SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Kevin Ross grows corn, soybeans, and he raises cattle in southwest Iowa. But what will happen to the international market for U.S. corn and soybeans if the Trump administration follows through to renegotiate U.S. trade agreements and makes cuts to federal farm programs? Kevin Ross joins us from his farm in Minden, Iowa. Mr. Ross, thanks so much for being with us.
KEVIN ROSS: Scott, glad to be with you today.
SIMON: Are you concerned?
ROSS: Yeah. I think a lot of farmers have concerns about trade being harmed. We rely a lot on trade, and our industry is agriculture and need, you know, robust agreements to make sure our products are shipped.
SIMON: How's business?
ROSS: I tell you what, it's, you know, agriculture itself right now is kind of struggling. We've got a lot of things that are concerning with prices and cost of production and different aspects of agriculture and specifically, you know, Midwestern corn and soybeans. It's tight. Things are tight. So hopefully policies that are getting put in place right now are keeping that in mind. We certainly can't be doing things to harm agriculture right now or else I think we're going to be in a real, you know, real world of hurt out here, and I don't think anybody wants that.
SIMON: I got to tell you, Mr. Ross, I've never heard a farmer tell me things weren't tight.
ROSS: (Laughter) Yeah, well...
SIMON: I mean, it's a tough living to make. I just wonder if things are worse now than they were five years ago, 10 years ago.
ROSS: Certainly three to five years ago, we're in a lot different spot right now than we were then. On the bright side, we did have a few good years there where a lot of farmers were able to maybe pay down some debt and, you know, trade in some equipment that was wore out. But, you know, right now, it's still tough.
SIMON: Do you have people working in the farms there in southwest Iowa who are immigrants?
ROSS: Yeah. Well, I know we have immigrant labor around in the area. There's certainly a lot of folks that are at different food production plants and certainly some dairies that have migrant workers.
SIMON: Could you do the job without them?
ROSS: I'm sure that it would be much more difficult if the labor force that they've got is harmed or gone in a fast time. There are certainly folks that are unemployed, but at the same time, it's tough to get people to do jobs they don't want to do.
SIMON: President Trump says he'd like to get rid of a lot of burdensome federal regulations. Any regulations you'd just as soon be rid of?
ROSS: Boy, you know, there's a lot of things out there, I guess, that could be eased if you will.
SIMON: Well - but if you could just give us an example of something that you have to comply with that makes you roll your eyes sometimes.
ROSS: Well, the regulations that I'm most concerned with are the ones that could be causing issues in getting approvals, new chemistries approved for crops that we grow. Cuts to different agencies could cause approval processes to take longer, which certainly in times where you have different pests and things that need taken care of, whether it's plant pests or, in our case, we have cattle as well, and if there's problems there and we don't have the ability to treat our plants or animals well or with the latest tools - you definitely want things to be safe. But it seems more like it's being pushed to the back burner for political reasons. It's very frustrating as a farmer sometimes when you see needs for things and you know there's fixes coming but regulatory issues are holding them up.
SIMON: I have to ask, has your business been affected by climate in recent years?
ROSS: (Laughter) Well, in the agricultural business, everybody's affected by climate. You know, I think anybody that says there's not changes happening is somewhat naive. On the other hand, it's the things that we can do to figure out what things we can do long term to make sure we're, you know, in good position to continue to grow the crops that we have here in the U.S. and hopefully be profitable in the future and continue to be, you know, the largest producer of food in the world.
SIMON: Kevin Ross, who grows corn and soybeans and raises cattle in Minden, Iowa, thanks so much for being with us.
ROSS: Yeah, thanks, Scott, appreciate you having me.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.