Joni Ernst: Working through tough times

As Published In: The Spokesman, September 8, 2020

Agriculture. It’s a way of life here in Iowa.

I grew up and worked on a hog, corn and soybean farm in southwest Iowa. And even now, I’m still living in that same rural community. So when it comes to agriculture, I get it, folks.

Whether it’s the COVID-19 pandemic, a derecho or the drought, 2020 has been a heck of a year for Iowans. But even in these tough times, our farmers have continued to work around the clock to feed and fuel our state, nation and world.

I was over in Jones County right after the derecho hit, and the amount of destruction on this one farm family’s land was heartbreaking. Grain bins crushed like pop cans. Just listening to them detail the destruction brought tears to our eyes.

Farmers are fighters. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need support and our gratitude.

I’ve visited with so many of you throughout my 99 County Tour this year — which I just completed, my sixth year in a row hitting every county — and specifically on this final stretch of the tour, what I called “Homegrown Week.” This week alone, I met with some pork producers over in Wright County, visited a pork processing plant in Hancock County, toured a biofuel plant in Worth County, learned about Iowa State University’s agriculture research project in Floyd County, met with young and beginning farmers in Allamakee County and heard from a dairy farmer in Winneshiek County. And on the final day of our “Homegrown Week,” and for my last 99 County Tour stop this year, I was joined by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

 

Surveying derecho damage

We surveyed derecho damage and then visited a chestnut farm in Hardin County to see one of our newest wetland sites and discuss the ongoing conservation efforts in Iowa.

Now, you all know that when an administration official is in the state, I don’t miss an opportunity to bring your voices to the table.

A couple weeks ago when the president was here, I secured his commitment to intervene with EPA on the “gap year waivers.” And this time, I made it clear to Secretary Perdue that the agency needs to clearly communicate how crop insurance coverage will be executed for derecho damage and what disaster assistance is available from USDA. I also made a point to discuss our hardworking biofuel industry and the need for USDA to commit to giving them access to COVID relief.

 

Fight is never over

Folks, while the fight for our farmers is never over, we have made some great strides together in the last few years, like scrapping President Obama’s former Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, securing E15 year-round, finalizing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), expanding the biodiesel tax credit, strengthening our conservation programs, helping young and beginning farmers, supporting mental health efforts for farmers and making sure you get relief during this COVID-19 pandemic. And these efforts are still ongoing. Right now, I’m pushing Senate leadership to ensure additional COVID relief for our ag community — and that includes our ethanol producers.

Farmers don’t always get the recognition they deserve. So I just want to say a heartfelt thank you — thank you for getting up early every day, putting in a full day’s work (rain or shine), and feeding and fueling our world. As the daughter of a farmer, I will always fight relentlessly for Iowa agriculture no matter what challenge we might be up against, because you all are truly the backbone of our great state.

To read the column in The Spokesman, click here.