President Trump’s $12 billion in emergency farm aid should be in the hands of Kansas farmers by November or December.
That’s the hope of Kansas’ 1st District Congressman Roger Marshall, who acknowledged Friday “there are more questions than answers” regarding delivery.
“Certainly the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is going to be totally in charge of it,” Marshall told Hays Chamber of Commerce members gathered at Historic Fort Hays on Friday morning. “I don’t anticipate any congressional input, which is probably a good thing.”
It’s likely the direct payments will be handled through the USDA Farm Service Agency and pro-rated based upon the commodity loss, so sorghum and pork will get a huge chunk of it, he said.
“I’m hoping that farmers, agriculture producers, will see the monies probably November, December,” Marshall said. “That would be my hope and what we’re pushing the secretary to do.”
Marshall was at the Historic Fort, 1472 U.S. Highway 183 Alternate, as part of the chamber’s weekly Friday morning Chamber Chat. He’s looking forward to getting the tariffs and trade issues behind the country, he said, and was hoping for a big announcement as early as later in the day Friday or next week with Mexico that the two countries have reached an agreement in principal.
After that, Canada is next, he said, and then the European Union, Japan and China. President Trump seeks fair trade as well as free trade, particularly as it pertains to NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, he said.
“They understand that President Trump is not going to flinch,” Marshall said. “It is certainly short-term pain, but I’m looking forward to the long-term gain. There’s huge upsides. It’s not fair that China charges us 25 percent minimum tariff, and we can only charge them a 2 percent tariff based on WTO rules.”
The tariffs force other countries to work with the United States to write fair trade deals, Marshall said.
“Other countries have taken advantage of us, especially the American agriculture producer, for decades. And they refuse to negotiate and make it fair. So we’ve given everyone all these free rides and free passes,” he said. “So these tariffs have forced all these other countries to the table today. So we would be nowhere without those tariffs.”
Marshall described the tariffs as a tax on consumers, but said the short-term pain is worth the long-term gain of no tariffs at all. Currently, other countries such as Canada aren’t respecting U.S. intellectual property of the music, movie and pharmaceutical industries. And charging high tariffs in others.
Canada has a 270 percent tariff on U.S. milk and a 300 percent tariff on U.S. butter, he said.
“Canada dumps huge amounts of dry milk on the market, killing my milk processing plant down in Garden City,” Marshall said. “So we need fair trade as well as free trade. I want zero tariffs. The president wants zero tariffs. So there is short term pain.”
Marshall said he’s talked to the president about the harm the tariffs cause farming. The president, he said, is very motivated to wrap up trade talks, but won’t accept a bad deal.
“He wants good long-term solutions. And I think if American agriculture can hang in with us for the next four weeks, we’re going to have Mexico pretty well wrapped up,” he said. “This week, as we speak, in Washington D.C., representatives from Mexico, from the European Union and from Japan and China are realizing that this president is serious about these tariffs.”
Marshall’s message Friday to those who stopped and chatted was an emphasis on state and local government. At the national level, he can work with President Trump to decrease regulations, reduce taxes, encourage a strong economy, and leave local money in local hands.
Ellis County Public Works Director Bill Ring talked to Marshall about the condition of Kansas’ roads, saying it’s slipping in state road rankings, and citing concerns about federal road funding.
“I hear you,” Marshall said. “It’s frustrating to me that Kansas has taken three steps backwards with roads and education over the past 10 years. And a lot of it is economically driven. I hear you loud and clear."
President Trump’s plan for $250 billion in federal infrastructure investment is delayed, however, by a lack of money to fund the plan. Marshall said the plan includes $50 billion for rural America.
“Now we have to figure out how to pay for it. My prediction is that in November and December we’ll start formulating a plan. But it will take a lot of the President’s leadership to be able to get this through Congress,” Marshall said. “The good thing about this president is he doesn’t kick things down the road. He likes to actually fix things and hold people accountable. So I think this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do a major infrastructure plan. But all that is dependent on a strong economy. If there’s no strong economy there’s no tax revenue to build bridges and roads.”
The Trump administration is trying to reduce the federal government’s involvement in projects to drive down the cost and speed up the time from concept to lane asphalt. Funding is another matter, however.
“I don’t expect a big parachute of money coming in this year from the federal government,” he said. “So the concept of looking to Washington to fix all the problems, that’s not going to happen. Washington does a horrible job of fixing local problems.”