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agriculture

Time for Tom Vilsack to show leadership on weed control

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 11:57:01 AM CDT

Commenting on the latest evidence of herbicide-resistant "superweeds" spreading in Iowa, Drake Law Professor Neil Hamilton argued in an editorial this week that we must not embrace "solutions" offered by biotech companies that "will simply repeat our mistakes."

Hamilton's appeal was not addressed to any specific person. Yet one Iowan is uniquely positioned to heed his warning: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. As the USDA considers the biotech industry's "next silver bullet solution" for herbicide-resistant weeds, Vilsack should think hard about the risks, "rather than just believing people who have some shiny new product to sell," in Hamilton's words. Vilsack's record raises doubts about whether he is up to this task.

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No one could have predicted... "Superweed" edition

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 06:45:00 AM CDT

Sunday's Des Moines Register carried the latest journalistic exploration of herbicide-resistant "superweeds" on Iowa farmland. The story's not new: agronomists at Iowa State University anticipated this problem and have been warning farmers for at least 15 years. Various published studies have shown the connection between widespread corn and soybean farming practices and the "rapid selection of 21 species of glyphosate-resistant weeds."

Industry groups representing conventional growers have repeatedly accused advocates for clean water and sustainable farming of threatening rural Iowans' way of life. Yet the dominant practices of corn and soybeans growers have accelerated the spread of resistant weeds through natural selection, potentially putting many Iowa farmers out of business in the coming years.

After the jump I've posted excerpts from Donelle Eller's story for the Sunday Register and more background on the herbicide-resistant weed problem. The 2013 Union of Concerned Scientists briefing paper on "The Rise of Superweeds-and What to Do About It" is an excellent starting point.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Democratic Party convention edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 15:34:00 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? The Iowa Democratic Party's state convention got overshadowed by the circus-like spectacle Republicans put on in Urbandale yesterday. We're talking about David Young's surprising nomination in IA-03 here. This is an open thread for all other topics.

After the jump I've posted several links about the Democratic convention and the full text (as prepared) of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's speech. He seems to have made a good impression, as he did at the Harkin Steak Fry in 2012. O'Malley won't challenge Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination; he was loyal Clinton surrogate during the 2008 primaries, even after Barack Obama crushed her in his state. If Clinton decides against running for president again, O'Malley could have a lot of upside potential in Iowa. He's much more familiar with this state than your average east-coast governor, having worked as a field organizer for Gary Hart's 1984 Iowa caucus campaign. John Deeth wrote up O'Malley's appearance for gubernatorial nominee Jack Hatch and running mate Monica Vernon in Iowa City.

UPDATE: Added below a short version of what would be the progressive case against O'Malley if he competes in the Iowa caucuses.

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IA-03: Monte Shaw's strengths and weaknesses as a candidate

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 14:42:41 PM CDT

State Senator Brad Zaun won a crowded primary in Iowa's third Congressional district in 2010, and he has led the only public polls in IA-03 this spring, but my best guess is that Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw will end up becoming Staci Appel's competition in the general election campaign. I assume no candidate will win 35 percent of the vote in tomorrow's primary, forcing a special district convention to select the nominee. From where I'm sitting, Shaw's strengths as a candidate outweigh his potential weaknesses with Republican voters and delegates.
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Branstad slashes conservation and clean water funding

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

It's one of the oldest tricks in any governor's playbook: schedule media events for bill signing ceremonies you want the public to hear about, while burying bad news late on a Friday, after reporters have filed their stories. I was worried Governor Terry Branstad would make big cuts to environmental funding just before Memorial Day weekend, as he had cut food bank money two years ago.

Instead, Branstad's office released the news about this year's spending vetoes after dinnertime on Friday, May 30. Hours earlier, the governor had welcomed reporters, lawmakers, and members of the public to watch him sign a bill legalizing the possession of cannabis oil to treat seizure disorders, as well as a bill altering Iowa's HIV transmission law.

Follow me after the jump for the gory details. I no longer consider 2014 a good year for Iowa environmental funding.

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Iowa legislature not serious yet about preserving soil and clean water

by: desmoinesdem

Wed May 07, 2014 at 08:16:45 AM CDT

The Iowa House and Senate wrapped up the 2014 session during "Soil and Water Conservation Week." While certain environmental programs did well in the budget for fiscal year 2015, the legislature did not adequately address some of the biggest problems affecting Iowa's soil and water.

The Iowa Environmental Council blog linked to several recent articles by "top experts on Iowa soil conservation," who "expressed alarm about the state of our soil" and in particular the rapid rate of erosion. Along with other kinds of agricultural runoff, soil erosion contributes to toxic algae blooms in rivers and lakes, not only in Iowa and neighboring states but also across much of the U.S. Nutrient pollution is a major reason that more than half of the country's rivers and streams are "in poor condition for aquatic life."At the end of this post, I've enclosed an infographic explaining how toxic algae blooms form and how to prevent them.

Iowa lawmakers continue to throw money at the state's Nutrient Reduction Strategy, without insisting on numeric criteria for nitrogen and phosphorous levels in water and without the goals, timelines and monitoring needed to assure Iowans that waterways are becoming cleaner. In fact, the fiscal year 2015 appropriation for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship removed wording requiring that money for watershed projects be used to reduce nutrients. Follow me after the jump for the disturbing details.

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Don't RAPE REAP

by: Supervisor Brent Oleson

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 18:12:24 PM CDT

(The author has been a Linn County Supervisor since 2009 and previously worked with the Iowa Senate Minority leader. Bleeding Heartland discussed the bipartisan effort to increase REAP funding to $25 million here. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I'm gonna go on a rant...about an attempted RAPE.

Yes, I mean every word and hyperbole I'm uttering on this post. REAP (Resource Enhancement & Protection) is being RAPED! For Agriculture...by agri-business...to correct it's mistakes in a supposedly free and private market of farming. How is this rape of taxpayer funds and DNR license plate fees occurring and for what specifically? Read on My friends. 

The Iowa House of Representatives wants to put REAP dollars toward... agri-terrace projects, forestry management (subject to logging), and water nutrient pollution clean-up programs because farmland soil is laden with fertilizer chemicals. These are all worthy issues to be addressed on their own I say, and should indeed be addressed and monies put toward mitigation efforts. The Iowa Dept. Of Ag has jurisdiction on all these problems, and they should since their policies and practices created them in the first place.

This isn't an indictment of farmers, because most are great conservationists of their own free will as it's good business and good citizenship. I commend those Iowa farmers, especially my Linn County ones, who work hard to be responsible neighbors, citizens and conservationists...voluntarily I might add! But I don't give a pass to bad apples, policy-makers, or special interest Ag industry lobbyists.

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Q: When do Iowa Democrats talk like Steve King?

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 11:55:00 AM CDT

A. When doing so serves Big Ag's interests.

Yesterday the Iowa House approved House Resolution 123, which requests "that all necessary and immediate action be taken by the State of California, the United States Congress, the United State Attorney General, state legislatures, state governors, and state attorneys general to effectuate the repeal of California legislation enacted as AB 1437 that unconstitutionally infringes upon the Commerce Clause of the Constitution of the United States to the detriment of this nation's consumers and farmers."

U.S. Representative Steve King has been on the warpath against the supposedly "unconstitutional" California law for some time. After he failed to get language overriding the egg regulations into the new Farm Bill, several state attorneys general filed suit in federal court. Last month Governor Terry Branstad joined that lawsuit, saying the California law "discriminates against Iowa's egg producers."

Thirteen Iowa House Democrats joined all 53 Republicans to co-sponsor House Resolution 123 (full text here). The Democrats were Bruce Bearinger, Nancy Dunkel, John Forbes, Bruce Hunter, Jerry Kearns, Dan Kelley, Helen Miller, Dan Muhlbauer, Joe Riding, Patti Ruff, Sally Stutsman, Roger Thomas, and Frank Wood. Reading from the resolution on the Iowa House floor yesterday, State Representative Helen Miller parroted the same talking points we've heard from King before. Supposedly Iowa egg farmers "can't" sell their products in California anymore, which "unconstitutionally infringes upon the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States." Sorry, no. That law does not establish a higher bar for out-of-state producers than for in-state producers. Nor does it force any course of action on Iowa egg farmers. They will simply face the same choice any number of manufacturers face regarding any number of state laws: either comply with the relevant state's requirements, or sell your products elsewhere.

Some of the House Democrats who co-sponsored this resolution represent rural or suburban districts that will be competitive this year. Others, including Miller, are unopposed or represent urban districts that Republicans have no prayer of winning. Before taking Steve King's word for it on matters of constitutional law, they should have consulted Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. He didn't sign on to the lawsuit Branstad joined, I suspect because he sensed the case is weak. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was not a fan of King's efforts to overturn the California law either.  

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"Edible forest" coming to Iowa City

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 07:26:00 AM CDT

An incredible project will take shape soon in Iowa City:

A food forest is a gardening technique or land management system, which emulates a woodland ecosystem using edible trees, shrubs, and herbs. Fruit and nut trees make up the upper level, while berry shrubs, edible perennials, and annuals make up the lower levels. The Wetherby Park Edible Forest will combine aspects of native habitat rehabilitation with edible forest gardening.

Food in the Wetherby Food Forest:

Trees: apple, pear, plum, cherry, mulberry
Shrubs: hazelnut, serviceberry, aronia berry, beach plum, gooseberry, currant, honeyberry
Herbs: strawberry, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, chives, sorrel, lovage

The non-profit group Backyard Abundance is organizing a volunteer day on April 12 to prepare and mulch the future orchard site. Planting will begin in 2015. Backyard Abundance posted detailed design plans and plant lists here (pdf). Iowa City Parks and Recreation is partnering with Backyard Abundance on the edible forest, having previously worked with the group and other volunteers to establish an edible maze in the same park.

After the jump I've enclosed more about the new project, which aims to improve public health while using land sustainably and reducing the area's carbon footprint.

For Iowans who would like to create similar projects in their communities, I highly recommend Darrin Nordahl's book Public Produce. Nordahl formerly worked for the City of Davenport, where he promoted growing food in public spaces. The Cultivate Hope farm and urban agriculture education center in downtown Cedar Rapids would be a great source of advice and inspiration as well.

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IA-Sen: Braley learns painful lesson in 21st century campaigning (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 17:59:19 PM CDT

Every candidate for public office has to learn basic rules of campaigning, such as, "Every mic is a live mic." In other words, always assume you may be overheard when you stand next to a microphone, even if you think it's not turned on.

In the age of camera phones and YouTube, candidates may be speaking into a live mic even when there's no microphone to be seen. Representative Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, learned that lesson the hard way today.  

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Report highlights growing land access problem for Iowa farmers

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 13:20:00 PM CDT

Since at least 2007, roughly half of Iowa's land in agricultural production has been rented or leased rather than farmed by its owner. Farmland values at historically high levels are making it even more difficult for Iowans to pursue a secure career in farming. Almost no one can afford a large parcel of farmland at more than $8,000 per acre (or $10,000 per acre of high-grade land). Banks are rarely willing to lend aspiring farmers the kind of money needed to buy a farm, or to buy out siblings or cousins who inherited parts of the family farm.

Some experts believe Iowa farmland values have peaked, but via Tom Philpott I came across evidence that pressure from large buyers may continue to drive up prices. The Oakland Institute analyzed the trend of Wall Street investors buying farmland in the U.S. As institutional investors pile into this market, Iowa farmland may become increasingly unaffordable.

After the jump I've posted a few excerpts from the Oakland Institute's report, but I recommend downloading the whole piece to see supporting charts and references.

The trend toward absentee landlords owning Iowa farms is one among many reasons we can't rely on purely voluntary efforts to protect soil and water quality. Tenant farmers have no incentive to spend money on conservation practices to improve land for the long-term. Landowners (whether they be Wall Street firms or individual investors) are often looking for the highest rent this year, not farming practices that preserve soil fertility and keep excess nutrients out of waterways.  

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Mid-week open thread: Mysteries

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 19:35:00 PM CDT

What's on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? All topics are welcome in this open thread.

This missing Malaysian airliner is one of the craziest news stories I can remember. I would never have thought that a huge airplane carrying hundreds of people could disappear with investigators still mystified twelve days after the fact. If it crashed, why can't anyone find a debris field? If the pilot diverted it intentionally, with what goal? If it was flying in the wrong direction for hours before landing or crashing, how did it evade detection by radar? Why didn't any passenger manage to make a phone call or send a text message reporting strange happenings?

This mystery hits closer to home: why didn't corn growers and the biotech industry heed warnings that planting whole fields of genetically modified corn across the Midwest would hasten the arrival of resistant weeds and pests? New research published this week points to "the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn." I'm no longer surprised when regulators and the mainstream media ignore evidence that widespread agricultural practices are harming human health, because money talks. But in this case, failing to manage biotech crops properly is going to cost farmers and biotech companies big money. Herbicide-resistant weeds have been spreading for some time; now Iowa farmers may start using more pesticides to deal with pests that their crops were supposed to be able to repel.

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Weekend open thread: Too much news edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? Is anyone else annoyed that the Iowa legislature's second "funnel" deadline coincided with the last day major-party candidates could file to appear on the primary ballot? I put up a new overview of the Iowa Senate races and a thread on the statewide candidate filings. John Deeth has a quick look at all 125 legislative races. I have posts in progress about Iowa House races to watch, as well as what bills are dead and alive in the state legislature.

Congratulations to Cyclones fans celebrating Iowa State winning the Big 12 championship. I don't follow college basketball closely, but I know the Big 12 is probably the toughest conference this year. Fred Hoiberg has done a tremendous job recruiting and leading his team, without throwing tantrums on the court like the University of Iowa's coach, Fran McCaffery.

I highly recommend Josh Harkinson's fascinating piece, "You're Drinking the Wrong Kind of Milk." He explores the hypothesis that many people have trouble drinking cow's milk because Holsteins, which dominate industrial dairies, produce milk high in A1 protein. Some of those people can digest milk with predominantly A2 protein, produced by Jersey, Guernsey, and Normande cows.

As a friend and I talked about Harkinson's article a few days ago, she reminded me that Iowa's beloved Anderson Erickson Dairy used to sell a more expensive "Guernsey Gold" milk. Looking into it, I learned that AE stopped making this product in the mid-1980s, not because there was no demand for the premium milk, but because Iowa didn't have enough farmers raising Guernsey cows anymore.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.  

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Iowa Senate district 45: Joe Seng has a primary challenger, Mark Riley

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 12, 2014 at 15:22:00 PM CDT

If any Iowa Democrat deserves a primary challenge, it's three-term State Senator Joe Seng. Although the Davenport-based veterinarian represents one of the Democrats' safest urban districts, Seng is anti-choice and supported Republican calls for a vote against marriage equality in 2010. As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he has helped pass several bills that are good for industrial agriculture but bad for the environment, especially clean water. In addition, Seng himself challenged three-term U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack in the IA-02 Democratic primary two years ago, so he couldn't claim the moral high ground against a primary challenger for his state Senate seat.

I was excited to see yesterday that another Democratic candidate, Mark Riley, had filed papers to run in Senate district 45. When I realized Riley was Seng's Republican opponent in 2010 and ran an independent campaign against Iowa House Democrat Cindy Winckler in 2012, I became disappointed. Was he just a fake like the "Democrat" who ran against State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad in 2010?

I sought comment from Riley about why he was running as a Democrat in Iowa Senate district 45, having campaigned as a Republican in the same district a few years ago. I've posted his response after the jump. You be the judge. Riley would have my serious consideration if I lived on the west side of Davenport.  

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My comment to the USDA on Dow's petition to unleash 2,4-D resistant crops

by: black desert nomad

Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 22:50:50 PM CDT

(Appreciate this look at an issue that was not on my radar. Bleeding Heartland user black desert nomad has posted more details and references in the comments. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The path to progress has little to do with speed but a heckuva lot to do with direction - an Iowa farmer said once as he described the act of stewarding his farm land to provide for his family and the next generation.  I suggest the the USDA and all interested parties heed this advice in the consideration of the status of 2,4-D Resistant corn and soybeans, and I hope you will decline the petition.  While this is only a single petition it is a strong signal to agriculture to continue on the pesticide-treadmill, whereby efficacy wanes and a new, often more potent, product is rolled out.  And while the USDA and others may chose to take that path - it should be understood they are deciding for everyone and the destructive nature of 2,4-D will impact all farmers. 

The use of herbicide resistant crops inevitably increases the use of the associated chemicals. For example, the volume of glyphosate deployed in  Iowa has grown exponentially since 1996 and today is nearly unfathomable.  The USGS has shown glyphosate is now persistent in Iowa rains and air. These technologies are dealt on a field by field basis but every acre of Iowa gets the treatment through air, water, and transport of crops.  Now on the docket is a chemical that is arguably worse than glyphosate for human and ecosystem health. When 2, 4-D was championed the first time, Iowa's leading apple and grape industries vanished in less than 10 years. Today, Iowa's wine industry is reborn but its fate likely rests on the decision before the USDA.

Veteran farmers that routinely use 2,4-D today for corn production describe that they are very concerned about this pending biotech trait. If/when the herbicide resistant crops are ok'ed, the deployment of 2,4-D will be increased and perhaps more importantly it will be used later in the growing season when volitilization-potential is greatest due to heat and the respiration of mature crops. Dow Agroscience's insistence of lesser volatility in future formulations of 2,4-D is a tough pill to swallow when Iowans see the chemical-burnt windbreaks along field edges. Agrichemical drift is a common issue for rural citizens and the farmers of Iowa growing crops other than the resistant varieties of corn and soybeans.

I am an aspiring farmer and have been actively searching for farmland upon which to begin. Twice recently I have had interest to purchase - but the small (~ 50 acre) parcels have been too narrow to avoid chemical drift - and I have declined in anticipation of the decision on this petition. If 2,4-D resistant crops are approved by you and widely adopted by farmers, Iowa might no longer be a viable place to pursue the production of small grains, vegetables, orchards and pastures as I plan to.  In order to preserve the rights and liberties of Iowa farmers to pursue diverse approaches to agriculture, I ask that you decline Dow Agroscience's petitions 09-233-01p, 09-349-01p, and 11-234-01p.
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What could go wrong? Less training for manure spreaders edition

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 06:50:00 AM CDT

More than 800 manure spills have occurred on Iowa farms during the past two decades. At least 262 manure spills reached Iowa waterways between 2001 and 2011 alone, affecting the vast majority of counties.

More than half of rivers and streams in the region including Iowa are in "poor condition for aquatic life." Manure spills are a major contributing factor to this problem, and they are happening more often. The number of recorded manure spills in Iowa grew from 46 in 2012 to 76 in 2013.

How should state government respond to this set of facts? Various policies might address the explosion in waterways officially recognized as "impaired."  

But this is Iowa, where it's a minor miracle to get state lawmakers to take any steps against water pollution, and agricultural interests have repeatedly moved to undermine regulations related to the handling of manure on large-scale farms.

Last week, two-thirds of Iowa House members saw fit to reduce continuing education requirements for people certified to spread liquid manure on farm fields.  

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Branstad joins lawsuit against California law on egg production (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 10:34:57 AM CST

I'm always fascinated when conservatives who claim to support "states' rights" cry foul when another state enacts a law they dislike. In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 2, a law designed "to prohibit the cruel confinement of farm animals," including new rules on conditions for egg-laying hens. State lawmakers later passed and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law extending those rules to producers of any eggs sold in California. Representative Steve King (R, IA-04) tried but ultimately failed to insert language in the federal Farm Bill overturning California's law, which will affect Iowa egg producers when it becomes effective on January 1, 2015. King argued that the law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, creating an illegal trade barrier between states.

Since President Barack Obama signed into law a five-year Farm Bill that does not include King's amendment, attorneys general in Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Kentucky have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the California law. Governor Terry Branstad announced yesterday that he has joined that lawsuit on Iowa's behalf. Details are after the jump, including excerpts from the court filing and statements released by Branstad and King.

I am not an attorney, much less a specialist on the Commerce Clause, but I doubt the plaintiffs will succeed in overturning the California law, for three reasons: 1) the law does not "discriminate"; 2) the law does not force any conduct on egg producers outside the state of California; and 3) overturning this law would prompt a wave of lawsuits seeking to invalidate any state regulation designed to set higher standards for safety, public health, or consumer protection.

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Weekend open thread: Raccoon River Watershed edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 16:47:38 PM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

If you're among the roughly half a million Iowans whose household water comes from the Des Moines Water Works, you may have noticed a stronger chlorine smell lately. After the jump I've posted a statement explaining why the recent snow melt led to elevated ammonia levels in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, the sources for most drinking water in central Iowa. I also enclosed background on the most common causes of higher ammonia levels in surface water systems. Those can differ from watershed to watershed, but in Iowa conventional agriculture is a common source.

The Raccoon River Watershed Association is organizing an "Aldo Leopold Weekend Event" at the Hotel Pattee in Perry this Friday night and Saturday. I've enclosed the program below. On Saturday afternoon people will be reading from the Sand County Almanac before a showing of the documentary "Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time." That movie is well worth watching for anyone who cares about the environment.

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Mid-week open thread: Big changes

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 18:16:00 PM CST

What's on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? Here's an open thread.

Change for the better: According to Maj. Gen. Tim Orr, adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, no members of the Guard are stationed in war zones for the first time since before the Iraq War. Orr delivered his annual "Condition of the Guard" speech to Iowa legislators today. Only about 100 of roughly 9,400 National Guard or Air National Guard members from Iowa are stationed overseas; the largest group is in Kosovo.

Change for the worse: U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman announced last week that he will retire after 40 years in Congress. He is one of the giants of his generation, having helped pass the Clean Air Act and a wide range of consumer protection laws, from tobacco regulations to food safety. Until I read this article by Timothy Westmoreland, I didn't realize that Waxman was also an "unsung hero in the fight against AIDS" during the 1980s.

Changes don't get much bigger than climate change. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced today that seven news "regional hubs for risk adaptation and mitigation to climate change" will open around the country. The Midwestern "climate hub" will be located in Ames. The full USDA press release is after the jump.

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Harkin yes, Grassley no as Senate approves Farm Bill

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 21:12:00 PM CST

The U.S. Senate approved a compromise five-year farm bill this afternoon by 68 votes to 32 (roll call). As occurred in the House of Representatives last week, the farm bill drew substantial support from both caucuses. At the same time, a sizable number of conservative Republicans opposed the bill because of the costs, while some liberal Democrats voted no because of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. Iowa's Democratic Senator Tom Harkin voted for ending debate on the farm bill yesterday and for the conference report today. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley voted no on cloture and on final passage.

After the jump I've posted statements from Harkin and Grassley explaining their stance on the farm bill. Click here for details on the contentious provisions of the farm bill. For once I am inclined to agree more with Grassley than with Harkin. In many respects the conference report was a missed opportunity and won't serve the interests of Iowans or Americans generally.

I also sympathize with Grassley's outrage at "a select few members dismantling a provision that was passed by wide, bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate." Congressional rules should be changed so that the conference committee can alter only provisions that differed in the House and Senate bills, not consensus language from both versions.  

On the other hand, I suspect Grassley cast this protest vote because he knew his support wasn't required to get the farm bill to President Barack Obama's desk. As disappointing as this legislation is, Iowa's economy truly needs stability and predictability in federal agricultural programs.

UPDATE: Added Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey's comments below.  

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