Grassley talks heartland crops and heartbeat bill
Farmland in northwest Iowa still has a few wet spots to work around, and farmers hope their seasonal routine will return to normal soon. But last week, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said several wheels have begun to turn and may affect the markets for Midwestern producers. He said a recent delegation of top cabinet members traveled to China with the intention of addressing market issues, but failed to yield results different than those of the past. Some farmers, as well some politicians in Washington, fear the corn and soybean markets may be negatively impacted depending on how China reacts to the Trump administration's proposed tariffs.
"The threat of China against our products, and particularly agricultural products is very real," Grassley said. "Consequently I've been urging the president to be very cautious."
Grassley was quick to add he is supportive of any president working toward a better trade agreement and said President Donald Trump may be well versed in the art of such negotiation.
"This president's a business person, and negotiating — I suppose he generally operates under brinksmanship," the senator said. "(If), by going to the brink, you convince people they ought to reach an agreement, then that's going to be good. But if it'd ever go over the brink, it'd be catastrophic to agriculture."
During last week's interview, the president has not officially imposed the tariffs. However, Grassley said China may already be responding.
"There's already some evidence out there that China has cancelled some soybeans from the United States that were on order and are starting to buy from Brazil and Argentina," he said.
However, he indicated representatives of the Iowa Soybean Association recently spoke with members of Congress and explained there is a seasonal shift of sorts between the northern and southern hemispheres, depending on when and where soybeans are grown. Grassley said that shift may well have been flagged as retaliatory action on China's part. If the shift is indeed in response to Trump's proposition, Grassley feels it is unwarranted.
"I don't think there's any justification for retaliation until we actually impose the tariffs, and I don't think the tariffs are going to be imposed right away as long as there's a possibility of negotiating with China," he said.
Back on Capitol Hill, there will be negotiations of a more domestic nature. Grassley has been critical of the farm bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, but is hoping for better results in the Senate.
"I think our bill in the Senate is going to be very bipartisan, because it's traditionally that way, and it has to be that way to get 60 votes, where as the House has gone away from their customary approach to being very bipartisan on agriculture," Grassley said. "They voted out a partisan Republican bill."
He said the House bill favored southern crops, such as rice, cotton and peanuts, and essentially guarantees farmers producing those crops turn a profit. On the flip-side, Grassley said corn and soybean producers would have the same protections as they did in 2014 under the House bill. The senator believes most Iowa producers, and others in the Midwest, do not want a farm program which guarantees a profit based on the crop planted.
And though the senator feels people in his home state are in general agreement over the farm program, the Iowa public is somewhat divided down the party line when it comes to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' approval of what has been dubbed "The Heartbeat Bill."
Grassley, who said he has maintained an anti-abortion stance his entire career, said scientific facts and definitions of life, such as a heartbeat, may help compromise the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. Echoing sentiments from the governor, Grassley said, since a heartbeat is an indication of life, it follows that it should be just as indicative for a new life.
"That was her reason for signing it, and I'm sure that's the reason a lot of legislators voted for it," Grassley said.
Iowa Democratic Party Vice Chair Andrea Phillips called the bill the most restrictive law limiting women's health in the country and indicated the bill may spark lawsuits calling for the new state law to be struck down as unconstitutional.
"This new law will put lives in danger," Phillips said in a statement. "It will also potentially cost Iowa taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees."
The Supreme Court hasn't weighed in significantly on the subject in recent years, according to Grassley, and lower courts may decide the fate of the bill.
"Quite frankly, I don't think it should be declared unconstitutional based on the science," Grassley said. "But, I know similar bills that probably don't go as far as this one goes have been declared unconstitutional by lower courts."