WASHINGTON (AP) – The House has passed an almost $100 billion-a-year, compromise farm bill that would make small cuts to food stamps and continue generous subsidies for the nation’s farmers. The vote was 251-166. The five-year bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to send it to the president’s desk.
The measure had solid backing from the House GOP leadership, even though it makes smaller cuts to food stamps than they would have liked. The bill would cut about $800 million a year from the $80 billion-a-year program, or around 1 percent. The House had sought a 5 percent cut.
The legislation would continue to heavily subsidize major crops while eliminating some subsidies and shifting them toward more politically defensible insurance programs.
Representatives of the propane industry warn if temperatures don’t go up and demand doesn’t go down soon, Midwest propane supplies actually may run out. Jeff LaPan (luh-PAN) is an account manager for a Minnesota company that sells propane on the wholesale market. He says last week Midwesterners used about one-point-two million gallons of propane and there’s about five million gallons left in the region. “At that pace, we potentially could run out of propane…sometime potentially mid- to the end of February,” La Pan says. “It’s a potential.”
LaPan testified Monday afternoon before a group of lawmakers in Des Moines, many of whom are hearing horror stories from families who’re using space heaters and closing off sections of their homes to try to deal with the high price of propane, plus the shortage of supply. LaPan told legislators a combination of factors led to this year’s shortage — the shutdown of a key pipeline, below-average supplies on October 1st, higher demand for propane to dry the 2013 harvest and higher demand from homeowners due to frigid temperatures.
“Now I’ve committed to not say, ‘Perfect storm,’ but let’s just say that many events happened all at once to create the situation that we’re in. This is an anomoly,” LaPan said. “This is not our normal propane demand.” Brent Vander Leest of Sully Transport has more than 20 trucks headed to Houston, Texas, now to pick up propane and haul it back to Iowa. “If everybody in the surrounding states do that, there’s liable to be 200 trucks in line, making it a 24-hour line,” Vander Leest says. “Our emergency hours of service exemption is due to run out in Texas, where we have to have a special exemption to pull out of there.”
Vander Leest says Iowa’s governor needs to lobby the governor of Texas to renew that exemption, which expires on Wednesday of next week. Some legislators say they’ll press to put an extra million dollars into the state program that provides grants to low income Iowans to help pay their heat and electric bills. Governor Branstad sent a letter to President Obama Monday, asking the president to ease or waive whatever federal regulations he can that might make it easier to get propane to market.
After months of debate, a new five-year farm bill emerged from the House-Senate conference committee on Monday and it may go to a vote in the full House as soon as tomorrow (Wednesday). Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, says key elements of the legislation he authored about payment limits and other reforms have been “watered down” to the point they will have little or no impact.
Grassley says, “The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, chairing the conference committee, decided he didn’t like it because it wasn’t good for Southern agriculture, so he just simply neutered them, effectively.” Representative Frank Lucas, a Republican from Oklahoma, chairs the panel and Grassley says he’s very dissatisfied with actions Lucas has taken in the 500-billion dollar bill. According to Grassley, the new farm bill contains target prices and other safety nets for rice, cotton and peanuts that are better than the current farm bill.
Grassley says, “There’s still things in there he wants you to believe that he’s doing what I want done, but it’s got so many conditions, so many loopholes.” The new farm bill, according to Grassley, is “bad for agriculture, it’s bad for taxpayers who are worried about the debt, it’s bad for our credibility with trading partners, and it’s bad for the future of farm programs.” One provision of Grassley’s that was removed would have limited the number of managers who could benefit from individual farming operations to one. With that element gone, Grassley says the bill will lead to tremendous waste.
Grassley says, “One farming operation had 16 managers and there’s so many loopholes, every third cousin of every farming operation is going to benefit from the farm program.” Grassley says a select few members of Congress are allowing the farm program to be “exploited by putting wealthy, so-called farmers ahead of small- and medium-sized farms and young and beginning farmers. This is an example of why Congress has a 12-percent approval rating.” Grassley says the legislation he included in the farm bill had been overwhelmingly approved months ago by members of both parties in both chambers.
“The Congressional Budget Office said that my amendment would save $387-million,” Grassley says, “so here’s $387-million going out the door because it doesn’t quite fit in to Southern agriculture.” The document is 957-pages long. Grassley says he hasn’t read the entire farm bill yet and isn’t ready to say if he’ll vote for or against it. While it’s expected to go to a vote in the House on Wednesday, it may not go before the Senate until next week. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, released a statement on the farm bill’s progress, saying: “The bipartisan, bicameral agreement will help to reduce the federal budget deficit while strengthening the economy in rural areas and nationally, providing future certainty and income protection to the agricultural sector, conserving natural resources, promoting healthier nutrition, and boosting renewable energy.”
If you can’t devote a full week of your life to riding a bicycle across Iowa on RAGBRAI, you can get a taste of the long-distance biking festival — and more than a taste of bacon — during a new event this summer. Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, says the Bacoon (bay-COON) Ride will be a one-day, 72-mile excursion starting and ending in the central Iowa town of Waukee. “We’re going to try to take advantage of every town along the Raccoon River Valley Trail,” Wyatt says. “There will be event specials and special things for registered riders along the way.”
The ride is scheduled for June 28th. Along the oval-shaped trail, riders will go through the towns of: Waukee, Ortonville, Adel, Redfield, Linden, Panora, Yale, Herndon, Jamaica, Dawson, Perry, Minburn and Dallas Center. Much like the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, Wyatt says each community along the Bacoon Ride will be rewarding cyclists with treats, except instead of pie, this event will all be bacon-oriented.
“We’re starting the morning with bacon-flavored donuts,” Wyatt says, “and there should be everything from a hog roast and bacon cheeseburgers and all kinds of different food opportunities along the way.” Proceeds from the ride will benefit the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, RAGBRAI’s Dream Team and other Iowa charities. Learn more at: bacoonride.com
A petition urging the D-N-R to no longer accept deer killed with lead bullets as donations to its food program that helps feed the needy was denied Thursday by the Natural Resource Commission. The D-N-R works with the Food Bank of Iowa in the Help us Stop Hunger or Hush program, which allows hunters to shoot a deer then donate it to be processed and fed to the needy. The N-R-C voted to reject the petition because commission members said there was not enough evidence to show the bullets caused lead poisoning. Cynthia Hansen, the manager of the “Lead Is Poison Coalition” testified that people eating venison are at risk when a deer is shot with lead.
“Many of the fragments are too small to see with the naked eye or to feel when the meat is being processed. But the lead is there as shown in the x-ray and CAT scans during the research studies,” Hansen says. Hansen cleaning the wounds won’t prevent lead poisoning. “So when deer is shot with lead the fragments are scattered beyond the wound channel,” according to Hansen. “And that lead can be dispersed anywhere from two inches to eighteen inches outside the wound channel based on research. “ While the commission recognized people are poisoned by lead in Iowa, the secretary of the N-R-C, Kim Francisco , says this lead often comes from other sources.
Francisco made the motion to deny the petition, saying there is no strong proof that the venison donated to HUSH contained toxic lead. “There are some legitimate concerns, and we heard it today, the presenters did a really nice job, about sub-lethal levels. Certainly understand that but 800,000 meals a year and we haven’t had any public health issues come up, “ Francisco says. The D-N-R reports five-thousand-281 deer were donated to the program in the 2012-2013 season. Kim Francisco, says HUSH serves a couple of purposes.
“The value of the program both to the people who are utilizing the meat and discussing the deer management problem in the state. And so providing an outlet for that meat that way,” Francisco says. The commission also made the point that it was not the right venue to address the problem — instead it should be taken to the legislature. The D-N-R says just over 56-thousand deer have been processed in the program from 2003 to 2012, which resulted in 10 million meals being provided.
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The Iowa Farm Bureau is seeking participants for a market study tour of China. The group says it’s now accepting applications from its members for a trip that includes meeting with Chinese farmers, agriculture business leaders, government officials and Beijing citizens. It is tentatively scheduled for early July.
Officials say China holds market demand potential for Iowa’s corn, soybeans and pork. They say the tour will give Iowa farmers inside knowledge of China’s internal agriculture issues, and will poise Iowa farmers to meet those demands.
Applications will be selected based on group participation and other factors. They will be accepted through the end of February.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the opportunity to spend the summer in an Iowa state park is available for individuals who serve as campground hosts. Campground hosts receive free camping at a designated site while they help state parks staff by assisting campers, explaining park rules, helping with registration and serving as an impromptu local tour guide. Hosts help park staff to keep the park clean and with light maintenance.
Hosts are needed for the season at Clear Lake, Geode, Lake Wapello, Nine Eagles, Pikes Peak, Pleasant Creek, Prairie Rose, Springbrook, Viking Lake and Wapsipinicon. The camping season is April 1st to October 31st. Applications are available online at www.iowadnr.gov/volunteer then click on the campground hosts link in the column on the left. Or, call 515-242-5704 to have an application mailed.
Applicants will have a federal criminal history and drivers’ license check as part of the process. Officials say the would like to get hosts placed in parks by mid-March so they are ready to go in April.