Working for Agriculture
When most Americans think of Iowa, they think of rolling fields of corn. Our farmland is indeed picturesque, but it’s more than big skies and wide-open spaces. Our farms and our rural communities are the backbone of our state economy – and crucial contributors to our national economy. Iowans produce food, biofuels and grains that are used all over the world. I’m proud to represent Iowa farmers and agriculture and will continue to work in Congress on its behalf.
Here’s some of what I’ve been working on that has an impact on Iowa agriculture:
Food, Farm & Jobs Act (Farm Bill 2012)
As you know, the Farm Bill has a huge impact in Iowa, and I want to work with the entire Iowa delegation to push for a Farm Bill that works for producers in our state. Over the past month or so, I have been traveling around Iowa hosting listening sessions to hear from farmers and others impacted by the Farm Bill. In the United States some 16 million jobs depend on the success of American agriculture.
It is important that we get a Farm Bill passed soon, as some farm bill programs have already expired and the rest expire on Sept. 30. Budget issues are one of the primary factors affecting the development of a new Farm Bill, particularly in a Congress that is focused on deficit reduction. Amid this environment of deficit reduction, one thing is certain – the Farm Bill will be smaller, but it is my goal to make sure it still works for Iowa.
Not getting a Farm Bill passed would be devastating to Iowa farmers. Every American has a stake in this bill and part of my job as a Member of Congress is trying to explain this to other Members who represent urban areas. Congress faces difficult choices about how much total support to provide to agriculture, and how to allocate support among competing interests. That means balancing the interests of Iowa agricultural producers, protecting our natural resources, promoting rural growth and jobs, protecting anti-hunger programs and improving nutrition, investing in agriculture research, and investing in our nation’s energy future, which is why it's so important that Iowans come together with as united of voice as possible.
House Agriculture Appropriations bill
I’ve expressed concerns about the Agriculture Appropriations bill that passed the House last year, despite my opposition. The bill has many provisions that place an unfair burden on Iowa farmers. For example, it nearly eliminates funding to install ethanol blender pumps at service stations. It also reduces crop insurance funding by 59 percent, gutting an important safety net for farmers. I will continue to stand up for Iowa farmers.
Conservation Easement Incentive Act
I am a cosponsor of the Conservation Easement Incentive Act. This tax deduction for conservation of land can help keep farm, ranch, and forest lands intact and protect important fish and wildlife, and conserve scenery across America. This legislation would make this tax incentive permanent, helping to preserve our natural history.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act
I am a cosponsor of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. Currently, the average age for a farmer is 57 years old, and this will only go up. The bill would provide incentives for retiring farmers to pass their land along to the next generation. In order to meet our nation’s food, feed, and fuel requirements, we need to make it easier and more attractive for farmers and ranchers who are trying to break into the business.
Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act
I am a cosponsor of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. This legislation will help promote local and regional agriculture. Consumers want a variety of fresh and healthy foods, and I am supportive of bringing down the barriers for farmers selling directly to consumers and at farmers markets. This will help support family farms and create jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.
Congressional Soils Caucus
I am proud to be vice-chair of the Congressional Soils Caucus. We work to raise awareness of the importance of soil and soil science and how this affects farming in Iowa. The Congressional Soils Caucus exists to seek and provide information related to soil and soil science, and how they relate to production of food, feed, fiber, and fuel. Learning ways to keep Iowa’s soil healthy is in everyone’s interest.
Stopping Regulations that Hurt Family Agriculture
I sent a letter to the Department of Labor expressing concerns about the ability of farmers and ranchers to hire youth to work in agriculture. This rule challenges the conventional wisdom of what defines a family farm in Iowa and the United States. I requested that farmers have additional time to comment on this because of the great potential impact it could have upon them.
Honoring Norman Borlaug
I am proud of the work Iowa native Norman Borlaug did in feeding the world’s hungry and in February sent a letter to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and leaders of the Iowa House and Senate. In the letter I requested that the Iowa legislature consider a resolution to replace one of the current Iowa statues on display at the US Capitol with one of Norman Borlaug. I am pleased that the Iowa legislature passed a resolution to do this and look forward to seeing the statue once it is complete.