “mind-boggling” that Trump launched a trade war without the support of allies and “picking fights with folks who have been friends and allies.” He was referring to tariffs on steel and aluminum from Mexico and Canada that have been met with retaliatory tariffs on farm commodities.

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“Take the tariffs off so we can start moving products back into Canada and Mexico,” Gannon said. “That would help Iowans, our dairy producers, cheese, pork, corn, soybeans back into markets we’ve built over time.”

Zona said Grassley, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has been working to win approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to help Iowa’s pork, soybean and corn farmers regain access to Mexican and Canadian markets.

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

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