Trade matters to Iowa
With the most productive farmers and farmland in the world, Iowa is blessed to grow and raise significantly more than the 3 million people of our state can consume. Therefore, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to help provide for consumers all over the planet. And Iowans can be immensely proud of that. The products we grow, raise, process, and produce are purchased by consumers in 185 countries around the globe.
One-in-five Iowa jobs are tied to agriculture. Given that agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy, our families and communities benefit when worldwide demand for Iowa products remains strong. It’s clear that trade matters to Iowa.
As Iowa secretary of agriculture, one of my top priorities is to establish, build and grow markets for Iowa products locally, nationally and internationally.
In late February, I had the honor of leading a trade mission to Japan and South Korea, two critically important markets for Iowa red meat, grain and biofuels. A group of Iowa farmers, agricultural leaders and economic development professionals joined me as we met with government officials, organizations, businesses, buyers, and importers over several days. In 2022, Iowa companies exported $1.8 billion in goods to Japan and $886 million to South Korea. Japan is Iowa’s third largest export destination overall and the second-leading export market for pork, beef and corn. South Korea is the fourth largest destination for Iowa pork and beef and the sixth largest destination for corn. South Korea is also Iowa’s second largest international market for ethanol. Going forward, there is significant potential for growth of biofuel exports to both countries.
I will lead another group of Iowans on a trade mission to Vietnam and the Philippines this spring. Our goal is to build new relationships, strengthen existing friendships and create even more consumer demand for our grain, meat and other agricultural products in those growing markets.
Closer to home, Mexico has reiterated its intentions to ban biotech corn imports by 2025. This is deeply concerning given that Mexico accounts for 25 percent of American corn exports. This decree violates the USMCA trade agreement, would slash billions from our economy and impact the jobs of thousands of hardworking Americans. Our carefully negotiated trade agreements must be respected, and it is crucial that the Biden Administration takes swift action to prevent economic damage.
Longer term, it’s essential that the United States continues to strengthen existing trade agreements while forging new ones with global friends and allies, including the United Kingdom. Our new Farm Bill must also prioritize trade promotion and market development in order to capitalize on emerging markets, including India and countries within Africa that have rapidly growing populations.
With spring upon us, Iowa farmers are gearing up for the planting of our crops, and our pastures are dotted with energetic newborn calves. It’s an exciting and optimistic time of year, but nothing in agriculture is easy right now. Interest rates are rising, inflation is persistent, input costs are climbing and foreign animal disease threats are constant. Yet, even amidst these challenges, the instability in the world and the continued supply chain disruptions, our global customers know that we offer a proven, reliable and consistent supply of high-quality products to meet the needs of their consumers.
Global trade is competitive, but when Iowa farmers are provided with a level playing field, there is nobody in the world that can beat us.
Mike Naig is Iowa’s secretary of agriculture.