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Pence Returns to Indiana to Meet with Farmers


by Niki Kelly
The Journal Gazette

Published: Friday, April 12, 2019

Farmers from around the state urged Vice President Mike Pence to make progress on trade during his visit to the state last Thursday.

"We don't have time. We need to move," one man told Pence. Another asked the vice president not to "forget rural America."

Pence attended the event at Lamb Farms in Boone County, where he heard from corn, soybean and livestock farmers frustrated with the ongoing trade war.

"There's real urgency here. Farmers ... have been feeling the weight of low commodity prices. They've been burning through capital, burning through equity," Pence said.

He said President Donald Trump negotiated a better deal for American farmers in the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, and it's time for Congress to ratify it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week said talks should be reopened on the deal to tighten enforcement provisions.

"No enforcement, no treaty," she said.

That led to last Thurs-day's event as Pence tries to build support for the agreement, the successor to NAFTA.

"The president has done his work, and now it's time for Congress to do their work," he said.

He also told the group of about 50 that Trump was meeting with top officials from China last Thursday to try to open up markets there.

The vice president's motorcade made its way past fields that were just a bit too wet and cold for planting be-fore meeting Dean and Debbie Lamb outside their home.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch accompanied Pence because Gov. Eric Holcomb was out of town.

West Lafayette farmer Kevin Underwood said he attended to impress upon Pence the need to wrap up some trade deals.

He said 2018 initially looked like the year he would dig out of a financial hole, but instead he saw a "dramatic impact" from the curtailing of exports by Trump's tariffs.

Now, he said the soybean crop, for instance, is down between $1 and $1.50 from a year ago – a 20 per-cent drop.

"We need to see some fruit from negotiations," Underwood said. "I hope there is some light at the end of the tunnel."

Miami County farmer Steve Maple said his livelihood depends on opening up export markets in Canada, Mexico, China and Japan.

"It's time that we get things done," he said. "At least (Pence) is listening. That's important."

Pence spoke with reporters after the event and touched on a few other topics. When asked about Indiana's new hate crimes law, he said. "I haven't followed it closely, but we condemn discrimination or acts of violence in all forms."

He also congratulated Holcomb and Crouch for how Indiana is setting the pace for job creation in the Midwest while acknowledging the need for workers.

"The challenge going forward is workforce – making sure the men and women can either be retrained or trained to work in this modern and growing economy," Pence said.

"Our admin-istration is working very closely with the states to make sure that we're modernizing our work-force development and training systems to make sure that we meet the needs of a growing economy.

"It's a good thing that today there are more job openings in America than there are people looking for jobs."

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