Grassley on Protecting Family Farms
Jun 29, 2020
Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On Protecting Family Farms
Monday, June 29, 2020
The past few months have resulted in some dramatic changes in our daily lives.
But for America’s farmers, and the 86,000 Iowa family farms, there were still crops to be planted, fields to be fertilized and livestock to care for.
These family farms take great satisfaction in the fact they are part of the most affordable, abundant and safe supply of food of any country in the world.
They are also proud to help fuel the country knowing that almost every gallon of gas consumed in the United States is blended with renewable fuel.
Family farmers have a lot to be proud of, and as one of two farmers serving in the US Senate, I can speak to that because I am one.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is the opportunity to speak with farmers across the state during my 99 county-tour.
Being able to hear from them directly and use my position on the Senate Agriculture Committee to work on their issues is an honor and privilege that I don’t take lightly.
At my meetings, farmers will introduce themselves by telling me how many generations of their families have made their living on the same land they now farm.
Third, fourth, and fifth-generation farmers using the same soil and often times the same tools and barns as generations before them.
In fact, the Iowa Department of Agriculture Century Farm database shows that through 2019, there are 20,060 farms in Iowa that have been in the same family for 100 years.
Even more impressive, the Heritage Farm database shows 1,360 farms that have been in the same family for 150 years.
Farming isn’t just a profession. It isn’t just a hobby or personal passion. Farming is how many Iowans leave their mark on our world.
The legacy of many Iowa families is built on and centered around life at the farm. And every farmer intends to leave their land to their children better than they found it when it was entrusted to their care.
Farmers live by that creed, and it is reflected by the fact that Iowa is a global leader in sustainable farming practices.
Through Farm Bill programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal government has proven it can successfully partner with farmers to enhance conservation practices.
At the state level, Governor Reynolds and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Naig are leading the charge to implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
This includes techniques like no-till, cover crops and wetland restoration to improve soil health and enhance water quality.
Researchers at Iowa State University continue to develop new conservation techniques like adding tall-grass prairie strips to fields and modeling when to best apply fertilizer.
Iowa farmers have embraced voluntary stewardship investments and practices that allow them to stay productive and profitable.
They do this while also ensuring their land can be productive for years to come for when it’s time to give their children a chance to take over the farm.
So while the federal government has shown an ability to partner with farmers, there are also times where the federal government has overstepped its authority and attempted to regulate private landowners with one-size fits all solutions.
For example, in 2010, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) determined that Illinois farmer, Kurt Wilke, and his family could not maintain and farm their land.
USDA claimed the land contained wetlands, despite documentation to the contrary.
In early 2011, Mr. Wilke started making improvements to his drainage tile system. That's when NRCS got involved, telling him to stop the work and warning him that he was putting farm program payments at risk.
Earlier this month, after nearly a decade of court battles with NRCS, a determination by the director of USDA’s National Appeals Division reprimanded NRCS.
They had failed to obey their own rules, and the appeals division favored Mr. Wilke. This protracted court battle should have been avoided.
Another example of government overreach was the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
The 2015 WOTUS rule was a dramatic expansion of the authority that Congress provided to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the navigable waters of the United States.
In fact, the Obama-era rule would have claimed jurisdiction to require federal permission to do any number of activities not just in or near Iowa’s rivers and streams, but on 97 percent of Iowa’s land.
To clear up a common confusion, this rule wasn’t about regulating discharge of pollution into waterways, which is important and is done through other parts of the Clean Water Act. It is about requiring federal red tape for routine land use decisions with little or no environmental benefit. It was a power grab plain and simple.
One week ago today, the Trump Administration’s WOTUS rule went into effect.
This rule balances the need to protect our nation’s navigable waters, while also protecting the private property rights of businesses, homeowners and of course, family farms.
This is a major accomplishment and I congratulate President Trump and Administrator Wheeler on getting this rule over the finish line.
For the time being, these two examples of government overreach have been resolved.
However, the United States Congress and the executive branch must continue to advocate for fairness and common sense when passing legislation or regulations that will impact private landowners.
Farmers understand the importance of environment rules and the need to follow them.
However, we must demand fair enforcement of those rules so that they don’t disadvantage family farms.
The Coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the importance of supporting farmers and ensuring that we have a stable, safe and affordable food supply for our country.
Through natural disasters, drought, pests and pandemics, America’s families are still farming.
Let’s make sure the federal government doesn’t get in their way so that they can pass along their legacy, and their farm, to future generations.