We believe as representative for Iowa's largely rural 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House, Steve King should be a leader in pressuring the administration of President Trump for stronger support of agriculture.
In media interviews, meetings with Trump administration figures and correspondence with the president, he's doing exactly that.
In properly stark terms, King told Neil Cavuto, host of Fox's "Your World with Neil Cavuto," in an April 6 interview he worries a U.S. trade war with China will result in a repeat of the 1980s farm crisis.
"We saw what happened in the United States when Jimmy Carter on Jan. 4, 1980, embargoed the grain that was exported then to the Soviet Union," King said. "When that happened it put us into an economic tailspin for an entire decade. A lot of us here in the Midwest … I have many scars from that. I paid 22 percent interest. We sold out family farm after family farm. They stood there and cried together during the auction. And I don’t want to see that again, Neil, and I’m afraid we’re going in that direction."
Storm clouds continue to form over farm country in the wake of President Trump's decision to slap a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum entering the United States; China's threat to impose a retaliatory 25 percent tariff on American products, including pork; and a series of back-and-forth announcements and threats between the Trump administration and China about tariffs on more products. Earlier this month, China targeted $50 billion of additional U.S. products, including soybeans (at more than $12 billion, China was the biggest buyer of U.S. soybeans in 2017), corn and beef.
Along with 45 congressional colleagues, King signed an April 13 letter to President Trump, warning him about the impact on agriculture of a trade war between the U.S. and China. The letter encouraged the administration "to work diligently in its negotiations with China to address China’s trade practices in a manner that will avoid retaliation, helping to return our agriculture industry to a state of certainty and back on the road to prosperity."
"Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said recently that farmers are the 'tip of the spear when it comes to retaliatory measures' and you have acknowledged that farmers are 'great patriots,'" the letter said. "Our farmers and ranchers are resilient, but they are already struggling with low commodity prices and drought. With net farm income down by half over the last four years, and no relief on the horizon, they are particularly vulnerable."
When leaders from farm states met with him at the White House last week, the president said he might consider rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement of benefit to agriculture. To us, that's a sign of the positive impact farm-state lobbying can have.
We urge King to keep up his commendable pressure on the Trump administration in support of agriculture and farmers in the 4th District and across Iowa.
While he's at it, it wouldn't hurt for King to remind President Trump of the political stakes for his administration and party, as well.