Recent weeks have been full of disappointment for Midwest and Iowa farmers and ethanol producers.
Amid ethanol and biofuel facility closures, farm bankruptcies and continued economic fallout from a trade war with China that seems to have no end in sight, the Trump Administration has made more empty promises, and even gone as far as telling small farmers, simply, they don’t care.
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence claim to be great friends for farmers, but when you get right down to it, the impact of their senseless trade wars and their record of broken promises tell a really different story,” said Tim Gannon, an Iowa farmer and former USDA official. “Farmers in Iowa and across the country are facing the worst economic crisis since the 1980s, largely as a result of the aimless Trump-Pence trade agenda that has destroyed trade relationships, lowered crop prices and disproportionally hurt family farms like ours.”
Sonny Perdue in Wisconsin
Just a week ago, Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, during a stop in Wisconsin, told a room full of family farmers that there’s no administrative urgency to protect their farms or way of life.
“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” Perdue said after an appearance at the World Dairy Expo in Madison. “I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”
This quote has confirmed what many have been fearing for some time: the Trump Administration really doesn’t care about farmers. And while that has maybe been obvious to some tracking trends throughout the administration, Perdue’s words were alarmingly blunt.
Trump’s leadership has emboldened people in his administration to say what they really think. And while that, at times, can be startling, it provides a more accurate insight into where their loyalties lie.
But Perdue’s statement, that there is no income or profitability protections, has left a sour taste for some, especially after watching those groups exempt oil companies from following the law (of the renewable fuel standard), simply because it was hurting their bottom line.
“It is complete hypocrisy that we are going to let the small farmers be completely at the mercy of market conditions that are out of their control, that are being manipulated, while at the same time we’re going to put in protections for some of the largest oil refiners in the world,” said Aaron Lehman, President of the Iowa Farmers’ Union. “It is complete hypocrisy, and it’s a slap in the face to our farmers.”
Improvising a Presidency and Breaking Promises
With Vice President Mike Pence in Iowa this week, Iowa farmers and different agricultural groups are calling out Trump and Pence for their blatant disregard of the promises they continue to make and break.
“Rural communities are hurting. President Trump made promises to rural voters that he simply has failed to keep. Farmers and rural Americans cannot keep taking the hits that he places on our economic engines,” said Pam Johnson, past president of the National Corn Growers Association and sixth-generation Iowa farmer. “It has taken years to convince the President to make good on his ethanol promises, and we are still waiting to see if he truly fulfills those promises.”
Making promises is a staple of Trump’s tactics, but following through and delivering on any of it with concrete plans and details has proved nearly impossible.
“One thing is clear about this President – he has no plan,” said Patty Judge, Chair of Focus on Rural America and former Lt. Governor of Iowa and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. “All of us are suffering from his endless whiplash, and those taking the brunt of it live and work in rural communities across America. Trump’s go-it-alone trade strategy has gifted our soybean markets to Brazil and our wheat markets to Canada.”
“We’ve lost too many farms this year, and too many workers in layoffs like those at Deere and biofuel plants that have closed,” she continued. “We need to see some real change in farm policy. While we need it now, it will likely be in January of 2021 when a candidate that has actually put a rural strategy on paper is sitting in the Oval Office.”
Democratic leaders in the state hope that these betrayals by the Trump Administration will lead to some leadership changes in the state, and the party is gearing up for such a circumstance.
“Iowans can see past the GOP’s empty rhetoric, and we deserve answers from Pence and Ernst about how they are going to bring meaningful solutions to farmers’ mounting economic uncertainty,” explained Troy Price, Iowa Democratic Party Chair. “We need leaders who will listen to farmers and energy producers, take these issues seriously, and work towards a comprehensive solution that expands our economy and restores our farm safety net. Not more broken promises and uncertainty. That’s the kind of leadership Iowa Democrats are working to bring up-and-down the ticket in 2020.”
by Josh Cook