Grassley 'embarrassed' over Trump's proposed ag cuts

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI-TV) — U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told a group of farmers and agricultural leaders Saturday that he’s “embarrassed” of President Donald Trump’s proposed ambitions to cut 36 percent in the federally subsidized crop insurance program within the next decade.

As KCCI-TV reports, Legislators in Congress have expressed a desire to pass a new farm bill by Christmas, but Grassley, along with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said they staunchly oppose the cuts, to which the audience responded with thunderous applause at the 2017 Iowa Ag Summit in Hy-Vee Hall.

“With this new administration, there’s a lot of changes coming, so I’m excited to hear what their vision is for the future,” said Alex Nykamp, an agricultural engineer from Urbandale.

Grassley, a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he doesn’t expect major changes to existing farm programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture spends nearly $8 billion annually on crop insurance subsidies.

The current multiyear piece of legislation that became law in 2014 -- which governs federal farm, food and rural policies under joint jurisdiction of committees in the House and the Senate -- expires in September.

“I’m kind of embarrassed to talk about policy because, so far this year, we’ve had a very poor track record, except rescinding a lot of bad Obama regulations,” Grassley said.

He did say, however, that there is “reason to believe the bill will move along quickly in Congress.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who is visiting Iowa on a tour to tout the importance of bringing more young people into farm-related professions, said during his keynote speech that Congress needs to focus on the best interests of farmers as it drafts the bill.

“I advocate on your behalf every day to say, ‘Look at what American agriculture has done. How can we do that with the rest of the economy?’” Perdue said.

Perdue stopped in Sheffield, Des Moines, Urbandale and Davenport over the weekend as part of a five-state tour.

Perdue also announced a new mentoring program for farmers. He said he wants to make it easier for families to get into the industry. A new partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the nonprofit group SCORE will help aspiring farmers.

Perdue says future farmers need more access to capital, technology and information to join the industry, which he says will face greater demands in the next 30 years.

Outside Hy-Vee Hall, more than 50 demonstrators gathered to protest corporate agriculture leaders and the factory farm industry, saying that there’s not enough oversight and inspection that results in polluted water, air and soil.

“Right now, rate payers in Des Moines are paying to clean up the pollution that we are not dumping, and this is the kind of policy, this is the kind of ag that Bruce Rastetter (a prominent Iowa agribusinessman) and Sonny Perdue, who is the new secretary of agriculture, this is what they’re defending,” said Cherie Lortice, of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.”

Rastetter, who hosted the summit, said he was displeased that the rallygoers had a negative view on a positive forum and that a number of people the protesters support were probably at the summit or speaking on stage.