IA-Sen: Three fault lines in a Democratic primary between Patty Judge and Rob Hogg

Former Lieutenant Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, Jason Noble reported today for the Des Moines Register, citing multiple unnamed sources. She will make her candidacy official tomorrow. Two weeks should be plenty of time for her supporters to collect the 2,104 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Three Democrats are already competing for the chance to run against six-term incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley, but once Judge enters the race, the main contest will be between her and State Senator Rob Hogg. Intending no disrespect to Tom Fiegen or Bob Krause, their performance in the 2010 IA-Sen primary suggests they will not be major factors on June 7.

I see three main factors influencing Iowa Democrats as they decide between Judge and Hogg.

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Iowa officials disappointed by EPA's final Renewable Fuel Standard

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Iowa politicians from both parties may disagree on hundreds of policy issues, but they have long been united in supporting the biofuels industry. Iowa’s elected officials expressed outrage in late 2013, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing the Renewable Fuel Standard, a “federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.” Governor Terry Branstad and then-Representative Bruce Braley were among those who urged the EPA not to reduce the amount of ethanol required. Political pressure eventually delayed the EPA’s action on adjusting the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Yesterday the EPA released the final version of the RFS. More details, background and supporting documents on the rule are available here. The final standards for 2014 and 2015 “reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in those years, and standards for 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) […] represent significant growth over historical levels.” They rule also sets higher goals than those the EPA proposed earlier this year. Christopher Doering reported for the Des Moines Register,

Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said in an interview the ethanol quotas follow Congress’ intent to promote the increased use of renewable fuels. She said slower-than-expected growth in the nascent cellulosic ethanol industry and lower gasoline demand made the 2007 figures from Congress no longer achievable.

These numbers will “really drive the volumes significantly beyond where they have been in the last couple of years, which is what Congress intended, and that’s substantial growth, achievable growth,” McCabe said. “The industry is going to really have to push to achieve these, but it provides the signal they’ve been asking for. I think when people look at the numbers they will see that this really is very good for the industry.”

Nevertheless, Iowa politicians expressed strong disapproval yesterday of the EPA’s final rule. I’ve enclosed below statements from the governor’s office and several members of Congress and will update this post as needed.

Once you venture outside political circles, you can find Iowa voices questioning the consensus about federal policy on biofuels. At a January 2014 hearing organized by Branstad, Francis Thicke was the only speaker “to talk about the ‘other side’ of ethanol,” arguing that it is “disingenuous to frame the debate on the Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS) as a struggle between farmers and Big Oil.” Bleeding Heartland user black desert nomad also defended the EPA’s planned update to the RFS. Whereas elected officials tend to cite Renewable Fuels Association statistics as gospel, Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson has questioned industry claims regarding biofuels production and job creation.

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National Organic Program Rule Change

(Thanks for this guest diary on an important federal policy change that will affect consumers as well as farmers. The issue has been below the radar as the government shutdown and "Obamacare" rollout dominated the news. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

As a member of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), I have been asked by consumers how the rules recently got changed in the National Organic Program (NOP) to make it easier for synthetic materials on the National List of Approved Materials to be relisted when they sunset after five years (as required by law).  To clarify, any synthetic materials approved for use in organic production and handling must be approved by the NOSB by a two-thirds majority vote.  And, by law, those materials sunset in five years and must be re-approved by the NOSB to remain on the National List.  

The recent rule change — made by USDA without consultation with the NOSB — turns the voting upside down, changing the voting for sunseting materials from a former two-thirds majority to re-approve a sunseting material to two-thirds majority to de-list a sunseting material.  As Jim Riddle, long-time leader in the organic community and former Chair of the NOSB points out below in a letter to the Organic Trade Association (who supports the rule change), that is a huge change.  

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Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy Will Not Work

(The author is an organic farmer with a Phd in soil science. He was the Democratic nominee for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture in 2010. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

We have been hearing a lot of hype from Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey about how the voluntary approach to changing agricultural practices to improve water quality — as proposed in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) — will be effective.  However, my experience in over 25 years of work on water quality tells me that this is very naive thinking at best, and deceptive to the public at worst.  Below are the comments on the NRS that I submitted a few days ago.

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Lean finely textured beef/"pink slime" linkfest

Competing rallies about lean finely textured beef took place on the Iowa State University campus yesterday. Governor Terry Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, and Representative Steve King were among the speakers at a rally supporting continued use of the additive used in some ground beef. Before that event, some family farmers joined activists at a rally to “to protest the collusion between industrial meat production and our political system.”

It’s time for a new Bleeding Heartland thread about lean finely textured beef, known to detractors as “pink slime.” A dozen links to news and commentary about this controversy are after the jump.

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Nuclear power in Iowa links and discussion thread

Expanding nuclear power is again a hot topic at the Iowa statehouse. It’s not clear whether Iowa Senate Commerce Committee Chair Matt McCoy can find the votes he needs to advance House File 561. McCoy announced last week that new language in the bill would protect consumers and satisfy a majority of his committee members. However, opponents say the changes address only one of many problems in a bill that would primarily benefit MidAmerican Energy at the expense of its ratepayers. McCoy was forced to delay consideration of House File 561 on March 8, but he is expected to bring up the bill before his committee sometime this week–if he has the votes.

Follow me after the jump for analysis on the prospects for passing House File 561 and the merits of the bill.

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