President Curt Sindergard, a northwest Iowa farmer, and other leaders of the Iowa Soybean Association were in Washington, D.C., last week to visit with elected officials about ag-related issues. One of those issues is energy.
They discussed the possible extension of the biodiesel tax incentive in proposed energy legislation and the Renewable Fuels Standard. Iowaâ€™s U.S. congressmen and senators are leaning toward supporting the 8-billion-gallon mandate for renewable fuels that is in the Senate proposal. The House has a 5-billion-gallon per year standard proposed in the House bill.
Do the senators and representatives that the ISA leaders talked to think that the Renewable Fuels Standard will end up being 6 or 7 or 8 billion gallons in the bill that comes out of the House-Senate conference committee that is meeting in July? The Iowa delegation is leaning toward the 8-billion gallons target as opposed to the 5 billion gallons.
At least the Iowa representatives and the two Iowa senators are supporting the 8- billion-gallon proposal more than the 5 billion gallons, says Sindergard. It sounds like the conference committee will move forward with its work on the energy bill and try to have a compromise bill out of the committee before August, he adds. Then it would be ready to introduce into the entire Senate and House for a vote.
What other issues did they discuss?
"We also talked about federal budget reconciliation and how it will affect farm program payments and spending," says Sindergard. "We stressed the fact that the USDA budget does have a fairly small percent of the overall budget of the United States. When Congress and the Administration start looking at making more cuts in federal spending, we want to make sure those cuts are fair and equitable. We realize the need to reduce government spending."
"If there is going to be any reduction in commodity spending, it should be achieved through equal percentage cuts over all the farm programs. It should not necessarily single out one or another program to try to make up that difference of $ 3 billion that they want us to cut out of the farm program," he says.
A proposal now being considered in Congress is to reduce ag spending by $3 billion by the year 2010.
Progress on transportation issues
"We also lobbied for the approval of the legislation to upgrade locks on the Mississippi River," says Sindergard. "House Bill 2864 -- the Water Resources Development Act -- has been reported out of committee and is going to the floor for a vote soon. It looks like this is the year to finally get something done on this."
"The Mississippi River issue and the need to repair those locks and dams is very important. About 75% of our exports go down that river and it is vital to our Iowa economy to have good transportation facilities--especially the farm economy."
The ISA delegation also talked to Congress about the CAFTA issue. "The Central American Free Trade Agreement is supported by most of the Republican Senators and Representatives we talked to," says Sindergard. "But on the Democratic side it wasnâ€™t as easy to garner the support for CAFTA."
"We look at CAFTA as a pathway to trade, and its passage will be vital to Iowaâ€™s economy and the U.S. ag economy in general," he says. There is a lot of work yet to do on CAFTA, he says, before it will get voted on.