After successful 2013, Grassley is looking for more of the same in 2014
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 01/27/2014 10:10 AM
DES MOINES — Rep. Pat Grassley, a New Hartford Republican, says many of the initiatives he worked on during his first term as chairman of the Iowa House Agriculture Committee were accomplished last year.
"We pretty much put the finishing touches on things we planned to do over the course of two years in one year," Grassley said. "We were fortunate several of our bills not only passed the House and Senate but were signed by the governor."
Beginning farmer issues were a priority. The Legislature increased tax credits to landowners who rent to beginning farmers. Legislators also created a program giving beginning farmers the opportunity to lease agricultural land managed by the DNR.
Grassley applauds fellow ag committee members for their efforts.
"We passed legislation out of committee in a bipartisan manner," he said. "It wasn't just agriculture. We passed property tax reform and a responsible budget last year."
The 2014 agenda includes a proposal by the Iowa Corn Growers Association to raise the legislative cap on the corn checkoff so that farmers can choose by referendum whether they want a checkoff increase.
Grassley plans to meet with Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, DNR Director Chuck Gipp and others involved with implementing Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy to talk about how the plan is working.
"It may not require new legislation, but it's important for us to show our support for the voluntary efforts farmers are making to improve water quality," Grassley said. "From the folks I talk to across the state and in my district, I think farmers are buying into it because it's voluntary. When the government tells farmers what to do, even if it's a good idea, we don't like to be told what to do. That's the nature of farming."
The ag committee may consider a resolution supporting the federal Renewable Fuels Standard in light of the EPA proposal to reduce volume obligation levels in the RFS for 2014.
"I'm not for purely symbolic gestures, but if it shows that the Iowa Legislature stands in support of renewable fuels and can make a difference in Washington, we would do it," Grassley said.
Grassley said he will remind legislators that while agriculture has had some good years recently the good times won't last forever. Crop prices have fallen and are projected to remain down the next few years.
While it won't come through the ag committee, Grassley will co-sponsor legislation related to the Rock Island Clean Line proposal to build an overhead direct current transmission line across the state.
"I attended the meetings in Grundy and Butler County about the Rock Island Clean Line and there were 250 to 300 people there, and almost every single person who spoke was in opposition" Grassley said. "My concern is that a project that starts in western Iowa and runs across the state and you have landowners who don't see the benefit of it, there is no way that it will be finished without using eminent domain. That makes landowners very nervous."
Grassley and other legislators are proposing that if eminent domain is used to acquire land for the transmission line, a certain percentage of the power has to be used by customers in Iowa.
"With the Rock Island Clean Line, all the power will be transmitted out of Iowa to Illinois," Grassley said. "It won't be used along the route."
Grassley doesn't support an increase in the gas tax for road and bridge repairs. Senior citizens in his district tell him a gas tax increase would be "one more pinch in their fixed incomes."
"My opinion is that a tax increase should be a last resort, and we should make sure every option has been entertained before we go that route," Grassley said. "Once a tax is increased, it very rarely goes back to where it was before."
Contact Grassley at email@example.com or (319) 983-9019. Find out more about the Iowa Legislature at www.legis.iowa.gov.