D.C. Dispatch: Iowa’s representatives join on legislation to bolster biofuels

By: - June 17, 2022 3:29 pm
biofuel gasoline gas pump ethanol fuel

Inflation has resulted in the rise in gas prices bringing the national average to $5 a gallon. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa’s federal representatives helped introduce and pass a legislative package this week aimed at controlling rising food and gas prices, that includes expanded ethanol sales. 

The Lower Food and Fuel Cost Act, which contains five bills, passed the House with bipartisan support Thursday. Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Randy Feenstra and Ashley Hinson introduced an act within the package to establish a task force in the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assess the state of the food production in America. The intention is to prevent supply chain shortages in the future, lawmakers said.

The measure also would allow year-around sales of 15% ethanol blends (E15), which currently is only temporarily approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Feenstra said the package would benefit farmers while allowing biofuel producers to ramp ethanol production to the highest level. 

“Iowans are facing the highest prices for gas in decades, crushing family budgets and depleting savings accounts,” Feenstra said. “… I’m proud to support this bipartisan package that makes E15 available year-round, supports our farmers, and creates good-paying energy jobs in Iowa.”

Miller-Meeks introduced a component of the package that would direct the USDA to establish a loan program for independent cattle farmers and packers to better compete with the four major packing plants.

“I have consistently argued in favor of making E15 available year-round to support American energy independence, and I was proud to support legislation to do just that. We need to continue to work in a bipartisan manner to support our producers, fix our broken supply chains, lower fuel costs, and save consumers money.”

Iowa’s lone Democrat in the House, Rep. Cindy Axne, introduced a grant program to invest $200 million for greater development of renewable fuel infrastructure. Miller-Meeks joined as a cosponsor on the Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act.

“This package will increase access to biofuels — lowering costs for Iowa families while reducing our carbon footprint, will crack down on price-fixing in the meatpacking industry, and address rising input costs for farmers,” Axne said in a statement.

Grassley proposes savings incentives for middle-income families

Sen. Chuck Grassley proposed legislation to ease tax burdens on saving accounts for lower and middle-income families. With inflation rising 8.6% in the last year, Grassley said his proposal will encourage saving instead of raising business taxes or rebating fuel taxes.

Under the bill, married couples would be excluded from interest income up to $600 while individuals would be exempted up to $300. The Middle-Class Savings and Investment Act would also double the size of the lowest tax bracket while indexing the income threshold to meet inflation levels. Individuals saving for retirement would earn more on maximum credit amounts. Grassley’s proposal would eliminate the marriage penalty from the current Net Investment Tax. 

“These protections serve as an incentive to save which may also help contain consumer demand, a driving factor of inflation,” Grassley said. “With inflation soaring, a recession looming, this is just one example of a step that lawmakers can take to help Americans.” 

Ernst proposes an international defense strategy 

Sen. Joni Ernst speaking on the DEFEND Act alongside cosponsors of the bill. (Photo by Hella Sisca, courtesy of Ernst’s office)

A bill introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst directs the Department of Defense to establish an air and missile defense system to protect American allies in the Middle East.

The proposal aims to unite Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Iran, according to an Ernst news release.

The Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses (DEFEND) Act will be included in the Senate’s annual national defense bill for 2023.

The bipartisan legislation was released days after a drone attack on a U.S. consulate in Erbil, Iraq, which Ernst attributes to Iranian proxy forces. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

“The partner Middle East nations … see the growing and evolving threats that Iran poses for the security of the region and the importance of standing together to confront them,” Ernst said. “Our bipartisan, bicameral DEFEND Act bolsters this united front against Iran and will help to ultimately make America and our allies and partners in the region safer…”

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Kate Kealey
Kate Kealey

Katherine Kealey is a senior majoring in journalism and political science at Iowa State University. Before interning at the Iowa Capital Dispatch, she interned at the Carroll Times Herald. She served as the editor-in-chief of the Iowa State Daily in 2022.