DC Dispatch: Iowa Delegation Advances Agricultural Trade

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Federal lawmakers in Iowa are calling for more support for Iowa farmers amid rising costs and potential cuts in international trade.

US Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley have called on the US Trade Representative to intervene against the country’s plan to ban imports of US genetically modified corn. The proposal would effectively stop importing 90% of U.S. corn into Mexico by January 2024, according to a press release from Ernst.

According to the US Grains Council, Mexico is Iowa’s largest corn customer with 16 million tons exported to the country each year. Mexican agriculture officials have said the country could halve US yellow corn imports, according to an October Reuters report, with plans to increase domestic production.

The Republican senators wrote a letter to Ambassador Katherine Tai, asking her to formally request dispute resolution consultations under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement.

“Any disruption to these shipments will severely affect our farmers and the state’s economy, and will have disastrous economic consequences for the entire Corn Belt,” the senators wrote. “President Obrador’s executive order is not only a failure for American farmers, it is also impossible to implement.”

U.S. Representatives Cindy Axne and Ashley Hinson helped introduce a bill supporting international agricultural trade to the House. The Supporting Market Access to Reinvigorate Trade (SMART) Act would add nearly $470 million to two programs focused on exporting US-grown produce.

Axne said doubling funding for the Market Access and Foreign Market Development Program could increase agricultural exports nationwide by more than $7 billion. Iowa, which was the second largest agricultural exporter by state in 2021, would reap major benefits from increased funding, she said.

“Iowa farmers produce some of the highest quality produce that feeds and feeds the world,” Axne said in a statement. “Through new investments in the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, producers will have access to new markets that will allow them to continue to compete with foreign competitors on a global scale.”

Ernst: Addressing Propane Prices in the Farm Bill

Ernst also said the 2023 Farm Bill needs to expand its programs to combat rising propane prices that are causing hardship for Iowa farmers. She spoke with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Undersecretary for Rural Development, Xochitl Torres Small, about opportunities to expand Farm Bill offerings to help farmers cope with rising production costs. energy at a meeting of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Tuesday.

Torres Small focused on the Rural Energy for America program, which provides loans and grants to farmers to implement new renewable energy systems and make existing machinery more energy efficient. Ernst said REAP has been “historically underutilized,” but the undersecretary said some of the problems Iowans have getting energy funding may stem from high demand for the program.

“My understanding is that REAP is massively oversubscribed, so we don’t have enough funds to distribute it to everyone who requests it,” Torres Small said.

Senators weigh in on same-sex marriage bill

US Senator Chuck Grassley was in the minority voting against the Respect for Marriage Act on Wednesday, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

Ernst was one of 12 Republicans who voted in favor of the legislation, which would federally codify protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. The push to enact new protections came after Judge Clarence Thomas’ comments in his assent to the US Supreme Court case quashing Roe v Wade, where he said the court may reconsider other precedents such as gay marriage and access to birth control.

Grassley, who was just re-elected for his eighth term, said his vote against the law was not against same-sex or interracial marriage, but could cause problems for religious communities that oppose recognition of same-sex marriage. He also argued that there is no need for the legislation because there is “no effort” to overturn court marriage precedents.

“This legislation is simply unnecessary,” Grassley said in a statement. “Nobody seriously thinks that Obergefell is going to be overthrown, so we don’t need legislation. I’ve heard from multitudes of Iowans who fear religious freedom lawsuits.

But Ernst said she doesn’t believe religious freedoms are threatened by the bill’s wording.

“After hearing directly from Iowans and closely reviewing the amended language, I believe this bill protects religious freedoms and will simply maintain the status quo in Iowa,” Ernst said in a statement.

The United States House passed the legislation in July, where U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra was Iowa’s only vote against the law. Senators are expected to hold a final vote on the bill after Thanksgiving.

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