DES MOINES — Cindy Axne and Bill Northey may be from different parties, but they agree on many items related to agriculture.
Axne, a freshman Democrat representing the southwest quarter of Iowa, and Northey, a Republican and former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture turned USDA official, talked to agricultural leaders and reporters at the state capitol Aug. 29.
They agreed more needs to be done to help farmers dealing with flood issues. They also agreed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement likely will be approved by Congress this fall.
Axne and Northey even agreed the present trade war with China puts farmers in a difficult situation, and that the EPA’s waivers for small oil refineries are bad for farmers.
The only areas where they disagreed was in how much blame President Donald Trump deserves for some of the challenges facing farmers.
Northey criticized the EPA waivers but said that, as of last week, he knew no more than anyone else about Trump’s tweet that day promising help for farmers and ethanol producers.
“We’re all on the edge of our seats,” he said of the tweet.
Axne was a bit more critical of Trump.
“This is just unacceptable,” she said of the waivers, adding the idea Trump loves farmers but is being undercut by his own EPA is not believable.
What’s more likely is the president is trying to have it both ways, she says, in an attempt to please both the oil industry and appease farmers in the lead-up to the 2020 election. Unfortunately, Axne said, the waivers do much more to hurt farmers than the offsetting aid does to help them.
The story is somewhat similar on trade, she said. While farmers are willing to accept payments through the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), they would rather have markets and not have a trade war, she said.
The two officials did both express support for the USMCA and they are both optimistic about its eventual passage.
“It’s clear agriculture needs the USMCA,” Northey said.
Axne said the agreement was only officially presented to Congress in July and that it takes time to work through a variety of issues related to enforcement, labor and safety rules. She said she expects those issues to be worked out soon and for the USMCA to be passed by Congress yet this fall.
There are other issues yet to be worked out in regards to farmers impacted by flooding. That will include working through crop insurance issues and other items. Both officials said they expect the USDA and Congress to work together to try to help farmers in those flood-impacted areas.