Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has issued a carefully-worded written statement that takes aim at a vote Democrat Bruce Braley took in the U.S. House last week. Last week, Republicans in the U.S. House voted to block the E-P-A from imposing rules that farmers fear would give the agency authority to regulate water in ditches, farm ponds and tile lines. Grassley called that House bill “a thoughtful approach to the problem” and an “easy” yes vote for “anybody who has talked to Iowans in the last couple of months.” Braley, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year, voted no.
Grassley didn’t mention Braley by name, but Grassley said in the statement that it’s “too bad the entire Iowa delegation didn’t get the message” to vote yes. In a written statement, Braley’s staff noted Braley had supported an amendment to the bill instead. It would have barred the E-P-A from adopting rules that would change the Clean Water Act exemptions currently on the books for farmers.
A spokesman for Braley said that approach would have protected farmers, but ensured polluters “like Big Oil” are held accountable for Clean Water Act violations. Bruce Neiman, a livestock farmer from Manchester who is president of the Delaware County Farm Bureau, says based on an email he got from Braley’s congressional office, he had expected Braley to vote yes. “It was just the opposite of the way he voted,” Neiman says. “and so after the second time reading it, I said: ‘Well, I guess an actual political flip-flop right in front of me.'” Neiman lives in Braley’s congressional district, but has not supported Braley in the past.
Neiman is backing Joni Ernst, the Republican running for the U.S. Senate this year and he believes Ernst would join those who are trying to reign the E-P-A. “Anymore, there’s a very limited ag population let alone rural population so if we don’t find people that we can count on then we’re in a very difficult position because there’s been a lot of EPA — I’m going to call it static,” Neiman says. “I mean, when they’re concerned about dust coming out of a field, they’ve gotten everybody’s attention in production agriculture.”
Ernst told a group of farmers in Independence, Iowa, last Friday that the E-P-A was “overreaching” and she accused Braley of voting no on the bill because Braley has the backing of an “extreme environmentalist” from California. The E-P-A is one of the federal agencies Ernst has said she’d like to see eliminated and Braley’s spokesman calls that a “radical Tea Party” idea that would get rid of rules that “keep Iowa drinking water clean.”