GRASSLEY: Two weeks ago, I urged the Department of Agriculture to make the environmental impact statement for Roundup Ready alfalfa a priority for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. APHIS is what that's normally called.
Just yesterday, the department released and solicited public comment on a draft impact statement.
The 2010 planting season is quickly approaching and producers should have all the available choices at their disposal because that helps keep the cost down.
Second, we're seeing an added focus on climate change legislation with the president and the secretary of agriculture in Copenhagen this week. The so-called benefits to agriculture in the proposed cap-and-trade bills have largely been debunked, yet the administration continues to push a jobs-killing, anti-agriculture agenda with cap-and-trade.
Instead, we should be working to create jobs.
If cap-and-trade moves forward next year, the Agriculture Committee has to take an active role in its development. Higher food prices for consumers, reduced production and ultimately fewer farmers are at stake.
QUESTION: Good morning, Senator.
GRASSLEY: Tom Rider (ph)?
GRASSLEY: Yes. Go ahead, Dan.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. I had my phone on mute.
Yesterday, Vice President Biden's office released a -- a report on their clean energy initiatives which they say will help create more than 700,000 jobs. This is money in the stimulus package that's being used mainly to develop solar, wind and advanced biofuels.
And I just wondered if you had any -- any comments or thoughts on it. This is not a -- really a new report. They said it was an update. And I know you've been concerned about a loss of jobs in the older types of biofuels industries.
GRASSLEY: How -- how -- who issued the report?
QUESTION: Vice President Biden.
GRASSLEY: Oh, Biden. OK.
GRASSLEY: Well, he's kind of in charge in -- of the economic recovery and the creation of jobs, so it would probably be natural for him to announce it.
Listen, I think the best answer for my question is this: They are not -- any of the industries of the past that I have supported, they're not detracting from them.
They might not be doing enough, like EPA's should have issued this E-15 ruling, et cetera. They may not be doing enough to move along the biofuels to satisfy me. But I -- I've always said all -- all of the above, as far as alternative energy is concerned. And I would add to that nuclear as well as one that a lot of people don't talk about as green energy jobs, but there's no pollution in -- in that.
So let me get back to the broadest policy that includes everything I've said up to this point. We need to do what we can for more production of petroleum products and find more uses of energy, particularly energy in this country. And I think that's happening now in natural gas. But we need to emphasize production. We need to emphasize conservation. And we need to emphasize renewable and alternative energy. That's my position.
So, whatever Biden announces, I would probably be in support of it.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, it sounds like you might be in support of the Lieberman-Kerry compromise bill, because some of the things you're talking about apparently that bill would do. It's also supported by Senator Graham.
GRASSLEY: Yes, but don't forget that's part of the cap-and-trade argument, and so...
GRASSLEY: ... you know, I could buy what's promoting alternative energy that's in almost any bill, but I -- the cap-and-trade part of it is going to destroy the U.S. economy if we don't have China included.
GRASSLEY: Tom Rider?
Jim Boyd (ph)?
QUESTION: Hi, Senator.
Yes, this is kind of an ag-related question. It's now -- what is it? -- December 15th and the end of the year approaches fast. Can you give us an idea of what's going to happen with the estate tax? I'm seeing things now that indicate that somehow or other an extension of the current one is going to be attached to the defense appropriations bill.
GRASSLEY: I think that that's a possibility.
And I don't know exactly what's going to happen on that in the United States Senate, but I know that if there's a chance for estate tax debate to come up, that there's going to be a bipartisan group of people, led by me and Kyl and Blanche Lincoln.
And probably I better give Blanche Lincoln, because she's in the majority, the most effort in this
direction, because we want to get it done. And that would be $5 million and a 35 percent tax rate, as opposed to what might pass the House, which is present law, $3.5 billion -- $3.5 million -- and a 45 percent rate.
And so we would hope to have a discussion on that.
Now, if the -- if the Democrats are trying to push us to the point where they can cram that $3.5 million down our throat because they're putting on it a defense bill and you got to support our troops, then that makes it a very difficult choice for us. And particularly if they would adjourn and go home and then just leave us with passing this or not passing it, it makes it kind of difficult.
But we hope to have a fight for a better deal for estate taxes, particularly considering the fact that farmland has gone up so much since we originally set the $3.5 million figure 10 years ago.
QUESTION: What about other tax issues this year?
There are a lot of small-business taxes that sunset. There's a lot of push right now on the biodiesel tax.
Is there an extenders package right now expected to be voted on in the Senate?
GRASSLEY: Yes, it will probably be included in the same bill that Jim Boyd (ph) was asking me about. And whether it comes over as a separate bill or whether it comes over as part of an appropriation bill, I think the extenders are going to be extended for a one-year period of time.
QUESTION: If I could ask one more question, looking in 2010, what do you see as a couple of issues that are really going to drive ag policy in 2010?
GRASSLEY: Well, I think trade issues are going to drive ag policy.
And -- and I think if cap-and-trade is up, there's going to be an awful lot of work in the Agriculture Committee, or at least I'm going to call on the Agriculture Committee to do a lot of work to protect agriculture if that comes up.
I don't think there's going to be any change in agriculture appropriations. There's going to be an issue that's dealt with at the administrative level -- I doubt if it'll be deal with at the legislative effort (ph) -- with a renegotiation of crop -- crop insurance.
But trade and -- well, estate taxes fall into that category of agricultural policy, as well.
QUESTION: But, I mean, in terms of estate tax, this bill that we may have will be just simply a one-year extension then...
GRASSLEY: No, I think I'd be permanent law.
QUESTION: So you think that before the end of the year we'll have a debate on permanent law?
GRASSLEY: Yes, but -- but -- but maybe not in a way that I want it.
And then can we -- can we force the majority party, which wants the $3.5 million to do the $5 million or maybe do nothing, and then have no tax next year, which I think gives us a lot of leverage this year.
QUESTION: Oh, OK. Thank you, Senator.
Did I call Dan Skelton?
QUESTION: Yes, Senator, you've probably answered this question before, but I haven't heard your answer. And that's what's the -- what is the impact on Congress -- what would the -- what is going to be the impact on Congress of the EPA moving forward with an endangerment finding on...
QUESTION: ... regulation of...
GRASSLEY: Well, the motive is -- is number one, to force Congress to act.
And -- and, number two, if Congress doesn't act on cap-and-trade, or like what the House passed, then of course there's a motion filed by the senator from Alaska, Murkowski, to -- to have a congressional veto of the endangerment activity.
And, of course, I would vote for that and encourage that. But you'd effectively have to have two-thirds vote -- not two-thirds vote to pass it in the first instance, but the president's obviously going to veto it, so you got to override his veto. So you really got to have two bites at that apple if you're going to be successful.
QUESTION: OK, well, what then -- well, what is the -- yes, obviously, it would be difficult to -- for Congress to override EPA. Conversely, what is going to be the effect of, given the difficult -- it would be difficult to -- to veto EPA, what's going to be the effect on Congress as far as -- as you consider cap-and-trade or some other...
GRASSLEY: Well, you're...
QUESTION: ... force you to pass something?
GRASSLEY: ... because cap-and-trade itself has become very controversial, and there's not much support at the grassroots of it. But there are some businesses and trade associations who feel that -- that it'd be better to pass a cap-and-trade bill than it would be to have EPA act the way they are.
But I don't think that that business and trade association approach to Congress doing something just because EPA's doing it can override the extreme opposition at grassroots America against cap-and-trade because they know from a couple of standpoints.
One, it's going to be terribly expensive for the consumers if it goes through, and the utility users and everything that uses energy.
And secondly, and maybe more importantly, it's going to make America uncompetitive compared to China and India and Indonesia. Those three countries, you know, are right up there contributing more -- at least China is -- more than even the United States is.
QUESTION: So is your answer that there's so much opposition to cap-and-trade that despite EPA acting still isn't going to get Congress to pass it?
GRASSLEY: Yes. There'd have to be an awful education of the public to overcome opposition to cap-and-trade -- education of the public that it's better for (inaudible) than EPA (inaudible), because nobody's convinced that EPA can carry this out with the public reaction to it as well. And particularly, it's probably more egregious than even a cap-and-trade bill would be. And then there's some questions about, you know, several years of court action to hold up EPA from carrying out what it wants to do.
OK. I've gone through the entire list. Anybody have a followup?
OK. Thank you all very much.