# Federal Government



Little of USDA’s conservation spending went to "climate-smart" agriculture

Anne Schechinger is Senior Analyst of Economics for the Environmental Working Group. This report first appeared on the Environmental Working Group’s website.

Farmers received almost $7.4 billion in payments from two of the largest federal agricultural conservation programs between 2017 and 2020, but only a small proportion of these payments went to practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farming. 

This finding comes from the Environmental Working Group’s newest update to its Conservation Database, which provides 2017–2020 payment data for five of the largest Agriculture Department farm conservation programs.

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Six Iowa creeks have new names, replacing derogatory term

The U.S. Department of Interior announced on September 8 that its Board on Geographic Names voted to approve new names “for nearly 650 geographic features” formerly containing the word “squaw,” including six creek segments in Iowa.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve in that role, created a Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force last year. Its first project was to find replacement names for geographic features on federal lands bearing the term squaw, which “has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.”

The task force identified seven features in Iowa among a nationwide list of more than 660, and proposed alternate names for consideration in February. After working through thousands of public comments, the task force finalized the replacement names, which are listed here.

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Grassley, Hinson bash student loan relief, but not other government handouts

Like their counterparts across the country, top Iowa Republicans howled on August 24 when President Joe Biden rolled out a three-pronged student loan relief program.

Speaking at a town hall meeting, Senator Chuck Grassley asserted that it’s “unfair” to forgive some student loans but not help other people who struggle to repay their obligations.

U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson denounced the plan as a “handout to the wealthy and a total slap in the face” to working people who didn’t go to college or already paid off their student loans.

The outrage over student debt relief was striking, since Grassley and Hinson have not objected to some other federal government handouts, which benefited their own families.

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It's about time to fund the IRS

This column by Rick Morain first appeared in the Jefferson Herald.

U.S. Senate Democrats passed their omnibus Inflation Reduction Act on August 7 by 51 votes to 50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. They did so under so-called “reconciliation” rules, which require only a simple majority to pass bills related to appropriations, rather than the usual filibuster-blocking 60-vote margin.

The bill then went to the House, where Democrats approved it on a party-line 220 to 207 vote on August 12. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill this week.

The measure contains a number of provisions dear to the hearts of Democrats and many moderates: empowering Medicare to negotiate prices for several key drugs, capping Medicare recipients’ out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 a year, climate control incentives, extension of federal health care subsidies, a 15 percent minimum tax for most corporations whose profits exceed $1 billion a year, and other long-sought goodies.

By raising more money than the act will spend over a 10-year period, it will also enable the government to pay down some of the national debt by several hundred billion dollars. That hasn’t happened for the past 25 years.

A section of the act that particularly irritates Congressional Republicans – and many of their well-heeled donors – increases the funding of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by $80 billion over the next 10 years. A little more than half of that increase will go to hire thousands of new agents to audit tax returns.

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Hearing obliterates Grassley's excuses for Trump on pressuring DOJ

Senator Chuck Grassley has not been following the work of the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021, he told Dr. Bob Leonard of KNIA-KRLS Radio this week.

He should have watched the televised hearings on June 23. The focus was how President Donald Trump tried to use the U.S. Department of Justice to help him subvert the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election. The key elements of that conspiracy have been known since the Senate Judiciary Committee investigated that angle last year. But witnesses and exhibits provided many new details.

The testimony from former administration officials and Trump attorneys obliterated the alternate reality Grassley promoted last year, in which the president “did not exert improper influence on the Justice Department.”

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Three Iowans among first to have sentences commuted by Biden

President Joe Biden issued three pardons on April 26 and announced commutations for 75 people convicted of nonviolent federal drug offenses.

In a written statement, Biden said he was using his clemency powers during “Second Chance Month” to pardon “three people who have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities.”

I am also commuting the sentences of 75 people who are serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses, many of whom have been serving on home confinement during the COVID-pandemic—and many of whom would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today, thanks to the bipartisan First Step Act. 

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