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Assault on Ethanol Misses Its Mark

Saturday, Nov, 16 2013

The following is a guest commentary from U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley:

As its market share dips, Big Oil is doubling down to swat down its perennial piñata.  This time around, petroleum producers and food conglomerates are using environmental groups as political cover to gain traction on efforts to pull the plug on the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

Despite the ridiculously transparent and self-serving assault by these special interest groups, the relentless campaign to discredit ethanol undermines America’s longstanding efforts to diversify its energy landscape, fuel the economy and strengthen national security.

The predictable efforts to smear ethanol’s reputation ignore the renewable fuel’s valuable contributions to clean energy, rural development, job creation and U.S. energy independence.  The latest round of misguided untruths disregards the plain truth. Ethanol is a renewable, sustainable, clean-burning fuel that helps run the nation’s transportation fleet with less pollution.  Yet, critics continue to hide behind distortions that claim ethanol is bad for the environment.

Let’s talk turkey and separate fact from fiction regarding ethanol’s impact on the environment.

Critics say farmers are putting fragile land into production to cash in on higher corn prices at the expense of soil erosion and clean water.  They point out that five million Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres are no longer enrolled in the conservation program since 2008.  They want to pin the blame on ethanol.

First of all, fewer acres enrolled in the CRP has more to do with federal belt tightening than land stewardship decisions by America’s corn farmers.  The 2008 farm bill built upon other stewardship incentives for America’s farmers and ranchers administered by the USDA, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, wetlands restoration and wildlife habitat programs.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), no new grassland has been converted to cropland since 2005.

Fact:    The Wetlands Reserve Program in 2012 had a record-breaking enrollment of 2.65 million acres.  WRP lands cannot be farmed for 30 years.

Farmers must make marketing, planting and stewardship decisions that keep their operation financially sound and productive from crop year to crop year.  Even more importantly, these decisions must be environmentally sustainable for the long haul.  Let’s be clear.  Farmers simply can’t afford not to take scrupulous care of the land that sustains their livelihoods.

Fact:    Fertilizer use is on the decline.  Compare application per bushel in 1980 versus 2010 – nitrogen is down 43 percent; phosphate is down 58 percent; and, potash is down 64 percent.

Fact:    Ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline.  According to the Argonne National Laboratory, corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline.  If the oil industry wants to talk about the environment, let’s not forget the 1989 Exxon Valdez and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spills.

Critics also say the RFS is driving more acres into corn production.  In reality, the RFS is driving significant investment in higher-yielding, drought-resistant seed technology.  This is a win-win scenario to cultivate good-paying jobs and to harvest better yields on less land.

Fact:    The total cropland planted to corn in the United States is decreasing.  In 2013, U.S. farmers planted 97 million corn acres.  In the 1930s, farmers planted 103 million acres of corn.  Farmers have increased the corn harvest through higher yields, not more acres.

Critics contend the nation’s corn crop is diverted for fuel use at the expense of feed for livestock and higher prices at the grocery store.

Fact:    In reality, the value of corn increases during ethanol production.  One-third of the corn processed to make ethanol re-enters the marketplace as high value animal feed called dried distillers grain.  Livestock feed remains the largest end-user of corn.  When co-products such as dried distillers grains are factored in, ethanol consumes only 27 percent of the whole corn crop by volume; livestock feed uses 50 percent of the crop.

Fact:    The USDA Secretary has said farmers receive about 14 cents of every food dollar spent at the grocery store.  And, the farmer’s share of a $4 box of corn flakes is about 10 cents.

So what’s at stake when a coalition of special interests tag teams to pull the rug out from underneath the nation’s ethanol policy?

Unfortunately, these flawed attacks on ethanol and next-generation biofuels undermine America’s effort to move forward with an aggressive, diversified energy policy that takes into account global demand, geopolitics and U.S. economic growth.

posted by: Dennis Lowe 8 month(s) ago Comment On This Post


Veterans Day - GUEST COMMENTARY

Monday, Nov, 11 2013

Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today released the following statement commemorating Veterans Day:

“Veterans Day is a day to honor and thank the brave men and women who have put their lives on the line for our country.  We are grateful for their sacrifice, service and their commitment to keeping America strong and secure.

"When my dad landed on Iwo Jima, the Marines packed into LST-808 fought as one, for their brothers and for us.  In that same spirit we as a nation should always remember that supporting our troops means standing up for them not only when they are fighting overseas, but long after they have come home."

posted by: Dennis Lowe 8 month(s) ago Comment On This Post


Veterans Day - GUEST COMMENTARY

Monday, Nov, 11 2013

Honoring our veterans and service members
by Iowa Sen. Jeff Danielson


November 11 is Veterans Day, a time to honor all American veterans, living and dead, for their service to our country.

Iowa is home to about 240,000 veterans. In recent years, record numbers of service members have returned to our state as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wound down.  We are grateful for the sacrifices of these men and women—and to thousands of others from previous conflicts.

Iowa is a national leader when it comes to supporting veterans.  Each year, we work to improve services at the state and county levels to help service members make a smooth transition back to civilian life.  Local veterans’ organizations tell us that education, job training and health care are among the essentials needed to welcome them home.

Over the years, we’ve boosted help for returning soldiers seeking a college degree or the skills to qualify for good jobs.  We’ve worked with employers to protect soldiers’ jobs while they’re serving overseas.  We’ve made it illegal to foreclose on the homes of active duty Iowa National Guard members.  And we’ve improved efforts to connect veterans to the help they need and the benefits they’ve earned.

This year, we continued Iowa’s strong track record of supporting and honoring our veterans, service members and their families by:

• Ensuring that those serving on active duty remain eligible to receive tuition assistance benefits and attend school once they return.

• Emphasizing the admission of homeless, honorably discharged veterans to the Iowa Veterans Home.

• Including a mental health treatment staff member on the care committee for patients at the Iowa Veterans Home.

• Providing care at the Iowa Veterans Home for Gold Star parents—that is any parent of a service member who died on active duty.

• Providing more than $12 million to train our service members and honor our veterans, including money for the Iowa Veterans Cemetery and the Iowa Veterans Oral History Project.

To learn more about the services and benefits available to Iowa veterans, go to https://va.iowa.gov.

posted by: Dennis Lowe 8 month(s) ago Comment On This Post


Veterans Day - GUEST COMMENTARY

Saturday, Nov, 9 2013

Sesquicentennial Salute to Gettysburg Address by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley


It was seven score and 10 years ago.  On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his now legendary Gettysburg Address.  Four months after the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, the President returned to the site to remember the 51,000 Americans who lost their lives in the three-day battle, turning Pennsylvania farm fields into a battleground’s graveyard.

Arriving by train from Washington, D.C., President Lincoln delivered his historic speech at the dedication of the “Soldiers’ National Cemetery” where more than 3,500 Union soldiers were laid to rest.

In just 272 words, the President memorialized the enduring legacy of the most sacred principles of our republic.  In 10 sentences, the 16th president immortalized the unique vision of the Founders, a nation “conceived in liberty” and paid tribute to those who gave their lives on the battlefield so “that the nation might live.”

This Veterans Day – Monday, November 11th – let’s remember the “unfinished work” described by President Lincoln and so “nobly advanced” 150 years ago by the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg and by all of those who have fulfilled a patriotic duty to serve our country in times of peace and war.

President Lincoln did not realize the power of his eulogy.  Reportedly he reflected immediately afterwards:  “That speech won’t scour.  It is a flat failure.”  In those days, scour was a farming reference that described a plow’s blade moving through the soil.  A 19th century American inventor engineered a prairie sensation that scoured the rich Midwestern topsoil like a knife, falling smoothly from the polished steel plow. Like the “singing plow” invented by blacksmith John Deere, Lincoln’s words sing true to the soul of America 150 years later.

President Lincoln’s humility grossly underestimated the enduring power of his message that underscored our individual rights as Americans.  His closing words remind us about the rights and responsibilities we bear as citizens of this great nation:  that “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.”

The Gettysburg Address holds relevance today on its sesquicentennial anniversary.  The United States was 87 years old when President Lincoln asked if any nation conceived in liberty “can long endure.”  This summer, America celebrated 237 years of independence.

Our republic endures because its foundation is strong.  The deeply held views of the electorate today focus largely on the size and scope of government.  The ideological divide among voters can be seen in the politics and policies that shape American society.  The no. 1 issue on the minds of the electorate arguably is getting the economy back on the right track.  It’s not a coincidence that a flourishing economy and a bounty of good-paying jobs will help solve many of the challenges facing society and families working hard to make ends meet.

For generations, Americans have followed in the footsteps of their predecessors who blazed a trail of self-reliance to raise standards of living, to pursue achievement that knows no boundaries and to pledge allegiance to the rights and responsibilities of self-government.  America has outlasted regional, cultural, political, religious, racial and social differences because we are united by the timeless principles on which our nation was founded and which are embodied by the Constitution.  Ours is the first constitution based on the principle that we the people are sovereign with unalienable rights endowed by our Creator, delegating to our government only such power as necessary to secure these rights.  Such a founding is exceptional in human history.  We are a nation built to last on the enduring principles the Founders “brought forth on this continent” that have served America for more than two centuries.

President Lincoln needed only two minutes in his Gettysburg Address to remind Americans about our shared destiny.  He called upon his fellow citizens to “take increased devotion to that cause for which (soldiers) gave the last full measure of devotion.”

From this Veterans Day to the next 11th of November – including each day in between and beyond – let’s carry on that exceptional legacy of the American spirit.  Just as President Lincoln paid tribute to the idea of America’s exceptionalism, let us honor our men and women in uniform who have answered the call to serve and defend America’s freedom and individual liberty, especially those who have lost life and limb in the fullest measure of devotion to our country.

posted by: Dennis Lowe 8 month(s) ago Comment On This Post


Make Your Vote Count

Tuesday, Nov, 5 2013

Today is Election Day.

This is the day to make your voice heard when it comes to municipal politics.  Mayors and city council members will be elected.  Tax levies and bond referendums will be decided.

Voter turnout has suffered as eligible voters become more cynical about government and politicians.  That's not a good enough reason to pass on your civic duty.

If you have questions regarding your voter registration or the location of your polling place, contact your local county auditor’s office.

posted by: Dennis Lowe 8 month(s) ago Comment On This Post


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