Skip to content

Ernst: Regulations, low commodity prices are key challenges for Iowa ag

As the nation’s leading producer of pork, corn, soybeans, and eggs, Iowa’s agriculture industry has an enormous impact on the country and the world. This October, I visited over a dozen ag businesses, including family farms, to hear about the true state of the agriculture economy in Iowa, and what I have heard and seen on the ground is far different from the rosy picture being painted by the Obama administration.

The agriculture industry is a humble one, filled with fiercely devoted and hardworking Americans. I grew up on a hog, soybean, and corn farm that my family tirelessly tended. Given my agriculture background, I find myself in a unique position as a United States Senator to translate the ag communities’ feedback into action in order to keep these operations alive and well for generations to come.

On my agriculture tour, I met with crop and livestock farmers, equipment dealers, farmer cooperatives, fertilizer manufacturers, processing plants and research facilities to do something different than the status quo in Washington: to listen. What I heard is that burdensome regulations, low commodity prices, and trade restrictions are the biggest issues causing uncertainty for our state’s agriculture industry.

Government over-regulation was the biggest concern across-the-board. At a local meat processing facility and deli in Eagle Grove, it was not a fear of failure that was holding the business back from expanding to other communities, but the headache of dealing with additional government regulations.

I also heard from many of Iowa’s farmers who expressed grave concern over the Obama administration’s proposed rule that would give the EPA extensive power to regulate water on private land under the proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. In fact, WOTUS would expand EPA’s jurisdiction to almost 97 percent of the land in Iowa. I took Iowans’ fight to the United States Senate to eliminate the WOTUS rule in its entirety. My legislation passed through Congress with bipartisan support, but was ultimately vetoed by the President who sided with unchecked bureaucrats over Iowa farmers. 

Another significant challenge facing our producers is low commodity prices and volatility in the cattle market. When I asked what we can do to help, I heard a resounding push for increasing free trade. According to the Business Roundtable, more than one in every five jobs in Iowa depend on international trade. Trade is critical for not only keeping job stability and security at home, but expanding Iowa’s products globally.  Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers are outside of the United States, and we need to have access to those markets. We are seeing an uptick in the demand for protein around the world, and with Iowa producing safe and high quality products, it is a market our farmers want, and should have more access to.

Additionally, in the upcoming year, Congress will begin to consider changes to the existing Farm Bill and it is crucial to understand from the agriculture industry what policies helped, or hurt, from the current version. In some cases, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), clarification on program intent will be part of the conversation.

Recent severe flooding on the eastern side of the state also highlighted the need for crop insurance to remain strong in the Farm Bill. Our producers need to be able to count on its stability, especially during a time where not only the farms, but the entire community, are in need.

Throughout the tour, my longstanding belief in Iowa agriculture was reinforced. Iowa’s ag leaders are the best stewards for the production of safe and affordable food.  With this knowledge in hand, I can continue to represent our great state’s largest economic driver in the United States Senate, and make sure our voice is heard.