President Donald Trump heads to Iowa this week to shore up his rural base and promote the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, fresh from dropping a threat to impose new tariffs that farm groups and lawmakers feared could jeopardize congressional approval of the North American trade pact.
Trump will be in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Tuesday to visit the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy ethanol plant, where he’ll talk up USMCA as well as the EPA’s recent decision to allow year-round sell of E15.
The politics would have been significantly complicated had Trump followed through on his threat to impose a 5% tariff on Mexican products on Monday, but Friday evening he announced he had reached a deal with Mexico to tighten controls on migrants flowing through that country to the U.S. southern border.
Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst, who faces reelection in 2020, was among the many Senate Republicans alarmed by the tariff threat.
“Iowans are breathing a sigh of relief: Mexico has stepped up to help us address the humanitarian crisis at our southern border, and we won’t feel the pinch from new tariffs with one of our biggest trading partners,” she said after Trump announced he was backing off his threat.
In a sign of how closely linked the USMCA and tariff threat were, Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday used the immigration deal to promote passage of the trade agreement.
“With @POTUS negotiating a good deal with Mexico, it’s time for Congress to pass the #USMCA. Traveling across the country, manufacturers, farmers, businesses & workers tell me the USMCA is a GOOD DEAL for the American people,” Pence said on Twitter.
Disaster aid also will be on the mind of many in Iowa, and Trump is expected to be accompanied by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Western Iowa and eastern Nebraska were devastated by flooding in March and farmers throughout the Corn Belt, from South Dakota to Ohio, have been struggling to plant crops this spring because of a succession of storms. Nearly all of the corn crop has normally been sown by early June, but as of June 2, just 67% had been planted.
Trump signed a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill on Thursday that authorized $3 billion in payments to farmers for prevented planting, flood damage to stored grain, and damage to crops from 2018 hurricanes and wildfires.
During stops in Florida and Georgia on Friday, Perdue assured farmers that the disaster aid authorized by the bill would be implemented in “in weeks, not months.” Farmers in those states have been calling for the assistance for eight months, while the Midwest disaster has been unfolding since March.
Trade will continue to be a major focus on congressional attention this week. The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday with Gregg Doud, Trump’s chief agricultural trade negotiator, as well as Ted McKinney, USDA’s undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural programs, and Rob Johansson, USDA’s chief economist.
Meanwhile, a House Agriculture subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on “The State of U.S. Agricultural Products in International Markets.”
Analysts and commodity users will be closely watching a pair of USDA reports this week, the weekly Crop Progress report due out on Monday and the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, which is released on Tuesday.
The EPA’s final rule implementing a vapor pressure waiver for E15 is being published in the Federal Register Monday, a day ahead of Trump’s visit to Iowa. The rule now allows E15 gasoline to be sold all year rather than Sept. 15 through June 1.
Scott Richman, economist at the Renewable Fuels Association, expects E15 sales in the U.S. to double from last year’s estimated 300 to 400 million gallons. “We think this year, given the rulemaking is coming right as the summer driving season is hitting, we might get up to 700 to 800 million gallons of E15 sales next year,” he said.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, June 10
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association fly-in, through Tuesday.
9 a.m. — EPA public meeting on revised method for ESA pesticide assessments, One Potomac Yard, 2777 Crystal Dr., Arlington, Va.
Noon — National Milk Producers Federation briefing on Dairy Margin Coverage program, National Press Club.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, June 11
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on “The State of U.S. Agricultural Products in International Markets,” 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. — House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing with former EPA administrators, 2123 Rayburn.
Wednesday, June 12
10 a.m. — Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on the Federal Communications Commission, G50 Dirksen.
10 a.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on WOTUS, 406 Dirksen.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture hearing on “Increasing Resiliency, Mitigating Risk: Examining the Research and Extension Needs of Producers,” 1300 Longworth.
Thursday, June 13
9 a.m. — Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla. and Chris Coons, D-Del., participate in tariffs and trade panel, Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center.
9:30 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on certainty in global markets, 328A Russell.
10 a.m. — Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on wildland and fire management, 366 Dirksen.
Friday, June 14
Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.
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