By Erin Murphy, Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau
POLK CITY — Uncertainty is an enemy of agriculture, and complications with federal agriculture and trade policies are hurting Iowa farmers, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday in Iowa.
Pelosi visited a rural Polk County farm in the morning, where a half dozen Iowa farmers expressed the issues they face.
It was Pelosi’s second day in Iowa; Sunday evening she gave the keynote address at the Polk County Democrats’ annual spring fundraiser.
Pelosi toured Aaron Lehman’s 550-acre farm, where the crops include organic corn, soybeans, oats and hay. Lehman showed Pelosi a 75-acre patch covered in clover, which he will soon plow under and plant an organic corn.
Pelosi talked with Lehman and five other Iowa farmers about the federal farm bill, which will be crafted and debated in Congress over the coming weeks.
The farm bill is expansive legislation that covers U.S. agriculture policy, conservation programs and food assistance, and typically is approved for a four- or five-year span.
“These bills have such a direct impact on family farmers in the country,” Pelosi said. “That’s why I’m here to listen to what they have to say.”
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Pelosi heard from the Iowa farmers about challenges facing young people who want to get into farming, the narrowing and consolidation of markets for Iowa products, and other topics.
“I’m sure you’ve heard this from farmers all over,” Lehman told Pelosi, “but this is a belt-tightening time (for farmers).”
After the 45-minute discussion, Pelosi told reporters U.S. House Democrats are united in opposition to the proposed farm bill because of significant cuts to the food assistance programs.
She said farmers are being hurt by uncertainty around the farm bill and federal trade policies that threaten to hurt farmers’ bottom lines.
President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed tariffs on Chinese goods imported to the U.S.; China responded with proposed tariffs on U.S. products, including pork and soybeans, two of Iowa’s top exports.
The potential financial harm brewing from the trade dispute “is frightening, and what you don’t need is more uncertainty,” Pelosi said, noting farmers already deal with uncertainty in the weather, commodity prices and now the farm bill.
“So you don’t need the uncertainty of an ill-advised trade policy,” she said. “Yes, we have to fight for American workers, but we have to do so in a way that doesn’t harm American workers.”
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