The Daily Iowan

President Trump visits Iowa, talks of jobs and tariffs

President Donald Trump stopped in Peosta, Iowa, on July 26 for a roundtable discussion on workforce development at Northeast Iowa Community College.

President+Donald+Trump+speaks+at+an+event+titled++%26quot%3BGeneration+Next%3A+A+White+House+Forum%26quot%3B+in+the+South+Court+Auditorium+on+Thursday%2C+March+22%2C+2018+in+Washington%2C+D.C.+%28Olivier+Douliery%2FAbaca+Press%2FTNS%29
President Donald Trump speaks at an event titled  "Generation Next: A White House Forum" in the South Court Auditorium on Thursday, March 22, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

President Donald Trump speaks at an event titled "Generation Next: A White House Forum" in the South Court Auditorium on Thursday, March 22, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

President Donald Trump speaks at an event titled "Generation Next: A White House Forum" in the South Court Auditorium on Thursday, March 22, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Allison Meyer, [email protected]

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PEOSTA, Iowa — President Trump on July 26 said the United States is looking for skilled workers to fill open jobs, and he proclaimed his love for Iowa and its farmers during a visit to the state.

“It’s great to be in Iowa,” he said. “We had a tremendous victory here, and it was special.”

The president also d​ébuted his “Make Our Farmers Great Again” hats. A pile of the John Deere-influenced green and yellow caps sat next to him during a roundtable on workforce development at Northeast Iowa Community College here.

Trump and daughter Ivanka paid a visit to Northeast Iowa Community College to tour an advanced manufacturing lab and attend the roundtable. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, and Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) were also in attendance.

Trump won Dubuque County, where Peosta is located, in the 2016 presidential election. He was the first Republican candidate to win the county since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1956 presidential election.

Blum hosted Trump on his visit to the county. Blum will face Democrat Abby Finkenauer this fall in the battle for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District seat in the House. Finkenauer may prove to be a strong contender in the race — Vice President Mike Pence visited Cedar Rapids on July 11 to support Blum.

Hundreds of protesters, organized by such groups as Indivisible Iowa and NextGen America, began lining the community college’s drive three hours before the president arrived in Peosta.

Supporters of the president and pro-life groups were scattered among the crowd as well.

“I would really like to see him address what he’s going to do now with the tariffs and lifting them off the farmers,” said Lexa Krug, a member of Next Gen America. “I’d like to hear more about how that will affect farmers in the coming months and especially coming up in November.”

Attendees await the arrival of the president outside Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, on July 26. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

NextGen America, a youth organization aimed at mobilizing the young vote, took the opportunity to register voters at the protests.

As Trump’s motorcade arrived and chose to take a back road to the college, protesters became outraged and filled the street outside of the designated protest area. Law-enforcement officers tried to contain them.

In the roundtable meeting, Trump discussed job-training efforts he plans to implement, along with his recent efforts to open up markets with the European Union and how that might benefit Iowa farmers.

Joining Trump at the roundtable was Ivanka Trump, Blum, Reynolds, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend, Northeast Iowa President Liang Wee, Iowa Business Council Executive Director Georgia Van Gundy, and Hy-Vee Chairman and CEO Randy Edeker.

One week ago, Trump signed a executive order to establish the National Council for the American Worker. The interagency council, led by the secretaries of Commerce and Labor among others, is aimed at forming policy recommendations intended to better prepare the U.S. workforce through education and job-training opportunities.

The action comes when Iowa’s unemployment rate sits at 2.7 percent (June figures), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate means Iowa is tied for the third-lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

The state faces a unique problem in which a number of jobs go unfilled because there are not enough qualified workers to take them. Trump believes he can help to alleviate this through implementing workforce-development initiatives, which may mark a shift in his focus on the U.S. economy.

“We have so many jobs moving back to the United States now, and what we need now is talented people,” said Trump. “We have to have people with talented skill, otherwise these companies aren’t going to come in.”

“People cannot find workers, and that’s a problem,” Blum said. “We need welfare reform. We need immigration reform. More legal-immigration reform. We need temporary-worker visas in the Ag area, and we need workforce development.”

Trump also on July 25 announced an agreement between the U.S. and EU to work toward eliminating tariffs and other trade barriers that have continually increased since Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum exports earlier this year.

“We opened up Europe, and that’s going to a great thing for Europe, and for us, and our farmers.” Trump said. “You have yourself one big market.”

The president’s visit also comes at a time when Iowa farmers have felt the consequences of an escalating trade war with China.

In early July, China imposed retaliatory tariffs worth $34 billion on a number of U.S. products, including agricultural commodities such as soybeans and pork.

Iowa is first in the nation in pork exports and second in soybean exports, and Iowa could lose more than $620 million in soybean sales alone as a result of the tariffs, Iowa State University economist Chad Hart has said.

Earlier this week, Trump announced a federal-aid program for farmers worth up to $12 billion to provide emergency relief. The plan has been deemed by many Republicans as a short-term fix for the agricultural sector, which is vulnerable as the trade war with China increases.

“All we get is $12 billion in hush money,” said Phil Specht, a local dairy producer for more than 35 years who spoke at the protests. “They want us to be quiet until after the election.”

“What farmers in Iowa and throughout rural America need in the long term are markets and opportunity, not government handouts,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in a statement.

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