JOHNSTON — Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack says the current U.S. Ag Secretary has authority to provide some short term financial support to farmers that Vilsack did not have during his eight years as the nation’s secretary of agriculture.
If the trade dispute with China escalates, Vilsack says Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue has “unfettered access” to Commodity Credit Corporation resources “which can be used in a very thoughtful and strategic way to provide some direct assistance for a period of time.
“The reality is it’s a stop-gap measure. It’s not something you can necessarily do that is permanent and, frankly, most of the farmers I talk to would prefer not to have a support structure and system. They would prefer to have a free and open market opportunity.”
Vilsack is president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council and he’s been to China twice this year. Vilsack says the Chinese are “not fearful” about a trade war, although they hope to avoid it. And Vilsack says officials in other world capitals believe a trade war would put a damper on the world economy, which appears to be perking up a little bit.
“No question China has not played by the rules,” Vilsack says “The question is how we go about making sure that they change and I think one of the things the administration is now trying to do, that I think is a good thing, is that they’re trying to get allies in this effort.”
There are plenty of companies and farmers in other countries that have been damaged by China’s conduct, according to Vilsack.
“There’s no question that China has basically gamed the system, certainly as it relates to intellectual property,” Vilsack says. “But there are ways in which we could solicit the help of the E.U., Japan and others to put pressure on China to basically change their ways without damaging agriculture.”
Vilsack made his comments this weekend during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Market to Market” program.