Agriculture is the Clear-Cut Winner with Sound Trade Policy
By U.S. Senator Joni Ernst
March 14, 2018
Mexico and South Korea are racing for American beef and pork. In 2017 alone, the U.S. shattered records with beef exports hitting $7.27 billion and pork exports reaching $6.49 billion according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. For my home state of Iowa, one of the largest producers in the United States of both, this trend is keeping Iowans employed and the rural economy strong.
What’s driving this acceleration in demand? To start, our farmers and ranchers offer a high-quality product that people crave and trust. But more broadly, this demand and export growth does not happen without the right regulatory policies and trade deals in place.
Recent headwinds reverberating through the White House, evidenced most recently by the President’s decision to implement tariffs on imported steel and aluminum (raising the possibility of a strong retaliatory response on agriculture exports), have many in agriculture and livestock production deeply concerned. President Trump has indicated that he is ready to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and our FTA with South Korea or renegotiate new terms. As we recently closed the seventh round of negotiations in Mexico City and have begun talks with Korea, it is clear that our agriculture industry is looking for answers.
I agree with the President on many things. I also think his intentions on trade are good and flow from a strong desire to put America in the driver’s seat globally. A goal I share. However, I do not share the President’s beef with the current agreements and hope we can land a resolution that modernizes NAFTA and fosters increased trade between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
In fact, NAFTA, and trade deals like KORUS FTA – the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement – are keeping our farms and rural communities not just afloat, but at the forefront and rapidly growing. Far from an adversary, NAFTA is a boon to agriculture, allowing us to satisfy consumer demand that would otherwise be filled by nations like Brazil.
With all eyes on South Korea at the recent Winter Olympics where the world’s best athletes competed, let us bring attention back to the farm gate where some of the world’s hardest-working farmers and ranchers are competing for global market share. Spurred by the 2012 free trade agreement, South Korea is now the sixth largest market for U.S. ag products. The country of 51 million people imported $6.2 billion of agricultural products from the United States in 2016. KORUS has opened new, untapped markets across Asia – markets where the U.S. pork industry could lose the podium to Australia, Canada, Chile and the European Union if we were to revert back to pre-KORUS tariffs.
This is why I continue to lead a vocal effort to communicate the benefits of trade and a “do no harm” approach to the President and other key Administration officials. My hope is these conversations with our allies start and finish with the premise that these agreements should be preserved.
Keeping the U.S. globally competitive has many levers. We recently passed a tax reform bill that will provide Americans needed tax relief while allowing our U.S. businesses to remain competitive and chart a path of expansion. I was proud to work with my Republican colleagues and President Trump to get this across the finish line.
Similarly, our trade deals ensure American exports remain strong and our economy growing. We should give producers a competitive advantage, not a disadvantage, and search for ways to showcase American products across the globe to meet the growing middle-class’ demand. Teaming this effort with regulatory reform to reduce red tape on a highly-regulated industry, we can create a recipe for success that will continue to push American exports to the top of the leaderboard.
Joni Ernst is a United States Senator from the State of Iowa and serves on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.
Read the column on The Peninsula’s website here.
Senate will consider administration official nominations
By Sen. Joni Ernst
December 22, 2107
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As 2017 comes to a close, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today released a series of initiatives and victories she led throughout the year on behalf of Iowans.
“Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with folks from any every corner of the state to hear exactly what is on their mind,” said Senator Ernst. “Across Iowa, folks made clear that they wanted to see Washington get to work, from simplifying the tax code, cutting reckless spending, and growing our economy, to protecting the RFS, strengthening our military, and ensuring our veterans receive timely and quality care. We have made significant progress in 2017, and I am looking forward to building on these gains in the new year.”
Senator Ernst had three bills signed into law as standalones:
Six Ernst-led bills signed into law as a part of legislation:
o Stop Questionable, Unnecessary, and Excessive Allowances for Legislators (SQUEAL) Act (Signed into law through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act)
o Educating Servicemembers in Training On Prevention (E-STOP) Act(Signed into law through the National Defense Authorization Act)
o Suicide Prevention And Resilience Program For The National Guard And Reserves (Signed into law through the National Defense Authorization Act)
o Enhancement of Effective Prosecution and Defense in Courts-Martial(Signed into law through the National Defense Authorization Act)
o PRIVATE Act (Signed into law through the National Defense Authorization Act)
o Legislation to Examine Women-Owned Small Business Opportunities(Signed into law through the National Defense Authorization Act)
- The Iowa Senator helped introduce more than 25 bipartisan bills.
- October marked the completion of Senator Ernst’s third annual 99 county tour as a U.S. Senator. She held 16 public listening sessions and traveled across the state, visiting schools, small businesses, manufacturers, farms, and much more. To find out more about her 99 county tour stops in 2017, click here.
- The office of Senator Ernst also held traveling office hours in all 99 counties, three times over the course of the year to assist Iowans with problems or questions about eligibility involving issues like Social Security, veterans’ benefits, military affairs, passports, immigration issues, and other federal programs.
- Senator Ernst continued to highlight opportunities for Iowa students, hosting two U.S. Service Academy Open Houses in Cedar Rapids and Johnston for those interested in applying to, or learning more about service academies, as well as internships in Washington, D.C. and state offices.
- In the 115th Congress, Ernst serves on four Senate committees: Armed Services; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Environment & Public Works; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The Iowa Senator was also re-named Subcommittee Chairman on Rural Development and Energy andSubcommittee Chairman on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.
- In addition to her committee work, Senator Ernst this year helped form the first-ever, bipartisan, Motorcycle Caucus in the United States Senate, as well as the Albanian Caucus.
LEGISLATIVE BREAKDOWN BY ISSUE
- RE-NAMED SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: Senator Ernst, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, was re-named theSubcommittee Chairman on Rural Development and Energy.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst joined a bipartisan group in introducing legislation to reform the biodiesel tax credit and extend the new policy for three years.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced a resolution that expresses the need to vacate the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
o In June, the EPA, Department of the Army, and Army Corps of Engineers proposed a rule to repeal the WOTUS rule.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the Agriculture Students Encourage, Acknowledge, Reward, Nurture (EARN) Act, which supports young people in agriculture by creating a tax exemption for the first $5,000 of income students 18 years of age or younger earn from projects completed through 4-H or FFA.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, introduced legislation to strengthen the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The bipartisan Regional Conservation Partnership Program Improvement Act will provide more resources for partners to expand the reach of conservation projects, while cutting red-tape and increasing flexibility to attract new participants.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen and improve the Agriculture Risk Coverage-County Level program (ARC-CO), which helps farmers when commodity prices fall to damaging levels.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst, King (I-ME), Donnelly (D-IN) and Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation that would increase funding to successful U.S. Department of Agriculture export promotion programs and help U.S. farmers maintain an edge in the increasingly competitive global marketplace. The bill, the Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act, aims to revitalize the USDA’s export promotion programs, which generated a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested between 1977 and 2014.
- Senator Ernst fought for and received assurances on biofuel volumes and the EPA’s commitment to follow both the letter and the spirit of theRenewable Fuel Standard (RFS), as well as a commitment to not pursue other policies harmful to our farmers across Iowa.
o Sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Scott Pruitt asking him to examine a burdensome regulation that makes it more difficult to sell gasoline with ethanol content above ten percent, such as E15 year round.
o Led a letter along with Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Ed Markey (D-MA) to Administrator Pruitt expressing support for the current point of obligation under the RFS, and urging the EPA to finalize its decision to reject the petitions for rulemaking to change it as soon as possible.
o Joined 22 senators in a bipartisan letter urging President Trump to maintain the point of obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and reject proposed changes that would upend the current successful system.
o Continued to push for legislation she cosponsored that would remove unnecessary regulatory hurdles that keep E15, and higher blends of ethanol, from being sold year round across the country.
o Offered commentary at the EPA public hearing for the proposed RFS for 2018, and the Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2019.
o Sent a letter to President Donald Trump expressing her concern over the EPA move to potentially set biodiesel volumes in the RFS for 2018 and 2019 at substantially lower volumes, which could in turn, hurt Iowa farmers, manufacturers, and rural communities.
o Sent a letter with a bipartisan group of senators to Administrator Scott Pruitt calling for a strong RFS as the agency works toward finalizing its rule on biofuels volume requirements for 2018 under the RFS.
o Joined Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) along with a bipartisan group of 28 other senators in urging the EPA to increase its proposed 2019 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for biodiesel to encourage growth in the industry and diversity in the nation’s energy supply, and to abandon its effort to reduce biofuel production in 2018.
o Met with Administrator Pruitt to express her significant concerns over the agency’s recent action to potentially set biodiesel volumes in the RFS for 2018 and 2019 at substantially lower volumes.
o Received key commitments for Iowa from Administrator Pruitt to support the spirit and the letter of the RFS. However, she expressed disappointed that the 2019 biodiesel numbers were held flat at the bare minimum level that the Administrator committed to.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst is an original co-sponsor of a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget.
- PASSED SENATE: Senator Ernst voted in support of a balanced budget.
- SIGNED INTO LAW IN TAX REFORM: Senator Ernst introduced theStop Questionable, Unnecessary, and Excessive Allowances for Legislators (SQUEAL) Act, which would eliminate a provision of the tax code that allows Members of Congress to deduct, for income tax purposes, up to $3,000 annually in living expenses incurred while away from their districts or home state.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst introduced thePresidential Allowance Modernization Act. This legislation reforms the outdated system that provides former U.S. Presidents with post-presidency benefits by establishing first-ever limits on the taxpayer support they receive. It has since passed out of committee and awaits a final vote on the Senator Floor.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst supports the Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act. This legislation incentivizes federal employees if they report and help identify unneeded or surplus funds within their agency. Once reported, the bill ensures that 90 percent of the unused funds be returned to the Treasury to reduce the deficit or debt.
- Senator Ernst led a bipartisan group of senators in a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis calling for the Department of Defense (DOD) to comply with mandatory audits, which are long-overdue by the department. In December, the DOD announced it would conduct the audit.
- SIGNED INTO LAW IN TAX REFORM: The bipartisan Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act, which Senator Ernst co-sponsored, exempts federal and private student loans from federal income taxes if these loans were forgiven due to death or total and permanent disability.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst helped introduce the bipartisan Know Before You Owe Federal Student Loan Act to increase the amount of information students receive about federal student loans, including their potential ability to repay, before signing up for tens of thousands of dollars in debt to Uncle Sam.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst helped introduce the bipartisan Teachers Are Leaders Act, which would create partnerships between colleges and high-need schools to develop and support innovative teacher leader roles.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst joined a bipartisan group of Senators in reintroducing a bill to prevent sexual assault on college campus – the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. This bipartisan legislation would protect students, professionalize the response to and reporting of sexual assault cases, and provide accountability and transparency for institutions.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is a program that provides matching grants to state and local governments for the purpose of acquiring land to develop outdoor recreation facilities.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst was a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would establish a pilot energy efficiency grant programto help nonprofit organizations such as schools, hospitals, and religious organizations improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and generate renewable energy.
- The Keystone XL Pipeline project was finally approved under the Trump administration to help create good jobs for the middle class and help become more energy independent by reducing our reliance on Middle Eastern oil.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: The reality in Iowa is that continuing the status quo simply isn’t an option because ObamaCare is unsustainable, which is why Senator Ernst co-sponsored the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017, which was put forth by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Ranking Member, Patty Murray (D-WA), that would improve flexibility, expand choice, and help stabilize state health insurance markets for 2018 and 2019.
o Additionally, Senator Ernst voted three times in 2017 to repeal ObamaCare in an effort to replace it with affordable, patient-centered health care.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Cory Gardner (R-CO) re-introduced the Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act, paving the way for contraceptives to be sold over-the-counter without a prescription. Additionally, Congresswomen Mia Love (R-UT) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA) introduced the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- IMPROVING FEDERAL RESPONSE TO OPIOID CRISIS: On November 13, 2017, the GAO released the findings of a study into the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) implementation of regulations that create potential barriers to the participation of local pharmacies in federal drug take-back programs. The report was requested by Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley in March of 2016. GAO found low voluntary participation among pharmacies, citing high costs and confusion over compliance with federal regulations. Prescription drug take-back programs are a necessary and effective part of an all-of-the-above strategy in combatting the opioid epidemic, and Senator Ernst is continuing to look at ways to increase participation moving forward.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst re-introduced Sarah’s Law along with Senators Grassley, Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). This legislation honors Sarah Root, an Iowan killed by a drunk driver in the country illegally. Sarah’s Law would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take custody of an individual who is in the country illegally and is charged with a crime resulting in the death or serious bodily injury of another person.
o This legislation was partially enacted this year through an executive order, which ensured that those charged with criminal offenses are considered priorities for enforcement.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the bipartisan Law Enforcement Heroes Act, which would allow law enforcement grant funds to be used to prioritize the hiring and training of veterans.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored theThin Blue Line Act, which would make killing or targeting law enforcement officers, firefighters, or other first responders an aggravating factor in death penalty determinations.
- PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE: Joining Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), Senator Ernst helped reintroduce the Fair Chance Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would give formerly incarcerated people a fairer chance at securing employment by prohibiting federal contractors and federal agencies from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant until an applicant receives a conditional offer of employment. This bipartisan legislation passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on September 25, 2017.
- RE-INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Grassley re-introduced legislation to grant the Meskwaki Settlement power to enforce laws for certain crimes committed on its land, bringing its authority in line with that of the vast majority of Indian country.
JOBS, ECONOMY, AND REGULATIONS
- SIGNED INTO LAW: Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which will reform the outdated tax code and provide much-needed relief and opportunity for Iowans. The president signed it into law on December 22, 2017.
- SIGNED INTO LAW IN NDAA: Earlier this year, Senator Ernst and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation to direct the Small Business Administration to conduct a comprehensive study on women-owned small business (WOSB) participation in multiple award contracts (MACs) from the federal government. This study will address concerns that WOSBs are underrepresented in MACs, and will also examine the participation of all other socio-economic categories of small businesses, including service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and those participating in the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program. This legislation was included in the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
- SIGNED INTO LAW IN TAX REFORM: The bipartisan Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which Senator Ernst co-sponsors, would lower federal excise taxes on the brewing industry as well as reduce compliance burdens and regulations on brewers, cider makers, vintners, and distillers.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced the Prove It Act, bipartisan legislation that aims to improve transparency and strengthen the voices of small businesses in the rulemaking process by giving the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy (the small business watchdog for federal rules and regulations) an opportunity to ask agencies to prove their regulatory analysis when proposing a rule that may be economically harmful to small businesses.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored theRegulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, legislation that would require Congress to carefully review and approve major rules and regulations issued by federal agencies that have an economic impact of $100 million or more annually.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored theRED Tape Act, legislation that would require a federal agency to remove two regulations from the Federal Register for every new one promulgated.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored of the bipartisan Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act, legislation that aims to protect amateur motorsports enthusiasts and parts suppliers from regulations that could negatively impact the sport and the industry that supports it.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the bipartisan Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act, which would provide a tax credit to businesses who hire apprentices.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: The CLEAR Relief Act, which Senator Ernst co-sponsors, is a bipartisan bill that seeks to reduce the regulatory burden on small banks.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst cosponsors theTaking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk Act (TAILOR) Act, which requires financial regulatory agencies to tailor regulatory actions in a way that limits their burden on small, low-risk institutions.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced a bipartisan bill to hold federal agencies accountable to act on recommendations that save taxpayer money and make government more efficient.
- NAMED SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: Senator Ernst, the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was named the Subcommittee Chairman on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.
- SIGNED INTO LAW: Thirty-seven of Senator Ernst’s provisions were included in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Summary of Ernst Bills Included in FY ‘18 NDAA:
o SIGNED INTO LAW IN NDAA: S.1243 – Educating Servicemembers in Training On Prevention (E-STOP) Act
o SIGNED INTO LAW IN NDAA: S.1316