On July 13 and 14, nearly 50 members of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and ICGA staff personally met with the entire Iowa Congressional delegation during Corn Congress 2011 in Washington DC. This event is the annual policy development meeting of the National Corn Growers Association.
Meetings were held with Iowa lawmakers in Washington, including Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Tom Harkin, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-1st), Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-2nd), Congressman Leonard Boswell (IA-3rd),Congressman Tom Latham (IA-4th), and Congressman Steve King (IA-5th).
Mindy Larsen Poldberg, director of government relations for ICGA, says a variety of issues were discussed including the future of the federal ethanol tax credit pr VEETC, pending Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama, funding for river infrastructure, EPA regulatory burdens, and the new, upcoming 2012 federal Farm Bill. Here are her updates on specific federal issues of interest to corn growers:
* Federal ethanol "reform": On July 7, U.S. Senators John Thune (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Diane Fienstein (D-CA) announced a bipartisan "compromise" regarding biofuels policy. Iowa Corn Growers Association is extremely disappointed with this bill as it eliminates tax credits for corn ethanol and also eliminates the tariff. The bill redirects two-thirds of the funding to debt reduction, and a small fraction of the remaining one-third will go toward providing cost-sharing to install more blender pumps at retail gas stations, but unfortunately this bill also reduces the cost share level from 30% under previous law to 20%. ICGA does not support this "compromise".
* Oil tax breaks: A proposal to cut tax incentives for oil companies failed in the Senate. The five largest oil companies were targeted by this bill, and $21 billion in tax incentives over 10 years would have been recalled. As budget negotiations continue, Democrats have stated that the issue will remain, because getting rid of oil subsidies would reduce the deficit. ICGA supports fair treatment for all energy sources if elimination of subsidies are considered, including for oil.
* Free trade agreements: On July 7, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held a markup of the pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Korea, Colombia, and Panama. The FTAs were approved by the Senate Finance committee along with an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program in the Korea FTA bill. The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee also held a bill markup on Thursday and supported the trade agreements but did not include the TAA program in its version. The main point of dissent on FTA ratification is the issue of TAA, with Republican desire to address TAA separately from the FTA bills. ICGA supports the FTA ratification of all three agreements.
* Reducing regulatory burdens: The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee recently passed HR 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act. HR 872 affirms that when pesticides are applied according to their EPA approved labels, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is not necessary. This bill eliminates regulations placed upon farmers. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation earlier this year. The bill now awaits action on the Senate floor. ICGA supports this bill.
* River levee repair funding: The House Appropriations Committee passed a bill, River Levee Repair Funding or HR 2354, which would provide $1 billion to fix Mississippi and Missouri river levees. Prioritization of projects will depend on funding. Costs to repair recently damaged Mississippi River levees could reach $1 billion. This bill has yet to be voted on. ICGA supports this bill.
* Carbofuran insecticide ban: Disappointing to the ICGA, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided it would not reconsider the food tolerance revocation of carbofuran by the EPA. Although carbofuran usage has decreased due to biotechnology, it remained an important option to treat corn rootworm when other products fail. The Iowa Corn Growers Association criticizes the action because canceling the food tolerance was a new method used by the EPA to shortcut the process. The EPA was unsuccessful in finding scientific justification to cancel the product, so instead used this new method of "revoking food tolerance." ICGA actively opposed this EPA action.