By Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer
Agriculture is vital to Iowa’s economy, and essential to our history and culture. That’s why I’m committed to ensuring the voices of Northeast Iowa’s farmers, ranchers and biofuels producers are heard in Congress.
Iowa feeds our country, contributing significantly to our nation’s food supply. For the nearly 14,000 agribusiness workers in Iowa’s First District, supporting agriculture policies means supporting their livelihood.
From my conversations with farmers, including my own sister and brother-in- law, I’ve seen firsthand the uncertainty and harmful economic impact caused by the current trade wars and attacks on biofuels. While these trade wars started off with big promises, we’re taking a real hit here at home. I’m working each and every day to make sure that Iowa’s hard-working farmers, ranchers and producers have the access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.
As Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship, I’ve invited Iowa farmers to testify on Capitol Hill — directly bringing their voice to the nation’s capital. They’ve shared their triumphs and struggles and have spoken to the effects of trade and agriculture policy on everyday Americans.
In July 2019, Jason Grimm from Williamsburg shared his unique challenges he faced as a young specialty crop farmer, like accessing land and capital while also paying off his student loan debt. Farmers like Jason are the future of agriculture, but low commodity prices exacerbated by the trade war, increasing costs of production, unpredictable weather and federal policies that undermine domestic and foreign markets are making it harder and harder for many of them to survive.
In April 2019, Iowans Rebecca Dostal and Mark Meirick, spoke to my subcommittee about the impact of tariffs and the ongoing trade war on Iowa’s farms and producers. Rebecca grows corn and soybeans and also rases hogs and cattle, while Mark serves on the board of the Iowa Pork Producers Association; both described the struggles they’re facing, and the challenges for farmers and producers from across the First District.
With Iowa’s exports down during the pandemic and the trade war with China ongoing, it’s my responsibility to advocate for our agricultural economy on the federal level.
And to ensure Iowa’s seat at the table when talking about trade, we asked the U.S. Trade Representative to provide regular updates on negotiations with China and to consider the devastating effects of the President’s trade war on Iowa’s economy, while sharing real stories from Iowa farmers on the ground.
I also worked to replace the NAFTA trade agreement with the bipartisan USMCA to ensure the best possible deal for U.S. ag producers, and to protect good paying Iowa jobs here at home.
We’ve held bipartisan hearings, sponsored legislation and authored oversight letters defending and strengthening Iowa agriculture and biofuels. Unfortunately, this administration has actively worked to undermine the biofuels industry, and I’ve fought their bad faith attacks every step of the way because I’m not afraid to speak out when Iowans livelihoods are at stake.
I’m proud to have passed a historic extension of the biodiesel tax credit, benefiting producers and retailers alike and preventing plant closures. Last year, my office led a bipartisan effort to start an investigation into the abuse of small refinery exemptions and have pushed back against repeated efforts to undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard that would hurt biofuels producers. We won’t stop until the attacks on biofuels do.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve supported policies to help our farmers and biofuel producers weather the uncertainty and market disruptions that came with the virus. I also helped introduce legislation supported by Senators Ernst and Grassley to make sure that our cattle farmers get a fair price instead of allowing big processors to pocket the profits.
I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation that will allow farmers to use forgivable, low-interest Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to cover their rental expenses, because family farms and producers are small businesses too. The federal government can’t forget farmers, ranchers, and biofuels producers on our journey to economic recovery.
Iowa’s agriculture industry is the past, present, and future of our state’s economy, and I’m doubling down on my commitment to making the voices of Iowa’s agriculture and biofuels industries heard on Capitol Hill and at the White House.
Abby Finkenauer represents Iowa’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves as Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship.