ICYMI: Chuck Grassley, a Senate Force for Farmers Fighting for Trade Fairness & Renewable Energy
By Dan Looker
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Driving down the last hill before reaching his farm, Senator Chuck Grassley turns the ignition off to save fuel. The car has just enough momentum to glide into his garage, where you might see a tall plastic bag stuffed with the beer and soda cans he collects on three-mile runs near his rural New Hartford, Iowa, home.
A few years ago, I had a chance to visit Grassley at his modest 1,200-square-foot farm house. There he recycles paper, rain and waste water and flashlight batteries. He pointed out ceiling fans that allow him to leave the thermostat high in summer and low in winter when he and his wife, Barbara come home from Washington.
At age 85, Grassley tries to bring to government his own conservative, rural aversion to waste. And he uses a farmer’s dogged, disciplined approach to everything from fighting wasteful USDA payments to nonfarmers to confronting President Donald Trump on tariffs that hurt corn and soybean growers.
Grassley has real power to wield right now. He chairs the Senate Finance Committee. Besides raising nearly all federal revenue, the committee oversees trade. So Grassley is a key player in getting congressional approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a victory President Trump covets as the 2020 election approaches.
For months, Grassley has been urging Trump to drop the steel and aluminum tariffs. He talked to Trump in the White House. He wrote an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal. He went on Fox and Friends to praise Trump’s trade negotiating prowess and urge dropping the tariffs to bring USMCA closer to a victory. Finally, on May 17, the Trump administration announced the tariffs are ending.
He recently told the National Association of Farm Broadcasting that America’s Smoot-Hawley Act tariffs of 1930 led to the Great Depression, Adolph Hitler and World War II. But for decades Grassley has also been a critic of China’s currency manipulation to export its own products cheaply. He often praises Trump for being the only president to stand up to China’s theft of American intellectual property.
Grassley has succeeded in getting tax credits to foster wind energy and the production of ethanol and biodiesel. (Ethanol tax credits are no longer in effect.)
He may be the most important defender of ethanol against constant attacks by better-financed oil industry lobbyists.
“The ethanol industry as a whole recognizes that Chuck Grassley has been and continues to be the most important advocate we have,” Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association tells Agriculture.com.
“It’s not a one-man show, but who’s the band leader? I think even the other senators would agree, the band leader is Chuck Grassley,” Shaw says.
Grassley has longevity on this issue, too, fighting the use of MTBE, a petroleum-derived octane booster that competed with ethanol, and working to pass legislation that set up the Renewable Fuel Standard, first in 2005 and again in 2007.
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