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Transcription of Senator Grassley's Agriculture News Conference Call


Location: Unknown

GRASSLEY: This week is the famous National Agricultural Week. It gives us involved in production of food, fiber and fuel a chance to bring attention to the hundreds of thousands of people involved in taking the raw products from our farms to the dinner table, and to telling people about that relationship all across the country.

Agribusiness operations, research and engineering in agriculture, food science, and the farms and production facilities all make a significant contribution to health, nutrition and business around the world.

American agriculture contributes very significantly to our economy. Its impact runs deep through rural countrysides, as well as densely populated urban areas. From small farming communities to our metropolitan centers, America's agricultural network contributes greatly to economic, social and cultural way of lifes.

I'm also sending a letter, with Senator Baucus, to the Japanese ambassador urging Japan to base its beef trade policies on science and open its markets to all U.S. beef. Japan continues to place scientifically unwarranted restrictions on imports of U.S. beef due to alleged concerns about BSE.

Our letter notes that the World Organisation for Animal Health, OIE acronym, determined in 2007 that our beef, derived from cattle of all ages, is safe due to safeguards undertaken by our country, yet Japan still limits imports of U.S. beef to beef from animals age 20 months or younger.

Since 2004, Japan also has prohibited imports of U.S.-produced gelatin from cows for human consumption.

Japan's scientifically unfounded ban on imports of this beef product and the restrictions placed on U.S. beef are negatively impacting Montana and Iowa cattle producers, and it has led to the loss of jobs in Iowa's gelatin manufacturing center -- sector.

David Looker? Or Dan, I should say.

OK, Dan's not there. Tom Rider?

QUESTION: Good morning, Senator. Senator, United Laboratories has certified the blender pumps up to E-25.

Do you think this will be good information to use to maybe get EPA to get this E-15 waiver approved and get us moving forward in this area?

GRASSLEY: I wish it were that simple, but I think that EPA's got their own process. They'll have to be satisfied through their own process, and common sense dictates to me that what you laid out ought to be enough, but they're always afraid of being sued by some environmentalists, or in this case may even having the oil industry help sue them.

So they want a sound foundation. It's got to be based upon their own research and their own hearings and their own record. And so we have to wait, I guess, until sometime this summer to get a determination even on E-15.

Gene, Iowa Farmer?

QUESTION: No questions. Thank you.

GRASSLEY: Tom Steever, Brownsfield?

QUESTION: Thank you, Senator.

The National Pork Producers Council says that the government should live up to its NAFTA obligations by allowing Mexican truckers to be on the 25-mile commercial zone. Right now, what's standing in the way of the full implementation of that?

GRASSLEY: Let's see. I assume that what's standing in the full implementation is probably a rider on last year's appropriations bill, but I'm not sure I can exactly answer your question. But American truckers can go into Mexico and there was an agreement here, and this is the agreement that may be delayed, that we were going to gradually work our way into full implementation of NAFTA and the trucking situation by having 25 of our companies that could get into Mexico, and then 25 companies from Mexico come into the United States, and presumably those would be demonstrations that they were safe and everything was being done OK.

The -- now, the Congress did lift this rider in December, but the administration needs to work out the, I guess the details of it with Mexico.

W-H-O, Doug?

OK. Stacia, National Farm Broadcasters?

Gary in Arkansas?

QUESTION: I have no questions. Thank you.

GRASSLEY: OK. Philip Brasher, Des Moines Register?

QUESTION: We're a quiet bunch this morning, Senator.

Could I ask you about the energy bill? About 29 of the governors are calling for a renewable energy standard to pass. What -- with cap-and-trade still stalled -- what's the -- what's the lay of the land now? What are the prospects for doing an energy bill separately? I guess there's still the (inaudible) going on as well.

GRASSLEY: Well, I think that the impetus has to come from Senator Bingaman, and the Energy Committee. They have a bill, and obviously this is everything except cap-and-trade, is the way I would describe it. It may not be an accurate description. But when Bingaman starts pushing for it, I think Senator Baucus and I are ready to take some tax provisions into it.

GRASSLEY: And I think the governor's letter was oriented towards what we call renewable fuel standards, 10 percent by the year 2012. I wouldn't argue with the 10 percent, but I would think that maybe the year 2012 is a little bit early.

But I've always been a supporter of renewable portfolio standards. When Republicans were in the majority, I was one of about a half a dozen Republicans that supported something like -- I believe it was 15 percent by the year 2020. Don't hold me to that. And if you're interested in exactly what I voted for, we could probably get you that information. But in principle I'm for doing this.

Now, there are some environmentalists that would think we could do -- I don't know whether it's 20 percent or 25 percent by 2025. And I suppose the further out you go, the more legitimacy there is to a higher percentage.

But I'm looking for a compromise and staying with renewable portfolio standards because I think it's another way of promoting wind energy. And even though I think the wind energy tax credit that I got passed in 1992 is the really genesis of the wind energy business in the United States, I think that the next major step is renewable portfolio standards, just like I see in ethanol and biodiesel the tax credit getting an infant industry started.

But the mandate down the road on each of those has been probably more helpful than the tax credit and will probably someday allow us to eliminate the tax credit both for biofuels as well as for wind energy.

Now, that's not something I'm promoting right now, but I think realistically the more mature industries get, the better chance there is of getting it done. And, quite frankly, the mandates are probably going to be more helpful to that and the maturing of the industry than even the tax credits.

QUESTION: Well, if I could ask one follow-up, as you mentioned, there are no targets in the governor's recommendations beyond 2012. They also largely sidestep the issue, the big, big issue of how you get long-distance, high-voltage transmission (inaudible) built over the objections of states and landowners and the cost-allocation issues.

What does that say about the difficulty of getting that issue addressed?

GRASSLEY: Well, what it is, is it's not going to make our wind energy initiatives as efficient as they could otherwise be. And, of course, I believe that we need to have federal determination in these areas or we won't get the maximum good out of wind energy.

Now, there's, I suppose you can say, there's another approach to it than having a federal preemption in the transmissions, and that is the extent to which other states are willing to do their own and then you have more regional production of wind energy and the subsequent use of it. But you still miss out on the efficiency that you have in the industry, and also in any other electric production, without having a more national grid system.

But you also -- there's another reason for having it, and that's to avoid what happened in Canada in the blackouts that we had in the upper Midwest and extending over into Pennsylvania and New York, I believe, about 10 years ago, if you recall that.

Let's see. I guess I have some information now that the last renewable portfolio standard in the last energy bill that I voted for was 10 percent by 2020. Now, probably 10 percent is -- could be accomplished before 2020, but I don't think 10 percent can be accomplished by 2012 as the governors' letters have stood for.

But regardless, even if it's accomplishable, I think we're in a situation where we're going to have

senators in the southeast of the United States fight renewable portfolio standards because they consider it unfair to them compared to -- because they don't -- they're more dependent upon coal than the rest of the country happens to be.

Let's see. I've gone through the entire list. Does anybody that I didn't call want to jump in?

OK. There are no follow-ups?

OK. Good-bye, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you, Senator.

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