The Renewable Fuel Standard, ethanol, environmental regulations, water quality, exports and foreign trade policy were several top issues discussed at the 2015 annual meeting and policy conference of the Iowa Corn Growers Association this past weekend in Des Moines. The group also heard from Carly Fiorina, a Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency.
Iowa Corn Grower delegates from across the state, in their resolutions session, had the opportunity to review expiring ICGA policies and debate new resolutions that were introduced. The annual meeting and policy conference is the year-end event in ICGA's policy development process. The process includes a member survey earlier in the summer, followed by roundtable discussions held at various locations across the state and then the policy conference in late August in Des Moines. Policies related to national issues adopted at the Iowa meeting, will be brought forth at the upcoming Commodity Classic meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, to be held in early 2016.
Corn growers greatly concerned about fate of RFS and ethanol
"The resolutions that were debated and passed at our 2015 ICGA annual meeting in Des Moines on August 29 reaffirmed that our highest priority is ethanol and supporting a strong renewable fuels standard or RFS," says ICGA president Bob Hemesath, a farmer from Decorah in northeast Iowa. "Also, it was evident our farmers believe in continued investment in on-farm conservation practices to protect Iowa's water quality."
ICGA members who attended also heard from guest speakers such as Carly Fiorina, one of a number of Republicans running for her party's nomination for president of the United States. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds also addressed the ICGA meeting. All guest speakers spoke in support of a strong and robust RFS.
Fiorina answers questions on tax policy, RFS and trade agreements
Carly Fiorina, former head of Hewlett-Packard who is vying to be the Republican candidate for U.S. president in 2016, delivered a message of the need for a level playing field in international trade. She also addressed questions about reducing the size of the federal government, and explained her position on tax policy, the Renewable Fuel Standard, and U.S. trade agreements with other nations.
Fiorina began her remarks with criticisms of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, telling the corn growers she has seen the adverse effects the EPA causes through its overzealous regulations. "I've seen the agriculture industry almost destroyed in California by bad environmental policies and politics," she told the group of about 150 farmers gathered at the ICGA annual meeting. "We have seen industry after industry decimated; we are seeing the most productive agricultural land in the world, in the Central Valley of California, being destroyed by the Environmental Protection Agency."
She doesn't like the RFS and other government guarantees
Fiorina spoke for about 10 minutes, and then answered questions from the audience. She spoke candidly when answering a question about the Renewable Fuel Standard. She said she will commit to upholding the standard until 2022 as the program requires, but would not extend the program after it expires in 2022. "In the spirit of complete honesty and transparency, I will tell you this: I don't think government should be in the business of setting prices and guaranteeing access to markets," she said.
"Let us set 2022 as the end point, let's have a level playing field from now until 2022. But in 2022, the government needs to get out of all of this meddling. Fossil fuels, sugar, corn, all types of subsidies and market guarantees, the government needs to get out of all of it," said Fiorina. Her comments on the RFS were met by silence by the ICGA members. But she received applause for criticizing the Trade Promotion Authority legislation and President Obama's negotiating tactics.
We need to have transparency in trade negotiations
Fiorina added, "I'm not comfortable just giving the president a blank check on TPA, because he has demonstrated his absolute naiveté at the negotiating table," she said. She cited Obama's trade agreements as well as the recent Iran Nuclear Deal, which still must be approved by Congress. "What does serve our nation best are bilateral trade negotiations that are an open book, where the American people know exactly what we are trying to gain in these negotiations," said Fiorina.
ICGA leaders extended an invitation to all presidential candidates to attend the 2015 annual meeting, but Fiorina was the only candidate who accepted.