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Statement of the Hon. Abby Finkenauer on The Small Business Trade Snapshot: Agriculture and Workers

As a Congresswoman from Iowa’s First Congressional District, whose sister and brother in law are corn and soybean farmers, I’ve watched first hand the last few years as retaliation from the current trade wars have caused unease, uncertainty and economic losses across the heartland.

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.

Small businesses, which I like to remind folks includes farmers, make up ninety-seven percent of U.S. exporters. I look forward to hearing about what you all think of the state of trade for farmers, some of which are here with us today, and working families, who are critical to small and large businesses in numerous trade-impacted industries.

We also want to understand what you want to see out of future trade agreements as Congress also learns more about the President’s renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA – or USMCA as it’s being called now – and our trade discussions with China, Japan, and the European Union continue.

It is no secret that farmers and working families are the backbone of the agricultural economy. In Iowa, our agriculture and manufacturing economy go hand in hand. If our farmers are doing well, so are our working families and large and small manufacturers like our UAW workers who work on farm equipment at John Deere. Their sustained success is critical for communities in Iowa and the rest of the country.

To promote success in rural America we must ensure we a have trade policy that helps us export goods but also protects our workers, communities, and production. Trade issues are very important to me, which is why our first hearing was on the State Trade and Export Promotion Program. And now our second hearing is on trade. Whether it is purchasing the latest iPhone, selling pork or soy abroad, or buying a car, every American is impacted by trade policies.

Our farmers and workers make the Hawkeye state the country’s 2nd largest agricultural exporting state, shipping $10.9 billion in agricultural exports abroad in 2016.In my district alone, nearly 14,000 people make their livelihoods in agriculture, again some of my own family. We also have union members in my family, and it’s not uncommon in Iowa to have both. Oftentimes in small family farms often under 500 acres, you’ll also have UAW or IBEW members who work hard everyday with pride in their farm and their union job that provides good healthcare and retirement.

Our farmers and workers also know some challenges can come with trade. We need to understand how the two are often interlinked – agriculture and workers in manufacturing and transportation for example – so when we are negotiating trade deals, we do so in a way that lifts up all Americans.

We should stand up to countries that are not playing by the rules and lean on our allies for strength. We also must take advantage of every opportunity we have to ensure that American workers, jobs and livelihoods are being considered. Ill-conceived trade policy can produce trade wars that create instability. In the simplest terms, trade wars can easily become a tax paid by every American, decreasing exports, and slowing economic growth. Bad trade deals – or a lack of accountability – can hurt communities and American workers.

It is vital we retain access to new and expanding markets, but also use our economic power to ensure that the American worker and our farms and businesses are competing on a level playing field. In our global economy, 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the US. And, for our rural entrepreneurs and farmers, the ability to do business overseas can be key.

But we know more work needs to be done when only one percent of our nation’s 30 million small businesses are able to access foreign markets. More needs to be done when other nation’s undercut American workers and hurt our domestic businesses.

In Congress, we need to think about trade as making it easier for farmers and small employers to succeed in the international marketplace while also protecting our workers. It is my hope we can do both, and we need a thoughtful approach. The farmers and small businesses in my district simply want a level playing field on which to compete – and they want to be heard.

We need to start doing more listening in Congress on trade. We want to hear more from the Administration on trade as well. Congress is supposed to have a role in trade agreements, so it’s important that the subcommittee raise these issues when we can, to get this dialogue going and really uplift what’s happening with trade and tariffs the real on the ground impact on our communities.

Congress is just starting to hear from the Administration on trade, and the USMCA agreement has not yet been delivered to Congress, which is why this hearing is important. In much of the country, there are agriculture interests, and hard-working Americans whose economic interests are linked. If our farmers are not doing well, they are less likely to buy a new tractor – which again are made in the heartland by union members. Iowa State University estimated that the trade wars will cost Iowa alone $1 to $2 billion in losses.

Trade deals impact all our congressional districts. And that’s why we’re here today. I want to do some listening, and fact-finding on the state of trade right now and where our witnesses think Congress and the President should be going to have their back.

I hope we all take today’s testimony to heart and prioritize their concerns through our actions here in Congress. I hope we all take our fellow committee members comments to heart as well even if they may disagree with our own positions.

With that, I thank each of the witnesses for joining us today and I look forward to your testimony.  

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