CEDAR FALLS — Stagnant trade agreements have created concerns all around the country.

Bill Northey, U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary and former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, was touring Iowa Wednesday through Thursday and hearing the concerns of Iowans about the trade negotiations.

A lot of Iowans are wondering whether the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA is close to being passed.

"There's a lot of support of that in agriculture," Northey said. "A desire to get that passed sooner rather than later."

Northey called the USMCA deal a "clear win" and a modernized NAFTA.

During Northey's visit he had a chance to meet with Rep. Abby Finkenauer in La Porte City and visit County Line Feed Mill.

"She seemed very interested in it," Northey said. "I think she's actively engaged and looking at it and trying to understand it."

Finkenauer sits on the U.S. House of Representatives Agricultural Committee. The USMCA has not been voted on in the House yet.

"I think it will have support, but we need to get it done and buttoned up," Northey said.

Residents also talked to Northey about signing up for market facilitation payments, he said. The payments provides support to farmers and ranchers with commodities directly impacted by foreign retaliatory tariffs caused by ongoing trade conflicts.

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"For the most part I hear that people are happy with the way signup is going," Northey said.

The payments are offered through the Farm Service Agency offices.

A little less than $1 billion in market facilitation payments last year, Northey said. "Overall the program is about 50% bigger this year than what is was a year ago."

About 250,000 farmers overall have signed up for payments in the last month, he said.

"We started sending checks last week," Northey said. "We have about $1.5 billion worth of checks have gone across the country."

Farmers are able to apply for the program through December.

"It's designed to facilitate marketing for folks, not just replace prices," Northey said.

Since becoming undersecretary Northey hasn't had a lot of chances to come back to Iowa.

"I'm glad to be able to be back," Northey said.

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