Please read and share this column by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Art Cullen, of The Storm Lake Times
“We poured corn into Mexico until they choked on it through NAFTA. Now, when the peasants we plundered show up at our doorstep looking for a job, we lock them up in a detention center.”
Loading Gannon’s Cannon
As Mike Naig won the Republican nomination for agriculture secretary at the state convention Saturday, President Donald Trump handed a cudgel to the Democratic opponent Tim Gannon. Trump ordered tariffs on Chinese products, which caused the Chinese to slap retaliatory tariffs on American soy and pork. Naig was asked to explain by a reporter from Esquire Magazine. The Buena Vista University graduate and interim secretary of agriculture couldn’t.
“This president doesn’t have the backs of American farmers,” said Gannon, who farms near Mingo.
Commodity groups are beside themselves. Farmers are upset, already suffering from five straight years of losing. Like it or not, this is a referendum on Trump. Gannon tied Naig and Gov. Kim Reynolds — like Naig an appointee who did not win the office — to Trump at the hip. “The governor says she has the administration’s ear but they’re not listening,” Gannon said, ticking off biofuels, tariffs, making enemies at both borders, commodity price erosion and tariffs on China, Iowa’s most important customer outside Canada or Mexico.
It occurred to us that Trump might be doing Iowa a favor by inviting tariffs on soy. It raises the question of whether we should bet so much on exports that a hiccup in our relationship with Beijing can cause such anxiety near Newell. We are growing more soy and corn than we can feed to our own livestock or burn in our vehicles, so we are desperate for exports to make the rent. We are increasing yields and mining the soil and polluting the water and washing out farmers and closing down schools and chasing our tails for the trade.
But that is the system we have. We poured corn into Mexico until they choked on it through NAFTA. Now, when the peasants we plundered show up at our doorstep looking for a job, we lock them up in a detention center.
Gannon suggests that if we are locked into that production system and there is no alternative to it, then the Trump administration must make some allowance for farmers. But they don’t. He says this is why we need to explore new crops and new uses for soy. He says it is why we should impose the 3/8th cent sales tax for conservation that voters approved by over 60% years ago. Naig is opposed to that idea. Gannon says farmers need help finding new ways to build soil, in finding new ways to make renewable fuels, and with more research into sustainable production to reduce costs. But they are not getting that from the current administration. And they certainly won’t get it from Naig or Reynolds.
“No one would argue that we don’t need a strong ag economy,” said Gannon, whose dad Bill ran a John Deere store at the height of the farm crisis. “But we’ve got to do more than just grow more to sell more overseas. We need to create new jobs and new industries based on agriculture in Iowa.”
But in the meantime, Gannon says, you can’t just leave farmers in the lurch by sacrificing them to a trade war. Reynolds and Naig are afraid to confront it. Gannon isn’t. He is pointing out how Trump is dumping on Iowa and they are enabling it.
Gannon welcomed the addition of farmer Rita Hart of Wheatland in Clinton County as the lieutenant governor nominee. She also was a teacher in a rural district. Hart will bring a much-needed rural balance to the Fred Hubbell ticket. We expect to see a lot from Gannon and Hart as Democrats try to prove this fall that they can still win in Buena Vista County. Trump is doing all he can to help them. Rural Iowa decides general elections.
Iowa has more than 86,000 farmers. It would be interesting to know how many of them voted for Trump.