As Senator Joni Ernst recently made her way across Iowa’s 99 counties, she made stops to visit many of Iowa’s businesses. This included a stop in Jasper County at the Two Rivers Cooperative location in Monroe. Welcoming Senator Ernst to Two Rivers were board members, cooperative staff, local media and some of the Senator’s agriculture staff as well.
Many topics relating to farming and agriculture, including business and regulatory issues, were discussed among the afternoon’s guests and attendees. On the subject of the 2018 Farm Bill, crop insurance was a heavily discussed issue. Senator Ernst asked those in attendance their thoughts on a cap for insurance dollars or number of acres covered by insurance. Many agreed that an adjustment like that would not be an effective choice for farmers. One guest explained it as, “An acre is an acre, and the same costs of inputs affect a farmer regardless of their acre size.” General Manager, Tracy Gathman, also noted the effect that change might have on the cooperative. “As a co-op, we have farmers that utilizing financing through us, and if they don’t receive insurance in those years it is needed, we likely won’t be able to see a payment for that financing either.”
Senator Ernst noted that her work on the Senate Ag Committee has shown crop insurance to not impact other states as greatly, but because it largely affects Iowa, she is making it a point to not overlook the topic in farm bill discussions.
Tracy Gathman mentioned two issues facing grain and farm supply cooperatives: Section 199 tax deductions and interstate truck weights. Tracy explained that the Section 199 tax deduction has helped farmer cooperatives across the state and that Two Rivers Cooperative wants to see that deduction continue. In regard to the proposed increases to limit interstate truck weights, many of the trucks that Two Rivers and other agricultural businesses have bought in the last few years currently exceed gross vehicle weight limits when traveling on interstate highways. Although the State of Iowa can and has changed laws specific to intrastate travel and highways, it has meant travel is made on less than ideal state highways and through residential areas. A call for increased weight limits on a national scale was encouraged by Tracy and guests of Senator Ernst.
The EPA Waters of the United States (WOTUS) ruling was also a strong topic among the afternoon’s discussions with Senator Ernst. Specifically, with the number of ditches, tributaries and small water outlets in the Two River’s region, this type of regulatory control is of great importance to farmers and area residents. Senator Ernst affirmed to those in attendance that she is a strong advocate for ensuring waterways are classified appropriately and repealing the 2015 WOTUS rule. Currently, the EPA and Corps have been directed by an executive order from President Trump to reexamine the 2015 rule and determine if it should be repealed or revised.
Other topics discussed during Senator Ernst’s visit to Two Rivers included healthcare; pensions; lock and dam infrastructure; trade, specifically the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Regarding the TPP, Senator Ernst made sure to mention that it was good for agriculture, but because President Trump is unsupportive of the TPP, the U.S. is currently developing bilateral agreements with individual countries. The Senator also strongly encouraged the group to know that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is very intent on agriculture exports, and we can’t slow down on this issue.
Senator Ernst also joined in conversations about the status of fields and crops in the Two Rivers territory; intently listening to the issues and concerns of each guest. She also took time to tour the Two River’s Monroe grain facilities, hearing a bit about the history and growth of the farmer-owned cooperative as well.
Two Rivers greatly appreciates Senator Ernst and her staff taking time to visit and openly discuss legislative and regulatory issues facing farmers and their cooperative.