INDEPENDENCE – Since first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980, Sen Chuck Grassley has held meetings in every county. The meetings have varied in size from factory floors to restaurants to library meeting rooms. His philosophy has been to gather in different places and times so different constituents may have the opportunity to attend and have their voices heard.
On Tuesday, his visit to the Falcon Civic Center was organized by the Buchanan County Farm Bureau. In addition to Farm Bureau members, representatives of the Buchanan County Pork Producers and Buchanan County Cattlemen’s Association were present to discuss mainly agricultural topics.
Lucrecia Mangrich, Buchanan County Farm Bureau president, introduced Sen. Grassley and asked the first question.
“What do you see with the change in Congress the opportunities in the next couple of years,” she asked.
Grassley listed several things, starting with working with President Biden to get the country back together.
“That doesn’t deal with an issue, but it is something we all recognize is a problem for society as a whole and it’s reflected in government,” he said.
Other things he wants to work on are the estate tax, keeping the current Waters of the U.S. regulations, reducing drug prices, and overcoming the pandemic.
Local farmer Aaron Cook brought up “price discovery,” and felt as an independent producer he wanted to be sure market prices were being set in a fair and transparent way. Grassley had introduced a bill in 2002 regarding market pricing and was part of a bipartisan effort again in May 2020 to reintroduce legislation to help farmers. Grassley said he is also interested in creating legislation that would eliminate livestock ownership by corporate packers. He conceded that, as a Republican, he generally believes in a free-market system with little government regulation but, in this instance, he believes a few large packing houses have too much influence on pricing.
Buchanan County cattleman and farmer Dean Hamblin asked about the status of ethanol waivers. Grassley said for years there was no stability with issues as more waivers were being written. He said a decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals was favorable to corn growers, but in recent days the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will take up the matter. The issue of renewable fuel standards remains fluid.
Trish Cook, Buchanan County pork producer and a regional director for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, asked about trade issues, specifically Chinese retaliatory tariffs on pork, TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).
The original TPP contained measures to lower both non-tariff and tariff barriers to trade. The United States signed it on February 4, 2016. President Trump withdrew from TTP shortly after being inaugurated in 2017, and that version of the agreement was not ratified.
TPA is defined as “a time-limited authority that Congress uses to establish trade negotiating objectives, notification, and consultation requirements, and procedures to consider implementing legislation for certain reciprocal trade agreements provided that they meet certain statutory requirements.” TPA is authorized through July 31, 2021.
Grassley said he would support TPA, “…unless the Democrat Congress put so many restrictions on it.”
“There used to be a time when I said you should only deal with economic issues, but within the last couple Trade Promotion Authorities we got some things in there on labor…environment…human rights, “ he said. “I’ve come to accept some of them because I think trade agreements are so important that I shouldn’t let my ideological ideas get in the way.”
Regarding TTP, Sen. Grassley felt the incoming president has signaled support to rejoin, but he has not seen anything definitive.
Sen. Grassley feels Biden will keep the tariffs on Chinese products for now, but will reach out to Europe and Asia-Pacific partners to negotiate together with China.
A non-ag issue raised was freedom of speech on social media.
“Censorship is bad for our society,” said Sen. Grassley. “Let the consumer make the choice.”
Sen. Grassley said Section 230 of the Communications Act (aka Communications Decency Act or Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) protects social media providers. The Section states, in part: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Sen. Grassley feels there is bipartisan interest in modifying Section 230.
The final agricultural topic addressed was about the Farm Bill.
“As long as we give enough money for food stamps, I don’t see the Democrats hackling us too much on farm programs,” said Sen. Grassley.
He thinks there may be tweaks here and there, but the farm safety nets will stay in place.
“The Farm Bureau has a good respected voice in Washington,” he said, adding it is important for constituents to keep in touch with him.
Wrapping up the meeting, Sen. Grassley stated he looks forward to working with President Biden, specifically the man he knew for three decades as “Senator Biden” rather than “Vice President Biden.”
“I think his goal of uniting the country is very, very important,” he said. “I feel comfortable helping with that.”
Sen. Grassley thinks how a senator handles themself and more by what they do over what they say is a step toward bringing unity.
“They need to set a good example,” he said. “This may be too sentimental, but I think of the two laws from the Bible – Love God first, Love your neighbor. If we all did that I don’t think we’d have Facebook shutting anybody down.”
The next stop on his tour Tuesday was Hawkeye Community College.