D.C. Dispatch: Ag policy, clean water and Chinese ‘dumping’

By: - June 9, 2023 4:26 pm

(Photo by Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

With both chambers of Congress back in session, Iowa’s delegates spent the week tackling agricultural matters in advance of the farm bill, and Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst pursued issues related to trade and spending in China.

Nunn introduces farmland ownership legislation 

Rep. Zach Nunn announced legislation aimed at helping ag producers buy land and access markets.

The legislation would “provide funds for services that help farmers and ranchers acquire land, cover closing costs and down payments, secure clear titles, make site improvements and access training and technical assistance,” according to a news release. 

Nunn introduces water system cybersecurity legislation

Reps. Nikki Budzinski, a Democrat from Illinois and Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connecticut, are also sponsors of the bill. It will expand the Increasing Land, Capital and Market Access Program, created in 2022 under the American Rescue Plan Act. 

Nunn’s legislation would expand the program by $100 million per year for five years. 

The program is designed to “fund cooperative agreements or grants for projects that help move underserved producers from surviving to thriving,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The additional funding would provide grants to various levels of government agencies, not-for-profit educational institutions and non-profit organizations. 

“Young Americans who are willing to do the essential work to feed and fuel our world should be commended and supported however we can help,” Nunn said in a statement.

Feenstra helps introduce legislation for domestic manufacturing and farms

Reps. Randy Feenstra introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at expanding access to capital for  high-tech manufacturers and first-time farmers.

He proposed the Modernizing Agricultural and Manufacturing Bonds Act, along with Darin LaHood, Republican from Illinois; Dan Kildee, Democrat from Michigan, and Dwight Evans, Democrat from Pennsylvania,

The legislation would increase manufacturing bond sizes to $30 million, a $20 million increase. It also would update the definition of “manufacturing facility” to include high tech manufacturing processes such as biotechnology, design and formula development, align the definition of “substantial farmland” in the federal tax code with existing law and increase the amount of bond proceeds that can go to first-time farmers to $1 million, a $550,000 increase. 

“Industrial Development Bonds and First-Time Farmer Bonds (Aggie Bonds) are vital to economic development, manufacturing, and our farm economy in rural Iowa. However, outdated rules and regulations have hindered our domestic manufacturers and family farmers from utilizing these bonds,” Feenstra said in a news release. “I’m proud to work with my colleagues… to modernize current law to reflect the intensive capital needs of Iowa farmers and manufacturers to be profitable and productive.”

Ernst investigates tax dollars sent to China and Russia

Over $1.3 billion in U.S. tax dollars have been sent to Russia and China since 2017, according to a news release from Ernst’s office. 

Ernst released findings in conjunction with Open the Books, a nonprofit organization dedicated to posting online all disclosed spending by U.S. governments.

In response, on June 1, Ernst and Republican Sen. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin announced the introduction of the Tracking Receipts to Adversarial Countries for Knowledge of Spending Act, which would require all government grants made to any organization in China and Russia be publicly disclosed. 

“It is gravely concerning that no one in Washington can actually account for millions sent to Russia and China for pointless projects,” Ernst said in a news release. “But I have the receipts. I’m shining a light on this reckless spending, so bureaucrats can no longer cover up their tracks and taxpayers can know exactly what their hard-earned dollars are funding.”

Ernst made an appearance on Fox Business on June 8 to discuss the matter and released this video on her Twitter: 

Grassley asks for mushroom reparations

Grassley reintroduced legislation aimed at countering the effects of Chinese “dumping,” or deliberately exporting products to the U.S. at prices below the cost of product. The legislation would compensate U.S. producers driven out of business by the practice.

His legislation was introduced with Sens. Jon Tester, Democrat from Montana; Bill Cassidy, Republican from Louisiana; John Thune, Republican from South Dakota, and Debbie Stadenow, Democrat from Michigan.

It would spend an estimated $38.5 million in accrued delinquency interest on duties withheld by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) from from 2000-2014 on honey, garlic, crawfish and canned mushrooms imported from China.

It also would would amend the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 to change the date of interest collected by the CBP to be dispersed from Oct. 1, 2014 to Oct. 1, 2000, resulting in more interested collected. 

In 2000, Congress passed the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act =Nunn introduced the Cybersecurity for Rural Water Systems Act of 2023, which directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand the Circuit Rider Program to increase training and capabilities against rural water system cyberattacks.

Plea for disaster declaration

The Iowa delegation wrote a joint letter to Biden asking for federal aid to urgently be granted for a Davenport building that partially collapsed in late May.

Reynolds, congressional delegation request federal aid for Davenport building collapse

A federal disaster declaration had not been issued by Friday afternoon, but Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Friday the availability of loans for people impacted by the Davenport building collapse. 

The Small Business Administration has granted a request from Reynolds, which provides low-interest disaster loans to renters, homeowners, business and nonprofits in Scott county affected by the collapse. 

The loans are also available to people in Cedar, Clinton and Muscatine counties, whose property was destroyed due to the collapse. 

The same people are also eligible to apply for economic injury disaster loans.

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Jay Waagmeester
Jay Waagmeester

Jay is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch intern. Jay is based in Ames and is currently a senior majoring in journalism and marketing at Iowa State University. He has interned at New Century Press and contributed to the Iowa State Daily.