DES MOINES -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell called out Gov. Kim Reynolds Saturday for not taking a more-aggressive public stance on behalf of Iowa farmers and rural interests being hurt by President Trump's trade war with China rather than "towing the party line" in the trade dispute.
During a speech at the Iowa State Fair and talking with reporters afterwards, Hubbell said a lot of Iowa farmers, implement dealers, suppliers and people reliant on agriculture are "on the edge" financially due to the impacts of the trade war but he has not seen Reynolds use her White House access to press for swift resolution.
"We need a governor who is going to stand up for Iowans, not stand up for who's in Washington, D.C.
When you are elected governor, you're elected to serve the citizens of our state, not a party and not whoever is in D.C.," Hubbell told a State Fair crowd.
President Trump had made it known before the 2016 election that he favored tariffs and tough trade talk, Hubbell said, and that would have been an appropriate time for Reynolds to start early in discussing with him how harmful a trade war would be for Iowa farmers "because they're the ones who usually receive the brunt of it."
"Our governor didn't try to stop that and once it started she basically has been towing the party line. Chuck Grassley's been a lot harder on this whole Trump and tariff war issue and he's right," Hubbell told reporters. He said Reynolds has "an obligation" to make it clear through public events with farmers and businesses that Trump's trade war is causing "personal pain" in Iowa.
"This affects our entire rural Iowa community and it's not acceptable to just say, well, let's be patient, it's going to work its way out," he said. "We need somebody who is going to stand up for Iowans and put Iowans first regardless of who's in the White House and regardless of what their party is and that's what I'm going to do."
Trump visited Iowa last month on the heels of his administration's announced plan Tuesday to provide up to $12 billion in aid to help farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs stemming from the White House's aggressive trade posture. Much of the help will come in the form of direct payments.
"Iowa farmers don't want a hand out. Iowa farmers want good, open markets so they can supply their products," Hubbell said Saturday. "We need a governor who's going to stand up for Iowans and protect the interests of agriculture, our farming community, rural Iowa and our farmers as a first obligation."
Farmers and farm-related businesses are facing a lot of pressure because of the trade war. Soybean prices have nose-dived as the White House and Chinese have engaged in an escalating war of words. The first of the U.S. tariffs imposed on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods began earlier this year - with an immediate retaliation from China.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the aid package was encouraging for the short term. But he added, "What farmers in Iowa and throughout rural America need in the long term are markets and opportunity, not government handouts."
Reynolds issued a statement after meeting with President Trump during a visit to Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, saying the president's visit gave her an opportunity to "voice the concerns and feedback I'm hearing from Iowa farmers." The governor said she implored Trump to allow year-round sales of E-15 ethanol-blended gasoline and resolve the trade issue that is hurting Iowa farmers.
"Our farmers will continue to do what they do best, and that's produce. By opening and expanding new markets and supporting year-round ethanol, Iowa farmers will continue to feed and fuel the world. I will always fight for our farmers and make sure their voices are heard," Reynolds said.
In response to Hubbell's remarks Saturday, Reynolds issued a statement saying: "Nobody wins in a trade war, and the administration knows where we stand. I am meeting with farmers regularly and they know I am fighting for them and have been for years.
"I have led trade missions across the globe promoting Iowa products, went to Washington to defend free and fair trade, and successfully fought to preserve the RFS, and I'll be making my case for biofuels again when EPA Secretary Wheeler comes to the Iowa State Fair next week," Reynolds added. "Unlike my opponent, I have always fought for Iowa farmers and fought against the efforts of anti-ag groups he chose to bankroll."
Hubbell used his midday speech at The Des Moines Register's "Soapbox" at the Iowa State Fair to highlight his campaign themes of better fiscally managed, priority-driving state budgets designed to improve educational, health-care, employment and income opportunities for Iowans. He supported restoring collective bargaining rights for public employees and teachers, raising the statewide minimum wage and allowing cities and counties the option of setting higher wage floors, and returning the privatized Medicaid system to state control while reforming Iowa's mental-health offerings.
"We need a governor who's going to come in and turn this state around and get it going in the right direction," said Hubbell. "We need a governor who's got the leadership skills and the experience to produce a balanced budget with the right priorities that people need and deserve in this state."