Subscribe for 17¢ / day

MUSCATINE — Even with snow still creeping into the forecast, County Engineer, Keith White was already getting the board of supervisors to think about how they were going to prepare for next winter. 

On his list for fiscal year 2019, White is looking to trade in his department's hydraulic excavator and motor grader for two new ones. The excavator will run the department $174,097; the grader $173,400. With high price tags, White said they should do the buying while the prices were good.

One consideration is the specter of a tariff on foreign steel and aluminum. This heavy equipment involves a lot of steel White said Monday. If such a tariff came into effect, the price of this equipment would certainly rise.

"How soon is the effect of the tariff going to hit?" White said. "That's the question." 

Another factor is the buyback on the older equipment is substantial, cutting the price of buying new in half, in the case of the motor grader. 

He said that currently the rise in price is nominal, expected.

"In some bad years, they might have a couple of 3-percent increases," White said. "But we are only up 1 percent from what we were two years ago."

Even though the tariff has not gone into effect, White said that it is important for the county to pay attention to how such national decisions can affect the county's everyday.

In a meeting Thursday with President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue, Senator Joni Ernst discussed means of supporting Iowa's agriculture industry.

"In light of growing concerns I've heard from Iowans regarding tariffs, I immediately brought up the importance of renegotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Sen. Joni Ernst was quoted saying in a press release. "Iowa farmers aren’t looking for another subsidy program, rather they want new and improved market access, which is critical to rural economies."

Ernst said that she wanted to see U.S. agricultural products filling demand worldwide.

"Moreover, we must continue pursuing policies that enhance our competitiveness, rather than reducing our access to foreign markets," Ernst's press release went on. "I remain committed to working with the Trump administration toward a stronger trade agenda on behalf of Iowans."

Last week, China said it would levy tariffs of up to 25 percent on pork, ethanol and other products. Iowa is the nation's largest pork producer. Last year the Chinese market purchased $1 billion in U.S. pork. 

Though he said the potential impact on pork is serious, Sen. Dan Zumbach (R-District 48) said whether it is the pork, soy or steel a farmer's day-to-day is touched by it.

"It's fair to say that there is a level of concern in agriculture over (the tariffs). It not only impacts our livestock and crop industry," Zumbach said. "Farm machinery is all made out of steel. It's all part of that circle."

Zumbach, who is campaigning to be Iowa's Agriculture Secretary, emphasized that the state needed to have its commodity markets at the table for any discussion about potential tariffs.

"These tariffs are not in place. It's just a conversation about them," Zumback said. "But it's really important to me that our pork producers, our cattlemen, our corn growers, our soybean association all get the opportunity to share the direct impact this could have."

Zumbach looked to President Donald Trump's insisting that farmers would be better in the long term. 

"We have to be patient," Zumback said. "I think getting our arms around what really happens, has to come first. I think it is good news that the president is recognizing that there could be a direct economic impact if this comes into play."