Young questions Secretary Perdue on TPP, trade, EPA RFS waivers
Iowa Congressman David Young pressed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on the administration's position on trade and expressed his frustration with the EPA issuing hardship waivers to companies who clearly are not experiencing a hardship. The questioning came during a hearing of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Wednesday.
Secretary Perdue indicated his support of more trade agreements saying he told the President to "go get a better deal."
Congressman Young discussed Andeavor's receipt of hardship waiver exempting the company from RFS requirements despite posting a $1.5 billion profit in 2017. Secretary Perdue said, "Most of our farms would love to have a hardship of that magnitude."
Young added that the EPA's actions undercutting the RFS combined with any tariff retaliation could be devastating for Iowa and farmers across the country than any retaliation from tariffs put in place by the President.
A video of the exchange and a full transcript is available below. A digital copy is available HERE.
YOUNG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, good to see you again. How's Undersecretary Bill Northey doing?
PERDUE: We've got him here. He's making up for lost time. He's doing a great job with FFAS (ph).
YOUNG: I know he's excited to be fully engaged.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership -- where are we with that? I mean, I've heard the President tell Lawrence Kudlow, the economic advisor and USTR advisor -- Representative Lighthizer to go, "Let's do our best to get back into TPP." Then recently, I hear a no. Do you know where we are, and are you advocating that we get back into TPP, at least in the agriculture kind of title?
PERDUE: I was in the meeting the other day with farm state members of Congress, as well as farm state governors, where the -- the president directly addressed his NEC chairman, Larry Kudlow, as well as Ambassador Lighthizer was in there to -- to deal with, and to approach the TPP again. I'd -- I'd reminded the president, when he likes to talk about, you get a better deal when you withdraw. I said, "Mr. President, we've already withdrawn from TPP. Let's go get a better deal."
So I'm encouraged by that. I don't know. He's meeting with Mr. Abe in Mar-a-Lago, and hopefully, that will be part of the discussion there. But I don't have any further information about that. As you know, our Ambassador Lighthizer is charged legally with negotiating those deals. While we would welcome that arrangement, I think again, with joining those other 11 countries, it would great -- be a great unification against China in world trade.
YOUNG: In bilateral agreements as well, the President has a preference. He's said he prefers bilateral agreements. Are you privy to any discussions where we're approaching other countries on a bilateral basis to negotiate any trade deals?
PERDUE: Well, I know from a sales perspective we're approaching many countries. Undersecretary Ted McKinney of foreign agricultural service is well on his way to his million-mile mark traveling the world, knocking on doors. We were fortunate just to - the fruit of the Argentina Pork recently and KORUS but he's been to India, Japan and Southeast Asia - India a couple of times.
And it's a tough market but we'll continue. We bring out those sales leads and that interest back to USTR and they negotiate the deals.
YOUNG: Thank you for what you did and your advocacy for renewable fuel standard and biofuels and ethanol and whatever you may have done to help convince the president that E15 year-round was a good thing. And I believe it is good. And as well, what the EPA is doing with their waiver process, will you urge Administrator Pruitt and the president to stop granting those waivers until we get a full picture about what the heck is going on?
Because when you hear about waivers going to entities, companies who - and that's supposed to be if you have a hardship, right?
PERDUE: That's right...
YOUNG: So when Andeavor has $1.5 billion profit, that doesn't sound like a hardship for me. So help us draw a clear picture about what the heck is going on and what we can do to make sure it's not abused.
PERDUE: Most of our farms would love to have a hardship of that magnitude.
PERDUE: You know, certainly we're concerned about the waivers. That's just directly demand destruction and our concern is we have issued enough waivers this year that would be beyond the blend wall and we think that's adequate compensation to merchant refiners who have been complaining about RIN prices. We're already down there by virtue of the waivers.
YOUNG: Well, this is so important because as you know, agriculture income has been down four years in a row, I think its lowest since 2006. And any kind of retaliation that we may have through trade right now with what's going on, this could be almost even - even more devastating with what could happen with RFS.
PERDUE: We take the trade disruption conversations we're having with China, NAFTA on the bubble there as well as RFS. There's a lot of stress out there, a lot of duress in the ag community. And it gets cumulative. It's just like life, different situations happen, that's life. The stress is cumulative and there's a lot of anxiety in farming. RFS solution could help. NAFTA, KORUS, and certainly TPP could go a long way to reduce that anxiety meter.
YOUNG: Thank you for being here. I'll have some more questions in the next round.