Michael Bennet releases trade, agriculture policy plan
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said to strengthen America's trade policy, farmers must be at the forefront of the discussion.
The Democratic presidential candidate from Colorado released his agriculture and trade policy Monday while on a three-county Iowa tour. The outline includes ways in which he plans to mitigate what he described as President Donald Trump's "reckless trade war."
"I think Donald Trump won a lot of votes in rural America by making a lot of promises that he didn't exactly keep," said Bennet, who served for a decade on the agriculture committee and helped write and pass two farm bills. "I know there are a lot of people that are waiting around because they think that he's got a master plan of some kind that's going to fulfill the promises that he's made."
Since taking office, the Trump administration has granted waivers to some oil refineries, freeing them from a renewable fuel use requirement. The exemptions have killed demand for 1.4 billion bushels of corn used to make ethanol, industry officials say.
Because of the trade disputes, farmers have been cut off from their largest trade partners, which have responded to U.S. tariffs on their products with duties that have largely targeted American farm goods.
Bennet said he wants to be around "to stitch back together rural parts of this country with other parts of this country" he said people realize that Trump hasn't kept the promises.
If he were president, Bennet said he would set aside 20% of the benefits of every trade agreement to create a Trade Opportunity Fund to "help workers" and "provide community-level and individual support targeted to places that need it most."
Since announcing his candidacy in May, Bennet has made numerous trips to counties where Iowans voted twice for former President Barack Obama before voting for Trump in 2016.
"Michael’s plan speaks directly to farmers and workers in those counties who have been harmed by Trump’s trade war and broken promises," spokeswoman Shannon Beckham said. "These are the people Democrats need to win back to defeat Trump in 2020."
Bennet on Monday also announced his plan to vote in support of the United States' new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
"Trump’s reckless trade war created uncertainty for farmers in Iowa and around the country," he said Monday. "The updated USMCA will give them something they can rely on. It will bring our trade policies into the 21st century and boost labor and environmental standards in North America."
A key component to Bennet's trade plan is ending the trade war and pushing back on China's "mercantilist trade practices." He would crack down on China’s unfair subsidies of their domestic producers and state-owned enterprises, intellectual property theft and economic espionage, according to his policy.
“What I want to do is expose our farmers and ranchers to agricultural opportunities overseas, not limit them or sacrifice them to other producers around the world," Bennet said.
Other presidential candidates touched on the topic of trade as it relates to Iowa farmers at the annual Iowa Farmers Union meeting in Grinnell earlier this month.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont promised to appoint an agriculture secretary who comes from a family farm, while U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said he would work to rebuild relationships with trade partners that are now strained because of ongoing disputes.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said she worked with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, to prevent farm assistance from going to wealthy landowners who are not actively involved in farming.
"I believe in rural America," Bennet said over the weekend, adding that his trade and agriculture plan is part of a larger effort to preserve rural America through investment in rural hospitals, schools and infrastructure.
The Des Moines Register's Donnelle Eller contributed.