Trade, infrastructure top of mind during Deputy Secretary Censky’s visit01/16/2020 | Biodiesel, Policy, Transportation, Economics
By Bethany Baratta, senior writer
The Iowa Soybean Association today hosted United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Steve Censky and representatives from Iowa’s ag groups to discuss issues top of mind. The group discussed everything from trade to meat labeling and foreign animal disease preparedness to sustainability.
The visit came just 1 day after the signing of the phase 1 trade agreement between the United States and China, and hours after the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) passed the Senate.
“I really believe this is going to be spectacular for farmers and ranchers,” Censky said.
In the phase 1 agreement, China promises to purchase $80 billion in U.S. ag products over the next 2 years.
Censky said he understands that farmers aren’t immediately made whole by the signing of the agreement. Because of this, Censky is recommending that the third tranche of the second round of Market Facilitation Program payments are paid to farmers.
Censky thanked Iowa farmers and commodity groups for their efforts in getting the USMCA passed. The agreement now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.
“Of course we are all saying, ‘hallelujah’ over the passage of the USMCA,” Censky said. “It was really important that we get USMCA passed to not only realize opportunities in Canada and Mexico, but to expand other market opportunities as well.”
He said the trade agreements announced this week inspire additional market development efforts in areas like Vietnam, the Philippines and Africa.
Without investments and commitments to improving infrastructure, the United States can’t realize its full export potential, said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition.
Prioritizing the dredging of the lower Mississippi River from 45 feet to 50 feet in depth would increase farmer profitability. It’s the top launch location for U.S. soybean and corn exports. Dredging this 256-mile stretch of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Gulf of Mexico would allow for larger ships and more soybeans and corn to be exported.
The project has authorization from Congress and the president through the 2020 appropriation bill, Steenhoek said.
“The last remaining step to get it across the goal line is to get it into the Army Corps of Engineers’ work plan,” Steenhoek said.
Censky requested more information on the project and said he would help push it as a priority for the work plan. He said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James have a shared view of modernizing waterway systems to make American agriculture more competitive in global markets.
Censky said supporting domestic markets by investing in infrastructure is also a priority.
Earlier in the day, he announced a new incentives program to build domestic biodiesel and ethanol infrastructure at retail gas stations. The new endeavor, called the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP), attempts to increase the sales of B20 biodiesel, diesel blended with up to 20% biodiesel, and E15, gasoline blended with 15% ethanol. The USDA is currently accepting input from biofuel stakeholders on the new program.
“We want to do what we can so higher blends of biodiesel and ethanol are sold in the marketplace,” Censky said.
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