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For Immediate Release
August 25, 2009

Transcription of Senator Grassley's Ag News Conference Call

GRASSLEY:  OK, so you remember about two months ago, I invited EPA people to Iowa, because they're making rules and some of them are saying that they've never been on a farm.  So we need to correct that.

So on September the 3rd, several EPA officials will be coming to Iowa, visiting a family farm and even a biofuel facility.  And they're going to participate in some information-gathering sessions.  I invited the EPA administrator, and I did that several months ago.

Unfortunately, Administrator Jackson is unable to come to Iowa.  But both Gina McCarthy and Margo Oge have accepted my invitation.  And Margo Oge is the one that testified before Senate -- or a House committee that she had never been on a farm.

I appreciate the Obama administration willingness to visit and see firsthand the impact their agency has on farmers.  The previous administrator had been to an Iowa farm, and we had a very good discussion then -- probably now three years ago -- about agriculture.

We'll begin the day with an information session, discussing low carbon fuel standards, corn and soybean technology, followed by information from the local EPA staff about Agstar program.  We'll then move to a family farm to learn about the work that farmers are doing to produce safe quality products in an environmentally friendly manner.

Last, we'll visit the renewable group's facility in Newton to get a tour and an overview, and update from the ethanol and biodiesel industries.  I think the day will be beneficial for EPA officials writing regulations that, obviously, have a tremendable and scary impact on agriculture and family farmers.

These are the people producing food, feed and fuel while using less energy and preserving our natural resources.  Go ahead and start calling the names.

OPERATOR:  Tom Rider, WNAX.

QUESTION:  Good morning, Senator.

Senator, I was wondering if you see any light at the end of the tunnel in terms of any type of compromise on health care reform?  Do you anticipate there will be some way that you can work that measure out with the administration?

GRASSLEY:  I don't think it's going to be possible to work it out with the administration because they're all over the field -- all over the ball park, I guess, as we say.

And, you know, one weekend, the secretary of HHS is saying you don't have to have a public option.  The next day, the administration gets hit from the left, so the Obama says public option is still very, very important to them.

And you know what public option is?  It leads to single-payer, completely government-run health care system and no choice.  And we want to preserve choice for our people -- and so, from that standpoint.

But, yes, I do believe it's possible to reach an agreement.  But I have to confess to you to be a little more cautious when I say that now, because I've been out here listening to my constituents.  And if -- and if other members of Congress are hearing what I'm hearing, they're saying, "Slow it down.  Do it a little more carefully.  Make sure you know what you're doing.  And maybe do it even a little more incrementally."

Now, that's my take home from my town meetings.  There is some there, though -- that I need to be fair to the other side -- that are still pushing government-run health care, but I don't think they're -- they're surely not as numerous as the people that are showing up that want us to be more cautious.

So, you know, that's my analysis of Iowa.  There's other Iowan congressmen that I want to hear their analysis.  But also how is this going on in the other sections of the country?  We're hearing from Pennsylvania and Maryland and Missouri -- very controversial and raucous town meetings.  And so we got to get back and analyze the impact.

It may cause us to change course.  I doubt if it will drop negotiations.  It might even open the door for other Republicans that have plans to come into the discussion.

So, you know, I just don't know where it's going to take us.  But there is some re-analysis that are necessary as a result of the August recess. 

OPERATOR:  Gene Lucht, Iowa Farmer Today.

QUESTION:  Yes, Senator, with -- with all the health care debate going on, does that -- is that going to push the cap-and-trade discussion further back in the schedule?  Or what's the outlook there at the moment?

GRASSLEY:  Well, I think cap-and-trade is pushed back anyway because it's probably more sweeping in its impact on the economy than even what we're talking about, health care.  But I don't think, particularly, our committee's got time to do both.  And our committee isn't the only one involved in cap-and-trade because the Energy and Environment Committees haven't put out anything yet at this point. 

So I don't think we'll act until they act.  But it's become somewhat controversial, as well.  Well, I would say the House bill is very, very controversial.  And I can tell you, right now, I wouldn't vote for the House bill.  But the -- I got to wait and comment on the Senate bill after the committee in the Senate puts a bill out.

OPERATOR:  Tom Steever, Brownfield?

QUESTION:  Thank you.

Senator, on the -- again, on the clean air legislation, you said you wouldn't vote for the House bill.  Is there any way that you would propose amending that or changing -- or changing the bill in the Senate so that you -- it would be more palatable for you?

GRASSLEY:  I would like to not look at legislation within the Congress.  I'd like to focus my attention on a worldwide agreement.  Because if we don't include China and India, we're going to export all of our manufacturing.  And that's one reason why I'm against the House bill. 

Senate bill might not be much better.  It might take into consideration the really devastating impact it has on the economy of the Midwest, because we produce much -- so much for coal.  We might be able to do better than that in the House. 

But that's still not going to solve the problem of an unlevel playing field for all of America versus China and India. 

So a worldwide agreement has two advantages.  One, it either brings China and -- it either brings China and India in under the same caps we have, so we have a level playing field, so we won't export our manufacturing, all of it to China. 

And it also has the benefit of requiring a two-thirds vote in the United States Senate before you can get it passed.

So it seems to me that we have a better chance of being fair to America, and if it isn't fair to America, it takes an extraordinary majority to get it through, and presumably if it's not fair to America, it's not going to get through the United States Senate.

OPERATOR:  Ken Root, WHO?

QUESTION:  Senator, good morning to you, sir.

GRASSLEY:  Good morning.

QUESTION:  I have a couple of questions -- one serious, that will follow.  But are you going to make those two EPA ladies eat GMO corn while they're out here in Iowa?

GRASSLEY:  No, but -- I'm not going to make anybody eat anything they don't want to eat, but I'm going to eat it for them so -- like I did the ambassadors that were out here this week.  Because I was trying to demonstrate to the -- particularly to the Europeans that don't let GMO grains in, that I've been chewing on GMO corn for a long period of time.

Now, it's not a staple in my diet.  I do it just to demonstrate that you can consume GMOs.  And I'm a guinea pig and a laboratory for Europe -- that I'm still alive and healthy.  And so what's the big deal about them not allowing their people to have access to GMOs if they want to?

QUESTION:  Absolutely.  All right.

Turning to Secretary Vilsack at the state fair this last week, and with the news conference with farm broadcasters yesterday, continues to say that cap-and-trade is going to be profitable for agriculture, even in the short term.  Do you agree?

GRASSLEY:  What I've read about the economics of it, and studying particularly FAPRI -- you know, University of Missouri and Iowa State and their economic studies -- I have -- and there's other economists as well -- say that there's a little bit of benefit to trading, but it falls so much to timber that it seems to me that it's not good -- it's not going to be beneficial to farming.  And -- and consequently, I have real doubts about it.

I'm not going to reject everything Senator -- or Secretary Vilsack says about it, but what I've studied, I have great deal of doubt about it being fair to American agriculture.

Not -- and the main reason for that is:  Not giving us enough credit, going back 20 years, for what we have done already through minimum tillage, or no tillage, to cut down on energy use and putting C02 into the air.

QUESTION:  Thank you, sir.

OPERATOR:  Dan Skelton, KICD?

QUESTION:  Good morning, Senator.  This week marks the 50th anniversary of the visit by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to an Iowa farm.  Could you give us a few of your memories of that time period, and how it may have changed relations of the United States with other countries in the world?

GRASSLEY:  Yes, I'll be glad to do that.  But you got to remember, when he came here, I was only 26 years old.  I was not present at the event.  I was a student of U.S. Russian relations at the time.

I was -- I -- my memory is, basically, knowing what a crusty person Roswell Garst was and knowing how -- I believe it's fair to say that Nikita Khrushchev was crusty, as evidenced by his pounding the table with his shoe at the U.N. a couple years later.  So getting those two people together, I could imagine you'd have a very animated discussion.

And since Khrushchev wanted to increase productivity of corn in his country -- and having faith in Garst, because Garst had proven in Romania that he could increase production there through the use of genetically improved seed, that they really had a really down-to-earth discussion.

Now, that's my impression of it just knowing the two men -- not personally, Khrushchev, but knowing the Garst family well.

So my impression of it is simply that picture that appeared on the front page of all the newspapers of Roswell Garst not having patience with the press corps following Nikita Khrushchev around, and being on a pile of  silage out there -- the pile of silage out there that he threw -- picked up a handful of it and threw it at the press.  That's the most memorable thing. 

And then, I've never visited the farm until last year, but I was able to see the pit silo that, that picture took place in.  Now, I don't think it had silage in it last summer when I saw it because there's a little bit of livestock, but not a lot there.  And I was able -- I asked specifically, from the Garst daughters, to be able to see it, and they showed it to me.

And so, for historical reasons, I wanted to see it because it brought back those memories.

Now, your question about relationships between Russia and the United States, it didn't do anything to improve the diplomatic and political relationships of our country.  They were still at standoff at that time, and were still standoff until Gorbachev came in and Perestroika, and the relenting of government control over the people of Russia.

And so Gorbachev deserves credit -- and Reagan challenging the Russians' economy, that they couldn't keep up in -- in the military buildup that the United States was doing.  So it kind of brought Russia to the realization that they couldn't keep up.

And so Perestroika is what finally brought the downfall of the Soviet system, and finally the Berlin Wall going down being the final nail in the coffin of the Soviet system.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Senator.

OPERATOR:  Stacia Cudd, the National Farm Broadcasters.

QUESTION:  Could I get someone to mute their mike that's breathing into the phone, please?

OPERATOR:  Gary Digiuseppe? Phil Brasher, Des Moines Register? Matt Wilde, Waterloo Courier?

QUESTION:  Good morning, Senator. 

GRASSLEY:  Yes?

QUESTION:  Livestock and dairy farmers are losing money every day.  The pork industry recently requested millions of dollars from the USDA to buy excess pork.  Do you see -- what else can the government do to help struggling farmers?  And should the government get involved at all?

GRASSLEY:  I guess I believe the government should get involved because of two initiatives I've taken.

One is, I urged the department to buy more pork, which they -- got a negative answer from after a long period of time.  And I voted for the Sanders amendment in a House and Senate agriculture appropriation bill to give more help to dairy farmers.

OPERATOR:  OK.  I've read through the entire list.  Does anybody get added late, or does anybody have a follow-up?

QUESTION:  This is Chris Clayton with DTN.  I joined a little bit late. 

Senator, I was wondering, back on the cap-and-trade and climate legislation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to kind of essentially have a trial with the EPA debating the science of climate change.  And I was wondering, are you convinced greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change and are a threat to human health?

GRASSLEY:  Well, I'd be foolish if I didn't give -- I'd be foolish if I didn't give it some consideration because there's a massive amount of scientists that feel that it does.  But there's also an increasing number of scientists that have doubt about it.  

And so, not being a scientist, I don't know exactly where to say only those things that are really quantifiable, and temperature has risen.  But the scientific aspect that I still reserving judgment on is the extent to which it's manmade or natural. 

And it's reasonable, considering that there's at least a natural factor in it, because historically, and you can go to the core drillings in the glaciers to get proof of this, that we've had decades and decades, and maybe even centuries of periods of time when there's been a tremendous rise in temperature, and then a tremendous fall in temperature.  And all you've got to do is look at the little ice age of the mid-last millennia as an example.  And so we've got to single out what's natural and what's manmade before you can make policy.

Now, a lot of members of Congress and most environmentalists are -- are absolutely convinced manmade is the -- is the factor -- chief factor here.  But I -- I want to, before I vote on it, be more conclusive in my judgment, and I haven't reached that conclusion at this point.

But it's enough to know that I think that even if it is manmade entirely, and so there's justification for the legislation, you still have to deal with the reality factors that domestically there's a very unlevel playing field between California and New York that benefit financially from it, and the Midwest and the Southeast United States that's going to be hurt; and then the unlevel playing field if you don't include India and China, an unlevel playing field with the United States versus those countries.

GRASSLEY:  And so -- so we don't want to lose all of our manufacturing to China.  We've already lost a lot.

We -- it's better to have an international agreement and include China and India in it.

QUESTION:  Well, thanks, Senator.

GRASSLEY:  Anybody else?

QUESTION:  Yes, Senator, Matt Wilde again at the Courier.  Just a follow-up to my livestock question.

I was kind of curios, why do you believe the government should get involved with buying excess, whether it's milk or pork or beef?  Why should the government get involved there?

GRASSLEY:  Well, to some extent government policy is responsible for the downturn in pork prices and -- number one.

Number two, we have commodity programs.  And you have to stock for those.  And what better time to stock then when prices are low instead of when they're high?  So it's the market brings about the rationale for stocking when prices are low.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  OK.  Anybody else? Thank you very much.

GRASSLEY:  Goodbye, everybody.