Naig sees benefits for farmers in Mexico deal

Secretary also sees weather woes for Iowa growers

A recently announced trade agreement between the United States and Mexico appears to be a good deal for Iowa farmers, according to state Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

While many details of the pact announced by President Donald Ttrump have yet to be outlined, Naig said the agreement “looks very favorable” for the state’s farmers because it continues the practice of not having any tariffs on trade between the two countries.

“We can out-compete other suppliers when we have that zero tariff treatment,” Naig said Wednesday during a visit to Fort Dodge.

The North American Free Trade Agreement — NAFTA –implemented about 25 years ago eliminated tariffs between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“Now the question is, can we get the Canadians to come to the table in a way that we can truly have a NAFTA 2.0,” Naig said.

He said Canada and Mexico are the top two trading partners for Iowa.

The secretary said he did not know if Mexico commited to buying more American farm products during the recent negotiations.

Trump has also announced some financial aid to farmers hurt by tariffs imposed other countries, especially China.

“What I continue to hear from farmers as I travel the state is ‘We want trade, not aid,'” Naig said. “This is not something we want.”

He said trade and open markets are “absolutely the long-term solution.”

Naig said details of the federal aid package are now coming out. He said payments for corn and soybean crops will be based on this year’s crop yields.

Aid to pork producers, he said, will be based on the number of hogs they owned on Aug. 1.

As farmers across the state grapple with how trade issues will affect their bottom lines, they’re also dealing with widely variable weather conditions.

Those in the northern part of the state have been getting too much rain.

“We definitely, in those northern two tiers of counties, have been hearing of some real challenges from flooding,” Naig said.

In southern Iowa, especially Davis County, farmers are enduring a drought.

“Unfortunately, the rain that they are getting now is too little, too late,” Naig said.

But in the center of the state, farmers are experiencing good growing conditions, he said.

“You take a swath through the middle part of the state and there are some phenomenal-looking crops,” he said. “I think we’ll see record yields in part of our state.”

Naig spent part of Wednesday afternoon touring the Martin Marietta limestone mine west of Fort Dodge. The agency he leads, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, has some regulatory oversight of the mine.

One of the lesser-known elements of the department is the Mines and Minerals Bureau, which Naig said regulates 12 underground mines and about 1,000 surface mines in the state. While the federal government enforces safety rules, the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship does things like ensuring that stormwater doesn’t flow off mine properties.

Naig, who was formerly the deputy secretary of agriculture, was named to the top job on March 5 after former Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey was appointed under secretary for farm production and conservation in the United States Department of Agriculture.

Naig is seeking his first full term as secretary in the November general election. He faces Democrat Tim Gannon.