Ernst critical of Biden Administration’s ag trade message

by | May 10, 2024 | 5 Ag Stories, News

Many of you who have children or are kids at heart have probably seen the original Lego Movie®. It was a neat little story about overcoming adversity and learning the value of teamwork. The movie produced a well-known song that entered the pop culture lexicon for a time. It was called, “Everything is Awesome.”* The song painted a picture that nothing is wrong. Everything is great as long as you and your team believe it is.

During the NAFB Washington Watch event last week in the nation’s capital, many of us commented we could have saved time by having this song played at every meeting we had with Biden Administration officials. Because it seemed that no matter what we asked the team about, the answers were a standard mix of the following:

  1. The Inflation Reduction Act
  2. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
  3. “Unemployment numbers are low.”
  4. “Everything is better than it was during the last administration.”

It didn’t matter if we asked about biofuels, trade deficits, or the fact that while we have new infrastructures and services, people can’t afford to connect to them or use them; these were the standard answers.

Last week, we heard from the Chief Ag Negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative, Doug McKalip. He said that there is no deficit in ag trade. Our sales numbers are higher than they were four years ago. It didn’t matter when we asked how those numbers are being adjusted for inflation. They said there was no inflation.

Remember… “Everything is awesome.”

If you go to the grocery store you know that a cart full of groceries costs a lot more than a few years ago. The price of everything is going up and is getting out of hand, no matter what anybody in Washington says. So, when they say we have $180 billion in ag trade, you can probably guess that number has inflated from the years gone by when you got more for your dollar.

But remember…. “Everything is awesome.”

As a reminder, here are Ambassador McKalip’s comments to Ag journalists in Washington last week.

When I met with Iowa Senator Joni Ernst and shared with her what Ambassador McKalip had to say about our “robust ag trade”, despite the numbers from the USDA that weekly tell us we are falling short of our targets and that we have piles of grain that aren’t moving; she had a one-word response: “Stop!”

Just to put this in perspective this is the administration’s reasoning for the ag trade deficit, according to Ambassador McKalip. It’s a combination of the fact that we are importing more specialty crops and products that we don’t grow here. Basically, we have a trade deficit because our economy is too strong.

That’s right. We cannot export enough goods because “Everything is awesome.”

Senator Ernst disagrees and says that we need more from U.S. Trade Representative Katerine Tai.

Ernst says that no matter how many times that the Biden Administration says that “Everything is awesome”, we don’t have to look very far around Iowa and the rest of the country to see that it isn’t. The food dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to. Families are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table. Food imports are not just a result of specialty crops, but other countries putting American produce farmers out of business because they sell for dirt-cheap prices. It’s easy when their workers aren’t paid living wages.

Now, Ambassador McKalip said that trade deals would be easier to negotiate if the USTR’s office had access to Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Senator Ernst says she agrees that Congress needs to give the USTR the tools they need to get the job done, as long as they are going to use the tools the way they are meant to be used. Ernst says that if we don’t stay aggressive on trade, China will take advantage of the vacuum in the marketplace.

*Everything is Awesome: Words and music by Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew, Lisa Harriton, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone / performed by Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island