‘No Surprises’ From Pompeo’s Iowa Visit
“I didn’t hear any surprises,” said Iowa farmer Wayne Humphreys.
“I think if you read the newspapers, you probably would have already known what we talked about today,” the president of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board added in an interview immediately after an appearance from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday night.
However, Humphreys was pleased to see Iowa agriculture getting the attention of a cabinet member.
“I was delighted to be part of the group. It was an enthusiastic crowd, an intellectual crowd. I’m still curious why the Secretary of State is here talking to agriculture. That’s unique, but it’s wonderful. I think he left a distinct impression of great integrity and great interest in what we can do to improve the market situation for the Heartland,” he said.
Pompeo spoke to a crowd of about 200 people and covered a range of topics from trade with China to careers with the State Department, and “added color” to President Trump's recent trip to meet with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
Love for the Heartland
The secretary began his address by recounting his connections to the Midwest, noting his wife, Susan, was born in Iowa, and his mother-in-law graduated from the University of Iowa.
“I spent a good part of my summers from my early years of my life in a place called Winfield, Kansas, on a family farm owned by my Uncle Jim. They were some of the most special times in my life. I remember the farm next door had a sign that said, one Kansas farmer feeds 120, plus you,” Pompeo recalled.
Intellectual Property Theft
The secretary shifted his focus to agriculture, innovation, and China saying, “You all know, Iowa’s bounty has attracted many Chinese leaders wanting to know the state’s secret for prosperity, but they haven’t fully embraced the principle ingredient for Iowa’s success, which is free enterprise and hard work, and the central idea of allowing individuals to have their own autonomy and their own dignity to lead and take chances, and to take risks and build their own businesses.”
Pompeo went on to say that when the government dictates economic policy, productivity declines, innovation halts, and people are worse off. After reviewing the accomplishments of several American agriculture companies made possible by the free-market system, the secretary said, “Unfortnately, China has taken a different approach.”
China has “a state-led set of economic practices that threaten the health of the American agriculture industry that you all work so hard to develop,” he said.
Pompeo gave examples of Chinese nationals stealing genetically engineered corn and rice seeds, noting there are cases of stolen robotics and other industrial technologies essential to agriculture.
“Every time there’s a theft, it eats away at the history, eats away at the seed corn, that the industry upon which you and your children and grandchildren depend. It’s not just big companies that suffer. As one farmer said, ’No one seems to understand that they’re stealing from people like me.’ They are stealing the research that farmers pay for each time they buy a Monsanto seed.”
Humphreys echoed these concerns after Pompeo’s speech. “The cost of everything has to be considered when we buy a product, when we purchase a service. It’s like shoplifting in a grocery store; it adds to the cost for everybody.”