D.C. Dispatch: Farm Bill urgency, flood protection and sibling adoptions

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A Carroll County farmer was planting a field on April 13, 2023. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa’s senators proposed enhancing crop insurance, curbing mandates for electric vehicles and offering a solution that would “keep firearms away from people who are a danger.”

Members of Congress returned after two weeks away from Washington, during which delegates made progress on county tours.

Here’s a look at what Iowa’s congressional delegation was up to this week:

Senators propose shoring up crop insurance

As spring planting was getting underway this week, Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley introduced a bill to increase premium support for high-level crop insurance. The FARMER Act also would make producer deductibles smaller, which the senators say will reduce the need for ad hoc disaster assistance in the future. 

“To protect our ag community, I’m fighting to improve federal crop insurance and ensure that dollars in the Farm Bill actually go towards safeguarding our food and fields, not pie-in-the-sky climate change policies,” Ernst said in a news release.

The bill is a counter to initiatives Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is advocating for in the next Farm Bill. 

“A strong crop insurance program is integral to the success of America’s farming operations,” Grassley said in a news release. “Yet, when disaster strikes, many farmers find themselves without adequate coverage.”

Farm Bill must go on Senate agenda, Grassley says

Grassley wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, asking that the Farm Bill be put on the Senate agenda. 

Grassley wrote the letter after Schumer released his Senate agenda, and the Farm Bill was absent from it. 

“A one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill is going to expire on September 30,” Grassley wrote. “The Senate must work to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill before that deadline. Farmers across the United States deserve the stability of a new five-year Farm Bill. A one-year extension increases uncertainty in markets and uncertainty for farmers who must make decisions today that will affect their operations for years to come.”

Grassley encouraged Schumer and Democrats to “do the hard work of coming to the table to bring forward and pass a bipartisan Farm Bill this year.”

Pushback on electric vehicles

Both senators made public efforts to contest a push by President Joe Biden’s administration for increased production and purchases of electric vehicles. 

In a news conference this week, Ernst said the efforts by the Biden administration to increase electric vehicle production are a boost to China and Russia. 

“Those who are wishing to destroy America are committing atrocities against Ukrainians and enslaving children to gain access to our critical minerals,” Ernst said.

Grassley took a home-centered route, highlighting on a call with reporters the impact he believes  electric vehicles would have on Iowa’s ethanol industry. 

“In biofuels, 58,000 jobs would be at stake if we went to entirely electric transportation,” Grassley said. “I don’t think it’s realistic that it’s going to happen when they want it to happen, but the push for it is putting strains on our electric grid and it’s going to increase over time and we aren’t going to be able to meet the deadlines that they are asking for.”

Grassley on gun safety

Grassley introduced a bill he claims will not infringe on Second Amendment rights and will keep firearms away from people who are a danger. 

The Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act would mandate states submit mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and require the federal government and state governments to coordinate gun sentences. 

“Strengthening our national background check system can help save lives,” Grassley said in a news release

The bill would also commission a study on the cause of mass shootings and enhance resources combatting firearm trafficking. 

“Too many communities have endured mass shootings and suffered the heartbreak and trauma that follow,” Grassley said.

Nunn proposes legislation to encourage sibling adoption

The Fight for Siblings Act, introduced by Rep. Zach Nunn in bipartisan fashion, would double the federal adoption tax credit when a family adopts siblings. 

Twelve months ago, Nunn and his wife, Kelly, adopted siblings. According to Nunn’s office, his experience adopting his daughters revealed shortcomings of the foster and adoption process. 

Nunn announced the bill at a news conference in Ankeny. 

According to Mary Beth O’Neill, president and CEO of Four Oaks, which provides family and children services, siblings, when adopted together are provided a sense of stability and have more positive outcomes. 

The cost of adopting two children can sometimes prevent parents from adopting two children, and according to Nunn, this bill would help lower the barrier that can unintentionally split siblings up. 

Infrastructure investments

Flood and natural disaster protection in Cedar Rapids and Davenport will receive a flow of money, nearly $70 million total. 

Cedar Rapids will receive $56.4 million to replace the Arc of Justice Bridge, which Grassley’s office says will reduce crashes, spur economic activity and ensure access of emergency services in flooding events. 

Davenport will receive $13.1 million for flood mitigation projects in the city. Projects include flood detour routes and the raising and reconstruction of streets and the reconfiguration of pedestrian infrastructure. 

The investments are part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

“The health and safety of our communities rely heavily on sound infrastructure. These federal dollars will go a long way to assist the cities of Davenport and Cedar Rapids in their efforts to boost public safety and flood resilience,” Grassley said in a news release.

Also, a new water tower is coming to Bondurant after the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024 was passed, which included community-specific funding. 

The funding secured, $2.5 million, will go toward a water tower to be built north of Interstate 80, along NE 88th Street. 

“A reliable, low-maintenance, and cost-effective water system that meets the needs of residents is a fundamental necessity and I’m thankful we could deliver this win for Bondurant,” Nunn said in a news release. “Today’s investment will ensure this community can continue to expand for generations to come.”

Blast overpressure

Ernst introduced a bipartisan bill that would increase medical treatment for members of the military. 

The Blast Overpressure Safety Act would mandate neurocognitive assessments, create logs for blast overpressure exposure and create a Special Operations Comprehensive Brain Health and Trauma program. 

The bill, introduced along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, would encourage care for the “signature wound” from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. 

Long-term exposure to explosive weapons can cause traumatic brain injuries and typically, blast exposure comes from a soldier’s own weapon. 

“Given the increase in these injuries, the military must adapt to the needs of servicemembers now,” Ernst said in a news release. “By helping the [Department of Defense] learn more about the brain and how it responds to blast overpressure, this bipartisan bill can help meet the challenges and injuries of our servicemembers today and in the future.”

Army arsenals

Grassley and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks have introduced a bicameral effort to establish workload requirements for Army arsenals. 

The bill would establish a 50% workload threshold for Army arsenals and factories. If passed, there would also be a preference for public-private partnerships providing non-public entities a 20% preference in the source selection process if it partners with an Army arsenal, according to Miller-Meeks’ office. 

“The Rock Island Arsenal is a pillar of the Quad Cities and our national security industrial base. It must receive the workload necessary in peacetime to ensure readiness in the event of emergency,” Grassley said in a news release.

According to the legislators, the bill would directly impact the Rock Island Arsenal by maintaining union jobs and attracting projects and workers. 

“The Rock Island Arsenal is a staple of our community in the Quad Cities,” Miller-Meeks said in a news release. “Ensuring that they receive a consistent and sustainable workload enhances our national security through supporting our military and supports thousands of high-quality jobs for hard-working men and women around the Quad Cities.”

Miller-Meeks named Conservative Climate chair

Miller-Meeks was named chair of the Conservative Climate Caucus during the two-week recess. 

“As I assume leadership of the Caucus, I look forward to continuing to promote an any-of-the-above strategy for ensuring U.S. energy dominance with a globally competitive economy, while simultaneously reducing emissions for a cleaner, healthier planet,” Miller-Meeks said in a news release

The caucus has more than 70 members and a goal of educating House Republicans regarding climate policies and to engage House Republicans with leaders in industry, think tanks and more. 

Mayorkas impeachment

Calling the border crisis a “nightmare for the American people,” Ernst, Grassley and 41 other Republican senators called for Schumer to hold an impeachment trial against Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas rather than vote to dismiss articles of impeachment, which Schumer has indicated could happen.  

Schumer and the White House have called the impeachment a “sham” and “baseless.”

U.S. House Republicans were originally scheduled to deliver two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas this week, but that was delayed until next week.

Cybersecurity call

Grassley sent letters to seven federal agencies that have not responded to recommendations from the Government Accountability Office regarding cybersecurity. 

Grassley asked for the seven organizations to act on the recommendations and asked for records on testing practices and protocols regarding cyber security. 

The agencies include the departments of the treasury, transportation, homeland security, energy, defense, health and human services and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The post D.C. Dispatch: Farm Bill urgency, flood protection and sibling adoptions appeared first on Iowa Capital Dispatch.