Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2018 guest authors

The Bleeding Heartland community lost a valued voice this year when Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese passed away in October. As Mike Carberry noted in his obituary for his good friend, Kurt had a tremendous amount on his plate, and I was grateful whenever he found time to share his commentaries in this space. His final post here was a thought-provoking look at his own upbringing and past intimate relationships in light of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Friese was among more than 100 guest authors who produced 202 Bleeding Heartland posts during 2018, shattering the previous record of 164 posts by 83 writers in 2017. I’m thankful for every piece and have linked to them all below.

You will find scoops grounded in original research, commentary about major news events, personal reflections on events from many years ago, and stories in photographs or cartoons. Some posts were short, while others developed an argument over thousands of words. Pieces by Allison Engel, Randy Richardson, Tyler Higgs, and Matt Chapman were among the most-viewed at the site this year. In the full list, I’ve noted other posts that were especially popular.

Please get in touch if you would like to write about any political topic of local, statewide, or national importance during 2019. If you do not already have a Bleeding Heartland account, I can set one up for you and explain the process. There is no standard format or word limit. I copy-edit for clarity but don’t micromanage how authors express themselves. Although most authors write under their real names, pseudonyms are allowed here and may be advisable for those writing about sensitive topics or whose day job does not permit expressing political views. I ask authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest, such as being are a paid staffer, consultant, or lobbyist promoting any candidate or policy they discuss here.

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Comments at a CAFO hearing

Francis Thicke is a soil scientist and organic dairy farmer. He has served as the National Program Leader for Soil Science for the USDA-Extension Service and was the 2010 Democratic candidate for Iowa secretary of agriculture. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The room was packed for an August 28 hearing on a new proposed confined-animal feeding operation (CAFO) in Jefferson County. Lots of people expressed their frustration that Iowa’s laws make it nearly impossible to stop a CAFO that will compromise the quality of life for the neighbors.

Here are my comments:

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Iowa agriculture is a water quality problem waiting to happen

Francis Thicke is a soil scientist and organic dairy farmer. He has served as the National Program Leader for Soil Science for the USDA-Extension Service and was the 2010 Democratic candidate for Iowa secretary of agriculture. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I submitted the following op-ed to the Des Moines Register, but the newspaper did not print it.

In a recent guest column for the Register, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig presented the usual ag-lobby refrain that Iowa’s nitrate problem is caused by the weather. It is time for Iowa’s citizens to stop listening to this kind of misinformation and learn about the real cause of our nitrate problem, and how we can solve it.

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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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