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Q&A: Farm Exports

August 18, 2017
Senator Chuck Grassley , Traer Star-Clipper

Q: Why do you work so hard to expand market access for U.S. farm exports?

A: Agriculture is woven throughout the social fabric of local communities across Iowa, serving as the lifeblood for generations of families striving to achieve the American Dream. In fact, I encourage Iowans to visit the Iowa State Fair (open Aug. 10-20), arguably the nation's finest showcase of our agrarian heritage and salute to innovation and prosperity in the 21st century. Blessed with abundant natural resources, American agriculture not only anchors U.S. food and national security, it also boosts our balance of trade, broadens the tax base and reaches deeply into the nation's economy, culture and heritage. For the millions of Americans who grow, process, market, transport and sell food, renewable fuel and fiber, agriculture is the bread and butter of their livelihoods and way of life. More than ever, a crucial piece of their paychecks and prosperity is tied to exports. According to the USDA, export markets account for about 20 percent of U.S. agricultural output. In Iowa, every third row of soybeans is planted for export. Iowa, the number one hog producer in the United States, exports more than 25 percent of its pork to foreign markets, valued at $1 billion in 2016. By any measure, farm exports account for a sizable chunk of the rural economy, boosting value-added agriculture and triggering investment in local communities. Workers along the farm to market supply chain rely on global trade for their paychecks. One out of five jobs in Iowa is trade-dependent. That's why I support adopting trade policies that would strike an even better deal for American agriculture. However, a root-and-branch reform of U.S. trade agreements must take into account the impact renegotiations will have on our family farmers and the rural economy. Losing out on access to new markets or losing market share in current foreign markets would deal a blow to our export-dependent farm economy. Export losses would harm job creation, wages, investment, infrastructure, manufacturing, land values and economic growth. As a lifelong family farmer, I bring a dose of reality to farm and trade policy in Washington. As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I support trade-friendly reforms and market-oriented policies in our farm programs, including the federal crop insurance program, to provide an effective safety net for farmers. A level playing field that fosters transparency and requires foreign competitors to abide by enforceable rules to reduce trade-distorting support gives American agriculture the opportunity to achieve even more prosperity in the global marketplace. The fourth consecutive decline in net farm revenue that's expected this year underscores the importance of strategic trade relationships. Expanding market access will cushion the bottom line for farmers and revitalize the supply chain up and down Main Street.

Q: Do you support renegotiating NAFTA?

A: I'm glad the president is committed to renegotiating, rather than ending, the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. Efforts to secure a better, fairer deal that increases U.S. exports will help create better paying jobs for American workers, unleash investment and ramp up innovation here at home. However, there's an important distinction that I made loud and clear with 17 other lawmakers in a letter we sent in May to the top U.S. trade negotiator. Whereas improvements would help modernize the trade agreement with these two strategic partners, the United States must work to ensure American agriculture does not get left behind or lose out as a bargaining chip in the process. In other words, negotiations must "do no harm" to American agriculture. I conveyed that same message to the new U.S. Trade Representative when he visited with me in my office prior to his confirmation hearing and vote in the U.S. Senate. Iowa is an export-dependent state - selling more than $15 billion to 192 countries in 2014 - and I will continue driving home that point throughout this administration. To that end, I support getting the president's nominee to serve as the nation's chief agricultural negotiator at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative confirmed, sooner rather than later. Years ago, I helped secure this key position to make sure the interests of American agriculture were championed during the give and take of bilateral, regional and multi-lateral trade negotiations. Looking ahead, I will continue working to brighten the horizon for U.S. farm exports and the increased revenue stream they bring to Rural America. Lowering trade barriers and expanding access to more markets overseas can serve as a game changer to revitalize American agriculture for generations to come.



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