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Soybean leaders talk Farm Bill, tariffs on Capitol Hill

Article cover photo
New farm legislation, along with tariffs, dominated discussions at ASA’s first-of-its-kind Policy Communications Bootcamp last week in Washington D.C. (Photo credit: Matt Wilde/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Katie Johnson

There is a very good probability of a new Farm Bill before 2019, according to John Gordley, an American Soybean Association (ASA) policy partner.

New farm legislation, along with tariffs, dominated discussions at ASA’s first-of-its-kind Policy Communications Bootcamp last week in Washington D.C. Soybean leaders from across the country spent two days meeting with ASA staff, industry experts and Senate Agriculture Committee staffers.

“The goal for this Bootcamp was to bring together national and state communicators to further relationships while building on policy knowledge,” said Jessica Wharton, ASA state policy and communications coordinator. “Exploring how we as an association communicate about key policy issues like trade and tariffs, Farm Bill and more is key to advocating for the soy growers in each state.”

Participants also examined how non-soybean checkoff dollars are utilized to promote the soybean industry. The event gave state communicators insights on agricultural policy and legislation — starting with an in-depth look at the Farm Bill.

The House Farm Bill passed on a partisan vote of 213–211. The Senate version passed on a bipartisan vote of 86-11.

The major difference between the House and the Senate versions of the bill focused on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) work requirements. The House bill focused on tighter work requirements, while there were no major changes in SNAP by the Senate.

Additionally, the House bill puts the use of savings from unassigned base acres toward funding for Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) yield updates in drought counties in the Southwest. Chairman of the House Ag Committee, Mike Conaway of Texas, represents a district involved in the 417 counties affected by drought throughout the region. Conaway has been actively promoting the yield update provision. It is likely to pass, according to ASA policy experts.

The ASA policy team agrees that due to the looming year-end deadline, farmers can expect compromises and agreements on a new bill in December with a signature from President Donald Trump.

“Looking at this logistically, nobody wants to start over in 2019. Especially Chairman Conaway,” said Gordley when commenting on the optimism towards a completed farm bill. “Chairman Conaway will no longer serve as Chairman next year. That’s an important factor in this.”

The alternative to completing a farm bill before year-end is a new bill in 2019 or a one- to three-year extension of the 2014 Farm Bill.

If the Farm Bill passes, agriculture committees will most likely entertain several hearings on the impacts of tariffs and trade on the farm economy, officials said. Specifically, the retaliatory tariffs sanctioned on the United States in July that increased tariffs on U.S. soybean imports to China by 25 percent.

ASA, in addition to consistently promoting a resolution to the trade war, is asking to use revenue from tariffs placed on other countries to double the funding for Foreign Market Development (FMD) and Market Access Program (MAP).

“The idea is not to encourage tariffs, but to utilize funds brought forth from them toward projects that will enhance long-term competitiveness for the soybean industry,” said Wendy Brennan, ASA director of policy communication.

Hanna Abou, a trade policy expert with Gordley Associates, provided background of tariffs in the United States.

The first-time high tariffs were ever seen were the Smoot-Hawley tariffs of 1930. Much like today, once the U.S. raised tariffs, other countries did the same.

Abou said the president does not need congressional approval to adjust tariffs on other countries.

This is how President Donald Trump was able to enact further tariffs so quickly. The administration cited Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 where the secretary of commerce has the authority to investigate the impacts of imports on national security, giving the president the power to adjust tariffs accordingly.

Abou says simply lifting the tariffs will not negate the damage that has been done.

“Lifting tariffs will not solve the problem,” she said. “We have jeopardized China, our most important and fastest growing market, not just in the last six months but perhaps forever.”

Soybean leaders visited with Committee staffers about how to best reach agricultural lawmakers.

“Email is generally the best chance of reaching your Senator or congressperson,” commented a staffer representing Senator Stabenow. “Physical mail can get lost, or even burned in the UV check each package undergoes before delivery to the office.”

The staffers echoed the optimism towards the probability of a new farm bill while also commenting on the seriousness of trade policies.

“Agriculture changes every 100 miles,” Gordley said. “It’s amazing we’ve collaborated on policy as much as we have.”

For media inquiries, please contact Katie Johnson, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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