Iowa reaction to aid plan for farmers hurt by trade war

"Tariffs are the greatest!" President Donald Trump tweeted today, adding that "All will be Great!"

A few hours later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced "up to $12 billion in programs" aimed at helping farmers, "in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of the unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods."

Trump will surely talk up the assistance at his joint event with Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) in Dubuque on July 26. But the escalating trade war isn't just affecting farmers. Steel tariffs are hurting manufacturers too. "Whirpool shares plummeted Tuesday after executives blamed rising steel and aluminum costs for diminished quarterly earnings," Michael Sheetz reported for CNBC on July 24. Whirlpool's refrigerator factory in Amana is the largest employer in Iowa County.

While Democrats criticized the temporary response to a "self-inflicted wound," top Iowa Republicans reacted to the farm aid plan in three distinct ways. Blum and Representative Steve King (IA-04) unambiguously praised the president. Their U.S. House colleague David Young (IA-03) was notably more critical of Trump's policy. Iowa's U.S. senators, Governor Kim Reynolds, and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig tried to thread the needle, depicting themselves as fighting for Iowa farmers and open markets without denouncing the president's approach to trade negotiations.

Latest trade-related tweets by the president:

Press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

USDA Assists Farmers Impacted by Unjustified Retaliation

(Washington, D.C., July 24, 2018) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation. President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets in the long run to help American farmers compete globally. Specifically, USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of the unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets.

“This is a short-term solution to allow President Trump time to work on long-term trade deals to benefit agriculture and the entire U.S. economy,” Secretary Perdue said. “The President promised to have the back of every American farmer and rancher, and he knows the importance of keeping our rural economy strong. Unfortunately, America’s hard-working agricultural producers have been treated unfairly by China’s illegal trading practices and have taken a disproportionate hit when it comes illegal retaliatory tariffs. USDA will not stand by while our hard-working agricultural producers bear the brunt of unfriendly tariffs enacted by foreign nations. The programs we are announcing today help ensure our nation’s agriculture continues to feed the world and innovate to meet the demand.”


Of the total unjustified retaliatory tariffs imposed on the United States, a disproportionate amount was targeted directly at American farmers. Trade damage from such retaliation has impacted a host of U.S. commodities, including field crops like soybeans and sorghum, livestock products like milk and pork, and many fruits, nuts, and other specialty crops. High tariffs disrupt normal marketing patterns, affecting prices and raising costs by forcing commodities to find new markets. Additionally, there is evidence that American goods shipped overseas are being slowed from reaching market by unusually strict or cumbersome entry procedures, which can affect the quality and marketability of perishable crops. This can boost marketing costs and discount our prices, and adversely affect our producers. USDA will use the following programs to assist farmers:

The Market Facilitation Program, authorized under The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and administered by Farm Service Agency (FSA), will provide payments incrementally to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs. This support will help farmers manage disrupted markets, deal with surplus commodities, and expand and develop new markets at home and abroad.

Additionally, USDA will use CCC Charter Act and other authorities to implement a Food Purchase and Distribution Program through the Agricultural Marketing Service to purchase unexpected surplus of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs.

Finally, the CCC will use its Charter Act authority for a Trade Promotion Program administered by the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) in conjunction with the private sector to assist in developing new export markets for our farm products.

Statement from Senator Chuck Grassley:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a family farmer, today released the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s announcement that farmers who have been negatively impacted as a result of the Administration’s ongoing trade negotiations will receive short-term federal aid to offset the financial damage caused by retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agriculture exports.

“Many U.S. products face market barriers abroad. I don’t fault the President for trying to get a better deal for Americans, but it’s not fair to expect farmers to bear the brunt of retaliation for the entire country in the meantime. I’ve had several White House meetings with President Trump to express my concerns in strong terms. Every third row of soybeans in Iowa is exported. We also export large amounts of pork and beef. That means farmers depend on access to foreign markets to make ends meet and provide for their families. The President’s announcement of billions of dollars in aid that will be made available to struggling farmers later this year is encouraging for the short term. What farmers in Iowa and throughout rural America need in the long term are markets and opportunity, not government handouts. I look forward to reviewing the details of the President’s proposal and continuing to work with the Administration to find permanent solutions that will give confidence and certainty to our farmers as soon as possible.”

In April, Grassley said, “If the federal government takes action on trade that directly results in economic hardship for certain Americans, it has a responsibility to help those Americans and mitigate the damage it caused.”

Senator Joni Ernst:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), today, issued the following statement after an announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in regard to actions the department is taking to assist farmers in response to the escalating trade war:

“In Iowa alone, more than 456,000 jobs are supported by global trade, and these new tariffs are threatening $977 million in state exports. While a trade mitigation package could boost farmer morale in the short term, this is ultimately a short term fix. We need a longer-term strategy to ensure that farmers are able to sell their goods around the globe. I will continue to push the administration to open up new markets and finalize trade deals, steps that will go the distance to ensure the success of America and Iowa’s agricultural economy,” said Senator Joni Ernst.

Governor Kim Reynolds:

“The $12 billion in farm aid announced today will provide a short-term fix, but it’s not a long-term solution. As I've said all along, nobody wins in a trade war. We must continue to expand and open markets, protect the Renewable Fuel Standard and allow Iowa products to be sold across the globe. Iowa farmers are the most productive in the world and will always win when they have unrestricted access to markets. I will never stop fighting for Iowa families affected by this trade war.”

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig:

“These programs recognize the market challenges our farmers are facing today, and will provide some temporary assistance. What we need is certainty when it comes to our trade relationships. We continue to urge the administration for the swift resolution of our trade negotiations with China and our NAFTA trading partners, as well as pursuing new trade agreements. As I travel the state I continue to hear Iowa farmers want more trade, not aid.”

Democratic secretary of agriculture candidate Tim Gannon:

Des Moines -- Earlier today, the Trump administration announced a $12 billion emergency aid package for farmers as a result of the President’s reckless and politically-motivated trade war. Family farmer, former USDA official and current Democratic candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Tim Gannon released the following statement:

I’m glad to see that the Administration has finally recognized the fact that our rural communities are suffering because of their reckless Twitter Trade War. Having served under Secretary Vilsack for 8 years at USDA, I understand the vital role that the federal government plays in protecting our agricultural economy and mitigating risk for our farmers. That said, this proposal is an expensive, short term band-aid for a giant, self-inflicted wound. Instead, we should be working with our allies to address our shared concerns about other countries’ trade practices and opening new markets for farmers to sell their crops so they can support themselves. If the Administration actually wanted to help farmers like myself, they’d be coming up with a plan that would stabilize markets, expand trade, reallocate the billions of lost gallons of ethanol demand due to waivers for oil refiners, and invest in research to help add value to our products instead of telling us to be satisfied with a government handout.

Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) did not release a full statement but posted on his Facebook page, "I appreciate President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to help farmers who will bear the brunt of short term retaliatory tariffs as better trade deals are consummated."

Blum's Democratic opponent Abby Finkenauer posted on Twitter, "Dusting off a Depression-era program for an emergency fix to a self-inflicted wound is not a longterm solution. Our hard-working farmers want stability, but all they’re getting from our current leaders are empty words and more uncertainty."

Earlier on July 24, Finkenauer's campaign sent out this press release:

Dubuque, IA – While Congressman Rod Blum prepares to host President Trump for an event in Dubuque this Thursday, the administration’s Twitter trade war is threatening to rob Iowa soybean farmers of their largest market while countries like Russia and Brazil fill the gap. China has set a new record for purchases from Russia in the current season, importing 850,000 tons of Russian soybeans – almost triple the amount from the previous period.

The escalating tariffs levied by the Trump administration, along with retaliatory measures from other countries, are now estimated by the Tax Foundation to cost the United States 48,585 jobs while reducing the GDP by $15.7 billion and shrinking wages.

In speaking about the administration’s Twitter trade war and its impact on Iowa’s ag and manufacturing economy, Rod Blum has said “we’ve just got to get through this.”

“Congressman Blum is putting politics ahead of Iowans as Trump’s Twitter trade war takes a turn for the worst for Iowa farmers and the small businesses they support. The news today that China has set a record for soybeans purchased from Russia is a double blow, coming on the heels of Trump’s performance in Helsinki. This has got to stop,” said Abby Finkenauer. “Iowans aren’t buying Trump and Blum's ‘be patient’ approach. The farmers I know are some of the hardest working, most patient people you’ll find, but the fallout from this trade war is now plain as day. Iowa farmers are losing to Russian farmers - it’s that simple. This is no time for patience, this is time for action. Donald Trump should be held accountable for putting Iowa’s farmers at the mercy of his Twitter account. That’s what I’ll do in Congress.”

Rod Blum’s Thursday event with President Trump comes on the heels of Vice President Pence’s trip to Cedar Rapids earlier this month, where Blum failed to provide Iowa’s farmers with an opportunity to voice their concerns directly to the administration.

UPDATE: Finkenauer's campaign released this statement on July 25:

"Let’s be clear about what’s happening here. After starting a trade war on Twitter, this administration is dusting off a 1930s, Depression-era program to provide an emergency fix to a problem they caused. Tariffs are going to cost Iowa’s soybean farmers and pork producers alone nearly $1 billion in the short-term, and could seriously damage our trade markets and impact Iowa’s economy for a generation. I hear every day from farmers in this district who just want stability and a thoughtful trade policy, which they’re absolutely not getting from Donald Trump and Rod Blum. The farm economy doesn’t work on a Twitter cycle — Blum should show some backbone for once and put Trump in front of farmers tomorrow to deliver that message."

Representative David Young (IA-03):

Congressman David Young joined WHO-TV live during the 4 p.m. newscast to speak about the administration's $12 billion trade aid package. Watch the entire interview below.

"What this really is though, is the administration, the President, admitting that his trade policies are hurting Iowa farmers and producers, and all across the heartland for that matter," said Congressman Young during the interview. "Farmers want markets, they want trade, and not necessarily this aid."

Representative Steve King (IA-04):

King Applauds Trump’s $12 Billion Assist to American Agriculture

President Trump Is Honoring Personal Promise to King to Hold Agriculture Harmless

Washington, D.C.- Congressman Steve King, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, releases the following statement applauding the Trump Administration for taking action to address the economic harm that unjustified trade retaliation is causing to the farm economy. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this afternoon that it would be making up to $12 billion in assistance available to farmers who have experienced recent market disruptions. This amount more than offsets the expected $11 billion impact of foreign retaliatory tariffs on American goods. Importantly for the 4th District, the USDA assistance will specifically benefit producers of field crops like corn and soybeans, and livestock products like pork. Congressman King views today’s announcement as the President confirming his intent to deliver on a promise he personally made to King to hold agriculture harmless as he worked on addressing foreign trade.

“President Trump personally promised me that agriculture would be held harmless as he worked on trade, and today’s announcement of $12 billion in USDA assistance for disrupted markets confirms his intention to keep his promise to me,” said King. “Importantly, the USDA intends to use a Trade Promotion Program to develop new export markets for American agricultural products. These new export markets will remain when the current disputes over trade are settled on terms more favorable to American producers. I applaud the Administration for taking this needed action, and I am confident that President Trump, Secretary Perdue, and Ambassador Branstad are all working diligently to open China’s markets to greater trade in Iowa’s agricultural products.”

  • I've got an idea...

    Instead of "incremental payments," why not use the money to directly fund water-protecting farm conservation? Since Iowans have been assured by industrial ag groups that all farmers are champing at the bit to protect water, this would be a great way to help pay for that, and I'm sure Big Ag groups would support it, why are you looking at me funny?

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