Former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Ongoing Ag Tariffs

Sep 4, 2018

Companies and farmers weathering the Trump administration’s trade policy, which has brought painful tariffs to many industries, could be running out of patience. That’s according to former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who served as USDA secretary for both of President Obama’s terms. 

Vilsack says that farmers and companies were willing to be patient as the Trump administration took a hard stand with China, but after feeling the impact of tariffs, that patience is now running out.

“We’re in a situation where we obviously have an economy that the Chinese have been utilizing to build their economy. But we’re also in a situation where our political system is probably less patient than their political system,” he says.

“The most important thing is that people need to get back to the table and start negotiating. This thing will not get resolved unless people start talking to one another, and at this point in time there aren’t any serious discussions taking place.”

He says the longer the tariffs are in place, the more likely it is China will find other places to get its soybeans. And that will leave U.S. producers scrambling to sell nearly 25 percent of their harvest, which they’ve grown used to sending to China.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Vilsack.

Vilsack is the former governor of Iowa and is currently president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. He is in Iowa to speak at Iowa State University. His lecture, “Trade Relations and U.S. Agriculture,” will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, in the Memorial Union Great Hall.

The second half of today's show features an interview with Sen. Jason Schultz (R), who guided the collective bargaining bill through the Senate in 2017. He responds to Rep. Mary Mascher’s (D) comments last week about the impact of Iowa's 2017 collective bargaining law.

Kieffer also talks with Arthur Tate, Superintendent of the Davenport School District, about how he is allocating $1.13 million to increase security at the district's schools.