OSKALOOSA — The farm bill and tariffs are major concerns shared by community members during a recent visit by Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Any question is appropriate, Grassley said.
"A lot of people sit back, they think they're going to ask a stupid question," he said. "I've never had a stupid question asked of me. Or else I'm too stupid to recognize it. So anything you want to ask me, even personal questions."
Grassley said he believes the farm bill will either be passed prior to the elections in November or the existing bill, which runs out Sept. 30, will be extended.
SNAP is a big part of the bill, Grassley said, along with what to do with CRP and crop insurance.
"I'd say SNAP is the 900-pound gorilla," he said. "These other things will be worked out fairly easy."
Grassley said he thinks everything the Senate is doing in the farm bill is to correct some things that were wrong in the 2014 farm bill.
"For instance, it doesn't do much to crop insurance because farmers were telling me for the last two years 'when you re-write the farm bill, just leave crop insurance alone,'" he said. "But with the ARC [agriculture risk coverage] program, there's some counties that get some payments and then a county right next to it maybe no payments at all. So we're trying to correct the inequity that's in the ARC program."
Regarding CRP, Grassley said the 2014 formula needs to be changed.
"At that time, the price of corn was $7; it got the payment from the federal government so high that the federal government was outbidding cash rent farmers for land," he said." So it went into the CRP for five to ten years and just hurt a lot of farmers. So we're going to make a change so that the payment from the federal government is not more than 80 percent of what the average cash value is in a particular county."
Another change, Grassley said, was to target CRP to be used just for environmentally-fragile land, not the most productive land.
Grassley said he is supportive of President Trump's efforts to reduce tariffs worldwide in order to have more markets and easier markets.
"But if you also ask me do I have great confidence it's going to work, I don't know and it makes me very nervous," he said. "I hope I'm not beating around the bush too much, but that's just exactly the way I feel about it."
The president's goal is a worthy goal, Grassley said.
"I have never really seen him make a statement along this line, but I've heard enough bits of what he says one day and here another day," Grassley said, "and it comes a little bit from three or four meetings several of us senators had with him on this very subject of the impact of his tariffs on agriculture."
Grassley said the senators would caution the president about having a trade war.
"But he would say 'what are you talking about? Trade war? We've had a trade war for decades and we lost,'" Grassley said. "So he feels that it's about time that we get the rest of the countries that we have helped for 70 years, to get their tariffs down."
There is some light at the end of the tunnel, Grassley said, but was not able to give an update regarding matters with China.