DES MOINES, Iowa — Kim Reynolds took delight in laying out hog production statistics as she addressed a World Pork Expo luncheon.
“I’m the governor of Iowa and I’ve got to brag about this stuff when I get a chance to do it,” said Rey-nolds, a champion of her state’s most important industry.
She gave an enthusiastic pro-pig welcome to Expo attendees, but it was more than just words that would go over well with the crowd.
She was politely putting on the spot Gregg Doud, the U.S. Trade Representative’s chief agricultural negotiator, who was to take the podium moments after she spoke.
“Now is the time to call for an end to the recent trade disputes so that hardworking U.S. pig farmers can do what they do best: meet global demand for one of our nation’s most competitive export products, one that favorably impacts U.S. trade imbalances with countries around the world,” she said.
Iowa is headed by an avowed pro-hog industry governor at a good time, with U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade actions immediately provoking retaliation against U.S. pork exports by Mexico and China. The U.S. industry, with Iowa’s farmers at its core, has aggressively expanded in recent years based on an assumption of growing exports to world markets. Reynolds, a Republican, did not mind highlighting the problems Trump’s actions are causing her farmers.
“Global export market uncertainty has already resulted in considerable lost value for U.S. pork producers and we want to continue to do everything we can to expand trade and not contract it,” said Reynolds.
“We’re facing a tipping point. Yes, unfair trading practices must be addressed. However, we need to make sure we’re not doing it at the cost of our farmers and producers all across the country.”
It might seem natural that the governor of a major pig producing state, one which claims 141,000 jobs are connected to the industry, would be a champion of her hog farmers, but local politics have often bedevilled the hog industry across North America.
Manitoba is a particularly good example, with the industry facing almost outright hostility from its NDP provincial government for many years before being replaced by a supportive Progressive Conservative government in 2016.
Iowa is not just a farm state. Des Moines is a significant city and there are major manufacturing operations throughout the state. However, farm-friendliness is an aspect of most Iowa politics, with the growing urban-rural divide common across North America not as extreme.
“As the governor, I have the incredible privilege of representing the number one pork producing state in the United States and the top state for pork exports,” said Reynolds, noting her daily attendance at the farm-themed Iowa State Fair in August.
“There is no better way to go to work (than to put on) blue jeans, cowboy boots and a bling belt and talking to Iowans and people from across the world.”