Last month Page County Supervisors Alan Armstrong and Chuck Morris attended a five-state conference hosted by the White House.
Iowa officials were invited with several other states to meet with federal officials.
“Our three and a half hour meeting included some dynamic and informative speakers. Our group had an opportunity to hear from some of the top leaders in our government including Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. He was the most recognizable name on our agenda, but not the most recognizable speaker. For the final half hour we were treated to a non-scheduled appearance by Vice President Mike Pence,” Morris said.
“All throughout the meeting, it was apparent many federal resources were actively engaged in the things which matter to us in Page County and southwest Iowa.”
The first hour was dedicated to questions and answers related to disaster recovery in the Midwest. That panel included Mark Harvey , a special assistant to the president and senior director for Resilience at the National Security Council; Ray Alexander - Director for Contingency Operations at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Stan Gimont , Deputy Assistant Secretary for HUD Grants and Keith Turi, Assistant Director of the Recovery Directorate for FEMA.
“There were frank and somewhat spirited discussions about the difficulty of managing recovery and mitigating future flood risks,” Morris said.
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky told the group about the USDA announcement with details of the $16 billion Market Facilitation Package (MFP) designed to aid farmers and ranchers who have been adversely affected by the current trade war with China.
Censky said signup would continue through Dec. 6.
“I found the southern Minnesota native as personable as our former Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey. Northey of course is now an Under-Secretary at the USDA with responsibilities in production and conservation,” Morris said.
Senior Advisor to the Department of Transportation Loren Smith added detail and insight into the Federal aid SWAP program and outlined how allocation of dollars occurs. Other speakers included Ken Humphreys, a Senior Advisor in the Department of Energy, and Peter Wright an Assistant Administrator in the EPA.
“Both talked about efforts to de-regulate both departments with more control going back to the state and local authorities. It was a fascinating discussion,” Morris said.
Morris said another informative session was with Drug Czar Jim Carroll.
“Lots of money and attention has been placed in the last few years on America’s opioid epidemic. However, Carroll pointed out that in Iowa and other midwestern states the methamphetamine problem continues to grow,” Morris said.
Carroll attributed the growth to problems at the Mexican border and underscored that is another reason why President Trump is committed to changing immigration laws and securing our borders.
Carroll showed new data which indicates drug overdose deaths in the U.S. fell for the first time in nearly three decades even though Missouri and Kansas rose slightly.
The unscheduled visit by Pence included points to messages delivered earlier in the day. Morris said he spent most of his time talking about the benefits of the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement).
Pence says the administration is working hard to get enough support for Congressional approval of this agreement which he says will level the playing field for a variety of commerce, but particularly for farmers and ranchers.
“He urged us to go back home and help people understand the benefits this agreement offers America compared to the NAFTA agreement which currently remains in effect,” Morris said.
Readers can view more on USMCA at this website: https://ustr.gov/usmca.
Pottawattamie and Mills County in western Iowa also had supervisors who accepted the official White House invitation to attend this meeting which featured many top level executives in the Trump Administration.
Morris said the supervisor’s trip expenses were co-funded by the county and the attending supervisor. Supervisor Jon Herzberg was invited but chose not to attend.