U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue (file photo)

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley will be questioning U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today in a Senate Ag Committee hearing focused on the state of rural America.

Rural states like Iowa are facing serious economic threats from looming international trade wars following years of poor commodity prices, in addition to new obstacles on the production of ethanol.

“That’s why I intend to stress to Secretary Perdue that trade and ethanol are very important to farmers of Iowa and to the prosperity of the Midwest,” Grassley says, “particularly to good paying jobs in small towns of Iowa.” According to Grassley, Perdue has already demonstrated he’s very willing to support corn-based ethanol with his efforts on the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and to boost the production and sale of the E-15 blend.

Grassley says, “He deserves a lot of credit for working with the ethanol industry and corn producers to get E-15 without damaging a RIN cap that would undercut the RFS more than Administrator Pruitt has already done with the EPA’s potential illegal abuse of so-called hardship waivers.” Those waivers are designed to benefit oil producers. Corn and soybean growers have seen the value of their crops spiral in recent years, with few lasting rebounds. Those staple Midwestern commodities are in much worse shape than cotton, for example, and Grassley says the Southern farmers complain that cotton is always distressed.

“I suppose you could talk about putting a lot of money into rural America through rural development programs,” Grassley says, “but the vitality of agriculture and prices that farmers get is a good part of solving the problems in rural America.”