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Finkenauer Convenes Family Farmers and Workers to Talk About Trade

Washington, D.C.—Today, Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA), Chairwoman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship held a hearing focused on the impact that trade policies are having on small businesses and workers in America’s rural communities. 

“As a Congresswoman from Iowa’s First Congressional District, whose sister and brother in law are corn and soybean farmers, I’ve watched firsthand the last few years as retaliation from the current trade wars have caused unease, uncertainty, and economic losses across the heartland,” said Chairwoman Finkenauer. “Now, trade issues are coming to the forefront of national conversations with implications for nearly every sector of our economy and we see a number of escalating impacts from current trade negotiations with our major trading partners.” 

With small business making up 97 percent of American exporters, an escalating trade war has left many family farmers and workers concerned for their future. Today’s hearing brought together representatives from: National Pork Producers Council, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. Given the centrality of trade for small business success, the Subcommittee also looked at ways to ensure small businesses in the rural economy are not left behind in any new trade deals.  

Witnesses spoke to the impact that trade policies are having on farmers and workers in rural communities.  

“We are playing defense when we have enormous opportunity to go on offense with one of America’s most competitive export products,” said Mark Meirick, Board Member, Iowa Pork Producers Association Protivin, IA. “Rather than undermining existing trade agreements that are working so well for U.S. agriculture, we should be working to expand exports by opening new markets and improving access where it already exists.”

“We are losing rural population; our towns are shrinking, and our community is slowly dying,” said Rebecca Dostal, Producer, Iowa Farm Bureau, Traer, IA. “If you are a small farmer like me, and you can’t make a living in agriculture, you have no option but to leave.  I strongly believe in the rural way of life, and with today’s economics, sadly, it may not exist for much longer.  We need trade to sustain our farmers, our towns, and our communities.”

“The importance of manufacturing in our agricultural sector is often overlooked,” said Josh Nassar, Legislative Director at UAW. “When the agriculture market is down, it is also down for agriculture equipment. We need a new trade model that is worker centric and values people over investor profits and discourages companies from outsourcing good paying jobs abroad.” 

“Just last month, USDA reported approximately 2,700 dairy farms, a nearly 7 percent drop, ceased operations nationwide in 2018,” said Glenn Stoltzfus, Co-owner, Pennwood Farms, District 11 State Board Director and Dairy Committee Chairman, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. “Nationally, Pennsylvania suffered the second most closures with 370 dairy farms lost, a drop of just under 6 percent. One of my neighbors was one of those farms, and I fear the downward trend will only continue. And unlike traditional business closures, the prior business can’t simply be replaced with a new sign and fresh paint. Instead, many of these farms will be permanently lost, and with it, a way of life.”

For video of today’s hearing, click here.

For witness testimony and other information, click here.

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