Grassley: Iowa corn price under $3
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said today that the price for corn at his local elevators has fallen to $2.72 per bushel, and an aide later released charts showing that the corn price has fallen to $2.65 in Shell Rock and $2.57 in New Hartford.
Shell Rock and New Hartford are in Butler County in northcentral Iowa, where Grassley farms.
“I doubt anyone is selling corn at $2.72,” Grassley said, noting the price is the lowest in many years and that the coronavirus pandemic rivals the farm crisis of the 1980s.
Grassley said he had told Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last Thursday to try to make the payments under the $19 billion coronavirus farm aid package as soon as possible. Grassley said he made the same point to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence over the weekend. Perdue told him that the Agriculture Department has to write regulations for the new program and has to get approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget. Grassley noted that Perdue has said he hopes to get the payments out by May 31, but wants to do it earlier if possible.
Grassley noted there is no precedent for making direct payments to livestock producers, so procedures have to be developed for that.
Asked about the lack of assistance for the ethanol industry in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and whether there would be aid in a fourth coronavirus package, Grassley said that he had offered proposals that would have provided “parity” for the ethanol industry if the CARES Act included aid for the oil industry, but the bill did not include aid for the oil industry so ethanol was not addressed either. He also signaled that there will be aid to ethanol in the next bill only if there is aid for the oil industry.
Grassley said that when Congress passed the CARES Act, there was an assumption that there would be three months to see how the provisions in that bill address the problems, unless there was a need for quicker action such as providing more money for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which is expected in the Senate today.
Grassley said he asked Pence to provide equipment for tests in the meat plants in Iowa and that Pence is working with Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds “to assure this happens quickly.”
It’s important to protect the health of meat plant workers but also to keep them open because the process of raising pigs is “sophisticated” from birth to slaughter. Hog producers, he said, are worried about the possibility they may have to euthanize 300-pound hogs, what the public reaction would be, whether there would be lawsuits about the practice and how they would dispose of the animals if they do kill them.
“You can’t have a million hogs ready for slaughter and not slaughter them,” Grassley said, noting that proposals the hogs live for another year are impractical.
In the meat plants, most employees work “shoulder to shoulder,” but the plants may be able to stay open with physical distancing and if water fountains are shut down and areas where they change clothes are disinfected.
Grassley also said that he wishes Trump would expand his executive order on deferred tariff payments to all tariffs and for a longer period of time than the 90 days in the executive order.
The administration is unlikely to move forward with trade negotiations with the United Kingdom until officials can meet face to face, Grassley said.