“America’s farmers are great,” President Donald Trump told a cheering crowd of about 250 people, many of them farmers and ag industry officials Wednesday in Cedar Rapids. The nation’s leader said he has a plan to make agriculture and rural America even greater.
Trump toured Kirkwood Community College, visiting the ag department where he learned about precision agriculture and ag technology. He said his administration will always support farmers—“the backbone of rural America.” He pledged his commitment to boosting ag exports, negotiating better trade deals, loosening “job killing” federal regulations, eliminating the “death tax” on estates, supporting ethanol and biofuels, and investing in rural infrastructure and better internet access.
Funding for expanded broadband internet will be included in a $1 trillion forthcoming infrastructure package, he said. A big part of that plan is to rebuild rural roads and bridges to ensure ag products continue to get to market efficiently.
Promises to help improve agriculture
“Farming is something that is very beautiful to me. I’m not a farmer, but I’d be very happy to be one,” he told the crowd. “It’s a very beautiful world to me and it’s a truly noble profession.” He added, “I’m here today to talk about how we’re going to empower America’s farmers and protect our nation’s proud farming legacy.”
One way to do that is to support schools like Kirkwood, which claims to be the No. 1 two-year ag school in the nation. On his tour of the school’s ag department, an instructor and a student showed Trump the school’s combine simulator. The president also heard an explanation of how variable rate technology can improve farming efficiency, boost production and reduce costs. He was impressed that a smartphone can be used to control the application of seed and fertilizer. “If we can continue to train our workers on these new technologies, we will usher in a new era of prosperity for American agriculture,” Trump said.
Praises Branstad as ambassador to China
Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, now Ambassador to China in the Trump Administration, flew with the president on Air Force One from Washington, D.C. to Cedar Rapids. Branstad received a standing ovation when Trump introduced him to the crowd at Kirkwood. Branstad will soon be leaving the U.S. to begin his work at the U.S. Embassy in China.
Trump said Branstad’s friendship with the people of China and President Xi Jinping is the reason he nominated Branstad to be the next U.S. ambassador to China, a major importer of soybeans and other agricultural products. “Terry Branstad will be serving in Beijing but he will be fighting for American farmers and American workers,” Trump said. “There is no one I can think of who can do a better job.”
In addition to Branstad, Trump was accompanied to Cedar Rapids by his Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Branstad said Trump’s focus on world trade is already working. “We’ve been trying to get American beef into China for 13 years and you’ve already got it done,” said Branstad, referring to China’s recent decision to begin importing U.S. beef again.
Controversial comment about wind energy
After the tour and speech at the community college, Trump addressed a campaign rally of about 6,000 people that evening in Cedar Rapids. Again carrying a rural theme to the speech, he was cheered by the crowd as he talked about his administration’s early accomplishments and future plans. His address wasn’t without controversy, however.
As Trump mentioned his support for all types of energy production, including coal for producing electricity, he said, “I don’t want to just hope the wind flows to light up your homes and your factories,” then added, “as the birds fall to the ground.” Trump made that comment about wind turbines after ticking off a list of energy sources his administration supports. The remark, disparaging wind energy, drew some cheers inside the arena but didn’t go over very well with many Iowans who take pride in their state being a national leader in wind power generation of electricity.
Trump again pledges support for biofuels
Trump reiterated his support for U.S.-produced renewable fuels, as several issues vital to the future of biofuels are pending within his administration. Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, released the following statement:
“Last night President Trump made plain his personal support for ethanol and renewable fuels. He has not forgotten that it was farmers and rural Americans who propelled him to the White House. More importantly, President Trump understands the link between increasing ethanol and biodiesel use and getting the rural economy humming again.”
Renewable fuel industry leader calls for action
“Now it is time for action,” said Shaw. “President Trump’s EPA needs to release the proposed Renewable Fuel Standard volumes for 2018. That proposal needs to maintain ethanol levels at the statutory 15 billion gallons and should include a major boost in the biodiesel number to reflect reality in the marketplace.
“The Trump EPA needs to knock down the summertime barrier standing between consumers and lower-cost, higher-octane E15. The Trump trade team needs to continue standing by the biodiesel industry in fighting against unfair and illegally subsidized imports that shut down U.S. biodiesel plants. And President Trump and his new Ambassador to China, Iowa’s own Terry Branstad, must knock down the illegal barriers China has thrown up to keep out American ethanol and distillers grains.
“In short, his administration needs to take these actions to breathe life into President Trump’s words to Iowans. The renewable fuels industry is straining against these barriers to expand – to expand production, to expand its use of American ag commodities, to expand American jobs, and to expand the rural American economy. It is time for the rubber to meet the road. Rural America is ready and willing, but waiting.”