# Agriculture



USDA makes federal farm subsidies less transparent

Anne Schechinger is Senior Analyst of Economics for the Environmental Working Group. This report, which she co-authored with the EWG’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber, first appeared on the EWG’s website. 

The Environmental Working Group’s newly updated Farm Subsidy Database shows that federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2021 totaled $478 billion. This huge amount of taxpayer money does almost nothing to help farmers reduce their greenhouse gas emissions or adapt to adverse weather conditions caused by the climate crisis.

Our database update also shows that farm subsidy funding still goes to the largest and wealthiest farms, which can weather the climate crisis best, and that payments are getting less transparent, obscuring who has received almost $3.1 billion in payments. 

The Department of Agriculture’s subsidy funding could be used in much more useful ways that would help farmers in mitigating their emissions and becoming more resilient to hazardous weather conditions. Instead, it’s still a handout for rich landowners, city dwellers and family members of farmers. Even the USDA is benefiting, with one of its divisions receiving almost $350 million in payments.

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Zach Nunn has a lot to learn about federal food programs

Fresh off his assignment to the House Agriculture Committee, U.S. Representative Zach Nunn revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of who benefits from federal food assistance programs.

Although the first-term Republican told an interviewer that nutritional assistance goes “largely to blue state communities,” one federal food program alone serves nearly 10 percent of Nunn’s constituents in Iowa’s third Congressional district.

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Will Iowans' loyalty to Kevin McCarthy be rewarded?

UPDATE: All four Iowans received coveted committee assignments on January 11, which are discussed here. Original post follows.

The U.S. House spent most of last week mired in the longest-running attempt to elect a speaker since before the Civil War. Iowa’s four Republicans stood behind their caucus leader Kevin McCarthy from the first ballot on January 3 to the fifteenth ballot after midnight on January 7.

Iowa’s House delegation lacks any long-serving members; three are beginning their second terms, and Representative Zach Nunn was elected for the first time in 2022.

As House members receive committee assignments later this month, where the Iowans land could signal how much influence they have with GOP leadership.

Traditionally, members of Congress who publicly oppose their party’s leader are punished. But McCarthy’s team made so many concessions in search of votes for speaker that several Republican holdouts could be rewarded with prime committee assignments—arguably at the expense of those who were loyal to McCarthy throughout.

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Can Republicans and Democrats find common ground?

Linda Schreiber is a member of the League of Women Voters of Johnson County.

Rural policy is an area where Republicans and Democrats should be able to find common ground (no pun intended). The new Congress presents a real opportunity as work begins to pass a Farm Bill in 2023. This legislation is renewed roughly every five years to authorize rural development programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The current Farm Bill will expire on September 30, 2023.

Reauthorization allows policymakers the ability to review programs included in the legislation, consider changes, and address implementation barriers that may have come up since the previous Farm Bill passed.

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GOP leaders in deep red Iowa county object to CO2 pipelines

“I did not see this coming,” tweeted Carolyn Raffensperger, an environmental lawyer and the executive director of the Science & Environmental Health Network. She was referring to the Hancock County Republican Central Committee asking the Iowa Utilities Board to reject proposed carbon dioxide pipelines.

Republican-controlled boards of supervisors in dozens of Iowa counties (including Hancock) have formally objected to CO2 pipeline plans in their jurisdictions. But the December 19 letter, which the utilities board published on December 29, appears to be the first time a county GOP organization has weighed in.

Republican candidates routinely receive more than 70 percent of the vote in this part of north central Iowa, and Democrats have not fielded candidates lately for most Hancock County offices.

The Hancock GOP committee argued against the pipelines on four grounds. Although only one company (Summit Carbon Solutions) has proposed a route crossing Hancock County, the signers asked the board to file their objections to all CO2 pipelines.

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A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet

Silvia Secchi is a professor in the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences at the University of Iowa. She has a PhD in economics from Iowa State University.

What’s a farm? Who is a farmer? These are political questions.

They are important questions for Iowa, as so much of the state’s identity is wrapped around its historical role in U.S. agriculture. The questions also matter for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which implements policies that strongly favor Iowa’s farm and agribusiness sectors. The higher the number of farms, the more legitimate it is to keep claiming that “Iowa feeds the world.” Funding depends on that number too.

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