PACKWOOD ? U.S. Republican Sen. Joni Ernst stopped in Packwood Wednesday to tour Dickey Transport and learn about issues facing the trucking industry.
The company hauls refridgerated meat for Hormel, JBS and Smithfield. It has 115 employees and 75 trucks.
Manager Adrian Dickey spoke to Ernst about legislation regulating hours of service, such as when and how long truckers have to rest. He said the legislation has been on the books for a ?very long time? and needs to be revamped.
?It needs to be modified for the driver?s needs of today,? he said. ?Drivers don?t have the flexibility to rest when they need to rest, and to drive when they need to drive.?
Dickey said having some regulations is a good thing, but they?re so old and the industry has changed so much that the regulations must be changed to reflect modern practices.
Ernst and Dickey spoke about a proposed infrastructure bill.
?It should be non-partisan,? Dickey said. ?Everyone wants good roads, bridges and airports.?
Dickey said bad roads cause increased maintenance costs and lead to unsafe driving conditions.
Ernst took a few minutes at the end of her tour to answer questions from the media. Ernst fielded a question about a potential trade war with China, fueled by President Trump?s announcement in March 8 of steel and aluminum tariffs, and China?s promise to levy 15-25 percent tariffs on American goods such as scrap aluminum, frozen pork, soybeans, dried fruits, nuts and wine, according to the Los Angeles Times.
?I?ve spoken to many farmers during my 99-county tour in Iowa, and they?re concerned about their commodity prices,? she said. ?We know that China has been a bad actor, and we have to push back against that, and that is what the president is doing. What we don?t want is for the American farmer to be in the crosshair.?
Ernst said one way to ease the pain of the tariffs is to open new markets for American goods outside China. One of those is the European Union.
Continuing on trade, Ernst said she spoke to Trump before Christmas about the North American Free Trade Agreement and its importance to Midwestern states.
?He did not rip it up, but will continue to improve it,? she said.
She spoke about border security as well.
?We want to make sure we don?t have human trafficking over the border, weapons trade, illegal narcotics, those are things we should be concerned about as a nation,? she said.
Ernst said she has no problem granting visas for those who wish to visit the United States.
?If they have been vetted, and are looking at simply visiting, that should be an OK issue,? she said. ?It?s when those visas are overstayed, like a student or a work visa, that there?s a problem.?
Ernst was asked if the number of illegal border crossings could be reduced by increasing the number of work visas issued.
?There?s a lot of debate about that,? she said. ?One of the issues I?m concerned about is that we do have a labor shortage. [The current visa system] doesn?t necessarily work with Iowa agriculture.
?We want to make sure Americans are given opportunity to work, but if we don?t have enough labor, we need to look for ways to bring labor in.?