Section 232 exemption sought for Iowa derecho rebuild

Senators Chuck Grassley, also chairman of the Senate finance committee, and Joni Ernst (both Republican, Iowa) are urging US Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross to lift Section 232 tariffs on any steel to be used in Iowa’s efforts to recover from a severe storm known as a derecho in August.

“In the wake of this catastrophe, opportunists are offering extremely high estimates to Iowans for the steel they need to rebuild their homes, farms, businesses and communities. A number of farmers have told us that the increased prices for steel would collectively add hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for them. This can’t happen,” the senators wrote in a letter to Ross on Thursday September 10.

On August 10, the derecho swept across the state, damaging farms, homes, businesses and local infrastructure.

“Moreover, lifting the tariffs doesn’t mean that domestic steel producers will be hurt. The very fact that high prices exist is evidence that they are not losing legitimate sales, but rather that certain actors are engaging what you referred to as ‘speculative activity.’ These actors can do so precisely because the option of importing foreign steel is cost prohibitive. Simply restoring that option will undermine the position of these unscrupulous actors,” the senators wrote.

Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index, fob mill US was calculated at $27.65 per hundredweight ($553 per short ton) on September 11, up by 4.7% from $26.40 per cwt one week earlier and by 19.8% from $23.08 per cwt on August 11.

The senators are asking that tariffs be lifted for steel to be used in construction projects, grain bins, machine sheds and agricultural machinery.

Iowa is home to various steel facilities, including those run by Olympic Steel, SSAB Americas and Gerdau.

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