Friday, September 30, 2016

Cattlemen and the Candidates - Where do they stand?

This past month, ICA reached out to Iowa’s candidates running for federal congressional and senate seats with several questions related to important issues that matter to Iowa’s cattle producers.

With issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), cattle market volatility and environmental regulations at the center of conversation around beef production today, we hope these candidates’ stances on these issues help you make a clear choice for whom to cast your vote come November 8th.

Below are the candidates we contacted. The bolded names are the candidates we received responses from. Below the graphics are the full responses.

IA1: Rod Blum vs. Monica Vernon

IA2: Dave Loebsack vs. Chris Peters

IA3: David Young vs. Jim Mowrer

IA4: Steve King vs. Kim Weaver

IA Senate: Chuck Grassley vs. Patty Judge 

1. What would the passing of TPP mean for Iowa’s beef producers, and what do you hope to see happen moving forward? 

Chuck Grassley: The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed trade agreement between the United States and eleven other countries in the Pacific region.  The agreement is designed to lower tariff and non-tariff trade barriers for products in all eleven counties.  For Iowa, that means more market access for our agricultural products in countries like Japan.  Iowa produces more food than we can consume, that is why we must ensure we have access to consumers around the world. As I’m compiling these answers, President Obama has yet to officially submit the TPP agreement to Congress for consideration.   I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure the market access gains made in the TPP for agriculture are enacted to benefit U.S. farmers.

Patty Judge: Passing a trade agreement that lowers unfair trade barriers for Iowa agriculture, including beef, is important to expand markets for Iowa farmers. In the U.S. Senate I will support trade agreements that accomplish this goal, while also holding other countries to high labor and environmental standards. I believe we must bring everyone to the negotiating table and restructure a trade agreement that meets these requirements. I strongly believe that Congress must also take a more active role during trade negotiations to guarantee their constituents benefit from any agreement.

Steve King: If TPP were to pass, it would open up many new markets and hundreds of thousands new dollars a day, every day, for Iowa’s beef producers.   I’m hopeful that we can get TPP on floor for debate and a vote.  I will be monitoring TPP to make sure that it comports with Trade Promotion Authority language, and I’m hopeful that we will see that vote and get a signature on it, and see TPP pass into law.

Dave Loebsack: I have been reviewing the TPP deal. I want to make sure that Iowa farmers and businesses are able to fairly export their products. We must be sure intellectual property rights, environmental standards and labor laws are not vague, but are fair, clear, and enforceable. I do not support TPP in its current form.

David Young: As a state and a nation, we need new and open markets for exporting our agricultural products. We must ensure these trade agreements are free and fair and enforceable. I supported and voted for Trade Promotion Authority to allow our current and next Presidents the ability to negotiate trade agreements. We need our American products and values in the Pacific region.  This is a market we must be able to penetrate for economic and national security reasons. As I continue to review the TPP agreement, I am more favorable to it as long as we are assured we can maintain its enforcement should other countries try not adhering to it or attempt to try and change the practices in the underlying agreement.

Rod Blum: It’s my hope that the passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership will help to reduce anti­market tariffs on Iowa beef and level the international playing field to give Iowa cattle producers more access to extremely important international markets. Specifically, Iowa producers will be granted significantly better access to the critical market in Japan, with the current tariffs of 38.5 percent being reduced to 9 percent in 16 years.

2. What are you doing to ensure further environmental regulations do not hinder agricultural growth? 

Chuck Grassley: I have opposed the current Administration’s regulatory assault on agriculture and rural America at every turn.  I have supported efforts to block the Waters of the United States rule known as WOTUS and oppose the EPA’s risk assessment that may hinder the effectiveness of Atrazine. Farmers produce more food today than ever before while using fewer resources.  They should be commended for their success, not put out of business by onerous regulations.

Patty Judge: All environmental regulations should be crafted and enforced in conjunction with agricultural producers. While we need to ensure that our natural resources are available for people today and in the future, regulations should not unnecessarily burden agricultural growth. I believe we can both protect the environment and have a prosperous agriculture industry.

Steve King: In all my career I have worked to defund the overregulation of all industry especially the agriculture industry. I’ve been a vigorous opponent of the WOTUS regulations. I have chaired the task force to reduce the amount of regulations and to restore legislative authority back to Congress. I am the author of the Sunset Act which actually sunsets over  a period of 10 years all Federal regulations and requires that each regulation come back to the floor of Congress to receive an affirmative vote and the president’s signature before the agencies can have any rule that has the force and effect of law. So I remain in opposition to this overregulation that we have and a defender of property rights and I’ll continue to do so aggressively.

Dave Loebsack: We must protect public health and ensure the water we drink and air we breathe are safe. With that said, I understand many of your concerns. I believe that rules and regulations put forth need to be commonsense and practical. I want to keep hearing from all of you about specific issues you’re having with certain rules and regulations, and I’m more than happy to look into them.

David Young: Through my role on the House Appropriations Committee, I have pushed to withhold funding for burdensome regulations which harm U.S. agriculture, including the Waters of the U.S. rule. Unfortunately, under this administration, the EPA has released too many regulations which hurt agriculture from WOTUS to pesticide permitting to attempts to regulate dust on farms and methane emissions from animals, and the list goes on. Due to concerns of an over-reaching EPA, the House Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, has also cut funding for the EPA staffing budgets.

I have also voted for bills to reign in overzealous federal agencies. I further authored an amendment, which requires unelected federal bureaucrats who write regulations to be identified in an effort to push for more transparency in the regulatory process.

Rod Blum: The EPA is out of control with burdensome regulations.  Since my first day in office I’ve worked hard to stop their harmful regulations like the Waters of the US rule that will hurt Iowa producers and impair Iowa’s ability to improve water quality and conservation practices. In 2015, I led a letter asking for inclusion of a prohibition of funding for the WOTUS rule in the FY 2016 appropriations process.  I also cosponsored and voted for the bipartisan H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, which would roll back the WOTUS rule. Overall, I will continue to work hard to rein in federal regulatory overreach so Iowa producers can continue to provide for their families.

3. How do you see the renewable fuel standard program evolving in the near future? 

Chuck Grassley: Iowa is the leader in the production of homegrown, renewable biofuels. I would expect in the near future, the Environmental Protection Agency will establish blending levels under the Renewable Fuel Standard that will reach the congressional intent of 15 billion gallons annually from conventional corn ethanol.  Then, the focus for further development will be on next generation cellulosic and other advanced biofuels, and biodiesel.    Iowa’s leadership in this area has had the positive side effect of producing affordable co-products such as distiller’s grains, which has partially been responsible for the growth in cattle feeding in Iowa.

Patty Judge: The renewable fuel standard is an important part of a comprehensive plan to reduce U.S. carbon emissions. It also creates an additional important market for Iowa corn and provides good paying jobs. Moving forward, Congress needs to continue aggressively pursuing higher percentage levels of biofuels in gasoline, ensure that the EPA enforces the blending requirements established in law, and that any changes are announced with enough notice for farmers to plan accordingly. We must also make sure to invest in the necessary infrastructure for the renewable fuel standard to succeed. In 2022, the annual renewable fuel standard increase is scheduled to sunset; protecting the renewable fuel standard and making sure Congress aggressively pursues biofuels will require a senator who can reach across the aisle and get the Senate working again, not someone infamous for helping cause the gridlock and obstruction.

Steve King: I don’t know if it is actually going to be evolving now or any time in the future. But I can say that the RFS is under attack from the petroleum industry. They would like to repeal it. They would like to do anything they can to reduce or eliminate their competition for fuel from ethanol. So we have to face the petroleum lobby. I am hopeful we can hold the RFS together. By 2022 the EPA will be in control of it if nothing else changes. That means that the Administration and the appointments to the EPA will make an important difference to the RFS. We need much a stronger effort on the part of the supporters of the RFS if we are going to hold the RFS together.

Dave Loebsack: The biofuels and agriculture industries play a critical role in Iowa’s economy. Iowa’s biofuels industry continues to create good paying jobs, especially in our rural communities, and is helping drive our economy. I’ve always been a strong supporter of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) because I’ve seen first-hand what is does for Iowa’s economy and the jobs it creates. I will continue to fight to ensure that the final blending volumes are strong for Iowa. We continue to hear from the oil       companies how bad the RFS is, but I think it’s more a worry that they are losing some of their record-breaking profits. The oil companies continue to receive billions in tax breaks every year, and I think the RFS is a simple, practical way to level the playing field, create jobs in Iowa, and push us toward energy independence. I’m going to keep fighting for creating jobs for, Iowa’s economy, and that means supporting the RFS.

David Young: I support the Renewable Fuel Standard. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Congress set renewable volume obligations through 2022. I have consistently supported maintaining those levels as stipulated by law to bolster Iowa’s rural economy, enhance domestic energy capacity, and ensure consumer choice at the gas pump. Furthermore, I support the biofuels industry’s work to capture coproducts from Distiller's Dried Grains to corn oil, ensuring these important products can be used and not wasted.

Rod Blum: We need to hold the EPA accountable to actually follow the RFS as passed by Congress, and we should also continue to push for more market access for Iowa ethanol. I introduced the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act to force the EPA to grant the waiver allowing E15 ethanol to be sold year round and will continue working to see that passed.

4. When looking forward toward soon to come discussions in relationship to the 2018 Farm Bill, what changes would you advocate for in relationship to Iowa’s agricultural industry & food/farm policy? 

Chuck Grassley: For the 2018 Farm Bill, I intend to continue advocating for a strong crop insurance program that is the linchpin of the farm safety net.   I will also work to ensure that the Livestock Forage Program and Livestock Indemnity Program are extended to ensure livestock producers have reliable protection if a catastrophe occurs.  The agriculture industry is in a downturn at the moment, I have heard from farmers in every sector about tight margins. This downturn is hitting young and beginning farmers the hardest because they lack the equity and financial resources of larger operations.  Therefore, I will also be looking for ways to ensure young and beginning farmers have the resources they need to be successful.  With the average age of the U.S. farmer approaching 60, we must make sure there is another generation of family farmers ready to produce food in this country.

Patty Judge: In the U.S. Senate, I would request to be on the Agriculture Committee and help write the next Farm Bill. I strongly believe that the Farm Bill must contain a strong safety net to protect family farmers in Iowa. I also believe that the Farm Bill should include a strong conservation title that provides the resources to adequately fund conservation programs. As a cow/calf farmer for many years and Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture for two terms, I know how important it is to support family farmers and write a strong Farm Bill that addresses the needs of Iowans.

Steve King: I’d like to see the CRP Program better applied to highly erodible acres, and that the taxpayers’ dollars are better distributed more evenly across the counties and, secondly, make sure that we have a good risk management program, of which crop insurance is the heart and soul of risk management.  Then, a thirdly, if not passed before, what is known as the King Amendment, or the PICA Amendment, to protect interstate commerce, which clarified and prohibits states from regulating the means of production of our agricultural products.  It is a commerce clause right of Congress to regulate interstate commerce and so I’d like to see my amendment become law before then but, if not, then in the next Farm Bill.  On the nutrition side, I’d like to see us reduce the amount that’s spent on the SNAP Program.  I’ve seen the food stamp numbers go from 19 million up to 46—actually 47—million, and roll back to 46.  There’s been a strong push on the part of this Administration to recruit more people to sign up for the nutrition program.  I would say let’s reduce that and get a better dollar for the taxpayer on the nutrition side.

Dave Loebsack: I want to make sure we get a Farm bill passed on time and not have Congress drag their feet like in years past. We can’t allow for the uncertainty of merely another extension to continue weighing down our rural communities. Additionally, I want to make sure we maintain strong crop insurance provisions, maintain conservation opportunities, reauthorize the foreign market access program, and continue grants and loans for our rural communities.

David Young: Any changes I will advocate for come from my conversations with Iowa farmers and livestock producers. For example, based on my conversations with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, I would like to see changes to the Conservation Reserve Program. As currently written, the program is very restrictive and does not provide flexibility for certain activities, such as grazing (especially during drought conditions). Furthermore, there are some concerns about the requirement to enroll entire fields versus certain strategic plots of land. I encourage you to share with me various changes needed to make farm programs more efficient and effective.

Rod Blum: I would like to see that the sensible livestock disaster assistance programs that are designed to assist producers who experience hardship due to circumstances beyond their control are protected in a new farm bill. We also need to make sure we deliver that aid with minimal bureaucratic red tape. Further, I would also like to see the next farm bill ensure that cattle producers are guaranteed access to sufficient grazing lands in light of increasing competition for access to land from government programs.

5. Robust markets are imperative to the independent Iowa cattleman and woman and their livelihood.  In recent years market price discovery has decreased while volatility has increased to historic levels.  How would you ensure small, independent businesses like Iowa’s cattle operations continue to be afforded the opportunity to protect their business risk in today’s market system by functionally maintaining or enhancing regulatory oversight via tools like Mandatory Price Reporting and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange? 

Chuck Grassley: I have opposed consolidation in the meat industry that gives packers outsized market power for decades.  Earlier this year, I reintroduced legislation that would ban packers from owning livestock which is a technique I believe they use to influence prices.  Additionally, in April, I asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study of the cattle industry specifying that they should identify what could be driving the recent volatility in futures markets.  Once the report is finished, I will review its findings and work with my colleagues to ensure everything is being done to guarantee the integrity and functionality of the cattle market.

Patty Judge: Congress must make sure that independent Iowa cattlemen and women have access to similar market information and opportunities as larger producers. Prices should be publicly reported as quickly as possible, and all market participants should have equal access to that information. Congress should continue to ensure that USDA’s Mandatory Price Reporting regulations meet those standards. Congress should also strengthen regulations that prevent large producers from unfairly manipulating prices and placing independent cattlemen and women at a competitive disadvantage.

Steve King: We need more transparency. Mandatory price reporting needs to be in real time and completely transparent. We need to also have transparency within the futures trading contracts as well. That means we need to be able to watch the algorithmic electronic high volume traders. Also, in real time we need a report from CME that tells us what kind of volume that is. We need more cash sales especially those that take place out of the large feed lots in places like Texas and Oklahoma, we are not getting a representative cash market down there, therefore the mandatory price reporting isn’t effective.

Dave Loebsack: Americans have long relied on Iowa to feed the nation and our state has long relied on our hard working family farmers to drive our economy. I believe that we must promote stability for these farmers and fight to improve the quality of life in rural Iowa. We need to better address the needs of Iowa’s family farms and rural economy through adjustments to commodity programs, increased rural development investment, and expanded conservation efforts.

David Young: In 2015, I, along with my colleagues in the House and Senate, voted to extend authorization for and to strengthen the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) mandatory price reporting requirements. This law requires meat packers to report both the prices they pay for cattle, swine, and lambs and the prices they receive for the sale of beef, pork, and lamb to the USDA. From there, the USDA must disseminate this information in a daily, weekly, and monthly report to enhance transparency of the marketplace for livestock producers. In addition, the USDA must work with livestock producers, packers, and other stakeholders to carry out a study looking further into mandatory price reporting to identify other problems that need to be addressed and opportunities to fix those problems.

On September 13, 2016, I agreed to cosponsor the Technical and Clarifying Amendments to the Packers and Stockyards Act of 2016. This bill would apply the Packers and Stockyards Act requirements to internet actions and other digital sales, and authorize electronic fund transfers. These corrections ensure producers receive the same financial protections whether they sell online or at the market facilities while also allowing the use of modern electronic payments, if desired. I remain committed to ensuring market transparency for our Iowa cattlemen and women.

While I will continue to work with ICA on these and other issues, I also encourage you to reach out to me directly to share your concerns and observances on how programs are working. This information is key to detecting and fixing problems.

I remain committed to protecting U.S. beef production. For this reason, in August 2016 following an announcement the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had found the Brazilian food safety system equivalent to the U.S. food safety system, I sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack asking for more information about the steps the USDA is taking to ensure the safety of all Brazilian beef imports. I look forward to hearing from the USDA and continuing oversight over this process to keep our U.S. cattle herds and beef production safe from foot and mouth disease.

Rob Blum: I have heard first hand from many independent Iowa cattle producers about the need to increase pricing transparency to ensure that the playing field is level.  In Congress I will continue to work to protect the MPR system, and I am also supportive of experimenting with ideas like online auction that could provide other methods of price discovery for producers moving forward.