Posts Tagged: Iowa

It’s suddenly okay to criticize ethanol subsidies

So reports Eartha Jane Melzer of the Michigan Messenger: There is bipartisan support in Congress to cut down on ethanol subsidies.  Some Republican candidates for president, including erstwhile Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, also support a subsidy rollback. This seems particularly notable because the whole ethanol-aura is that any presidential candidate running in the Iowa caucus dare not speak ill of the subsidies.

As Melzer notes, corn-based ethanol depletes the U.S. corn supply and drives up international food prices. More than that, though, despite all Barack Obama’s talk of “winning the future” through renewable energy, no renewable energy product gets more federal subsidies than environmentally dubious ethanol.

Not everybody loves ethanol

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty raised some eyebrows earlier this week when he called for a possible end to U.S. Dept. of Agriculture ethanol subsidies. “You can’t do that!” pundits exclaimed. “You need to win the Iowa caucus, and everyone in Iowa loves ethanol!” But Jason Clayworth of the Des Moines Register points out that the politics of ethanol are changing. Industry trade groups have called for a subsidy phaseout and even Iowa U.S. Senator Charles Grassley wants to gradually reduce the federal money for ethanol.

Vilsack and the triumph of corn

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post interviewed secretary of agriculture and former Iowa governor, Tom Vilsack and asked why the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture so generously funds rural America through programs like ethanol and farm commodity subsidies. Vilsack responded that rural Americans are cool. “There is a value system to support,” he said. “These are good, hardworking people who feel underappreciated.” The comments highlight the Obama administration’s irrational preference for rural communities over urban ones, which of course has big implications for states like Iowa and other midwestern agriculture centers.

To Vilsack’s credit, he get into some specifics and even argues that corn and ethanol subsidies “need to be phased out.”  But the money is still flowing right now. (more…)

Iowa: Not trainspotting

Iowa could join Ohio and Wisconsin as Midwestern states against federally-funded rail projects. (more…)

Obama and biofuels

Writing at the Washington Monthly, Heather Rogers has an authoritative takedown of biofuel energy, i.e. ethanol and biodiesel, and the federal government’s continued subsidies to the Iowa-based biofuel industry. Rogers even finds Iowa farmers who share the view that biofuels are environmentally and economically unsustainable. “Growing crops for biofuels damages their soil,” she writes of these farmers, “and keeps them at the mercy of predatory multinational corporations.”

One quibble with the piece, though, is that Rogers glosses over possible changes being made by the Obama administration. (more…)

Why rob the government? That’s where the money is

There was a good article in the Des Moines Register yesterday about efforts in Iowa to fight wage theft in response the lack of federal help on this issue. Jens Manuel Krogstad and Adam Belz report that because of the precipitous decline in the federal Dept. of Labor’s investigation of wage theft claims — enforcement actions of wage violations dropped a 1/3 between 1997 and 2007 — it has been up to the states to protect against wage theft, i.e. when employer simply doesn’t pay what is owed to their employee. But Iowa hasn’t stepped up in either hiring inspectors for its wage theft division or changing the laws so employees can be protected against retaliatory employers. Iowa now has two people who work the state’s 1,000 annual wage theft cases. (more…)

No bad eggs in Illinois

Illinois so far has sidestepped major problems with the national outbreak of salmonella-tainted eggs that were made in Iowa.  The Washington Post’s David Brown reports that salmonella-tainted eggs produced by Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa have sickened 1,200 people nationwide. The company has initiated a recall of 380 million eggs, but the worst could be still to come: (more…)