Gov. Kim Reynolds
Gov. Kim Reynolds

August 7, 2017

Des Moines

Gov. Kim Reynolds took center stage at the Iowa Agriculture Summit Saturday to discuss China, renewable fuels and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Reynolds’ message to an audience composed of Iowa’s ag leaders centered on the first-ever all-Iowa trade mission to China — a trip that Reynolds spearheaded.

“Agriculture provides a trade surplus (for the United States), despite a national deficit,” Reynolds said. “China is reliant on (agricultural) imports.”

The 10-day day trip commenced July 19. Ag leaders from the soybean, beef, egg and corn industries, as well as a number of other farm organizations, joined Reynolds on her mission. She opened her speech with three takeaways from the trade mission:

— Iowa is globally recognized for producing safe, reliable and quality products.

— Iowans think globally.

— Trade relationships are critical for Iowa’s economy.

Reynolds noted that agriculture pumps $112 billion into Iowa’s economy. With 88,000 farms, 85 percent of Iowa’s acreage is used for farming, Reynolds said.

“Rural America serves as a pathway for global trade,” Reynolds said. “One in three farm acres are planted for exports. Farmers exported more than $11 million in agriculture exports in 2015.”

The summit was hosted in the Iowa Events Center by Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Summit Group, a large farm management, investment and livestock and crop production company based in Alden.

U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst took the stage to discuss trade relations, regulations and the 2018 Farm Bill The event was headlined by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who was on a tour around upper Midwest dubbed “Back to the Roots.”

The event also featured six panel discussions on the topics of conservation, renewable energy, the Farm Bill and the next generation of farmers. Hundreds of farmers, educators and journalists sat at round tables to hear from agricultural businessmen, researchers and other leaders about their knowledge and opinions on the forementioned topics.

Reynolds was the first speaker of the event. After an opening dialogue praising Iowa’s agricultural success, Reynolds jumped to the topic of modernizing NAFTA, the agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. Reynolds said she visited with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the National Governors Association (NGA) to discuss “modernizing NAFTA.”

Reynolds said that the modernization of NAFTA would “ensure that Iowa’s high-quality products continue to move across borders around the world.”

She added that it would encourage more direct foreign investment in Iowa.

While in China, Reynolds said, she met with “high level” Chinese government officials and the U.S. ambassador to China, former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad,  to assess President Trump’s 100-day plan. The plan was announced in April during a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The agreement included China lifting its 13-year ban of beef imports. China also lifted its ban on liquefied natural gas.

“Through the plan, biotech sea trades were expedited through the approval process, something that we had not seen movement on for five years,” Reynolds said.

To close, Reynolds addressed the benefits of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program. The program requires renewable fuel to be blended into transportation fuel in increasing amounts each year. Reynolds said the RFS supports 43,00 jobs and supplements $2.3 billion in incomes for Iowans. She cited a 2015 study that found that the renewable-fuel industry contributed $5 billion to Iowa’s GDP.

“We need to continue to deliver that message on the importance of a robust renewable-fuel standard,” Reynolds said. “My message is that if you set those standards high, Iowa’s producers will meet and exceed those levels.”