Grassley, perdue

Gov. Sonny Perdue discusses issues with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, during a February meeting. Perdue was approved by the U.S. Senate 87 to 11 to be the next Agriculture Secretary today (April 24).

Having “dirt under your fingernails” is still important to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

Grassley has long pushed for farm payment limits and restrictions on who is defined as “actively engaged” in farming as part of the Farm Bill debates in years past. During a conference call with reporters last week, he said he helped author a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging the secretary to enforce laws regarding who is allowed to get farm payments.

Too often, Grassley said, people who are not living on or helping to manage a farm are allowed to get payments. That hurts the integrity of the farm program and wastes taxpayer dollars, he said.

Asked if he would still qualify for farm program payments, Grassley told reporters that he would because he shares the financial risk for the crop on the family farm through a crop-share contract with his son and grandson.

During the call June 4, Grassley was asked about a number of timely issues related to agriculture. He said, for example, that he strongly opposes President Trump’s move to impose new tariffs on Mexico and is concerned how those new tariffs may impact the effort to get approval for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is an update of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He said it was too early then to know if he would join any potential effort by Congress to block those tariffs.

It is also possible those new tariffs may make it more difficult to achieve a trade deal with China or with any other country in the near future, he said.

“I think it (that argument) is legitimate and it hurts our credibility,” he said.

And he said he was glad to see the EPA introduce a final rule allowing year-round sales of E15, although he remains concerned by the refinery waivers still being granted by the EPA.

Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.