U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, in Council Bluffs recently for the WHO Radio Great Iowa Tractor Ride, highlighted the Trump administration’s strong support for farmers and agriculture during a period of difficult weather and low prices.

Perdue praised Iowa farmers for keeping food prices some of the lowest in the world despite challenges, including recent flooding and other weather ev­­ents. “You are the superpower of food,” he told the tractor riders and others at a ceremony to kickoff of the tractor ride on June 23.

Perdue was joined at the tractor ride ceremony by Bill Northey, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) undersecretary of farm production and conservation, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig.

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and Farm Bureau Financial Services were sponsors of the WHO Radio Great Iowa Tractor Ride as well as the kickoff event.

Perdue and Northey said all farmers will benefit from another round of Market Facilitation Program payments set for the 2019 crop year. Farmers in extremely wet parts of the country will be helped by a change in a crop insurance rule that will allow haying and grazing as of Sept. 1, instead of Nov. 1, on cover crops planted on acres designated as prevent plant. Perdue said sticking to the November date in a year like this “simply doesn’t make sense.”

The rule change will also allow farmers who plant an eligible cover crop on prevent plant acres to receive a minimal Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payment. “If you plant a cover crop on there, you’re going to be eligible to take your prevented planting with no discount, take the harvest of that after Sept. 1, and you’re also going to be able to get a minimal MFP as well,” Perdue said.

In addition, he said the USDA plans to use any excess funds from the $3 billion disaster relief bill passed by Congress to supplement payments.

“We won’t know [the cost of] the prevent planting acres until the application deadlines are met, but our goal is to use the money as far as it goes to top off prevented planting percentages,” he said.

Other issues

Perdue also addressed year-round availability of E15 and the Environmental Protection Agency’s use of small refinery waivers, as well as the need for technology in producing safe, resilient, sustainable crops. He said President Donald Trump is adamant all departments work together, and Perdue is hoping to overcome the bureaucratic glitch that has the USDA monitoring gene editing of plants and the Food and Drug Administration overseeing similar efforts with animals.

Northey, a Spirit Lake native and former Iowa secretary of agriculture, said he was glad to be back in Iowa, and was anxious to “see what stuff looks like and have some conversations around some tractors.”

Queck-Matzie is a freelance writ­­er in Greenfield.