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GUEST COLUMN

By Staff | Nov 6, 2015

Iowa is widely known for our first-rate hospitality, first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses and first-class production of corn, soybeans, pork and eggs.

Fewer people may realize that our state also is a rising star in America’s clean energy renaissance.

In fact, Iowa is leading America’s strategic efforts to foster energy independence and secure affordable, reliable and renewable sources of clean energy.

Our state is on track to generate nearly 30 percent of its electricity from wind.

From supply chain to socket, Iowa wind energy creates good paying jobs and keeps electricity prices low for consumers.

Iowa’s prized farm commodities also are being tapped to diversify and improve America’s domestic, renewable fuel supply chain, including biodiesel and corn-based ethanol.

Iowa’s crop yields climb from one harvest to the next thanks to precision farming techniques, responsible soil stewardship and advances in bioseed technology.

Driving growth in America’s energy renaissance can be credited with creating good jobs, revitalizing rural economies, boosting wage growth and farm income, reducing U.S. reliance on foreign fossil fuels and generating clean-burning fuels and pollution-free electricity, such as wind, solar and hydropower.

In the last three decades, Iowa’s renewable fuels sector has gained tremendous momentum and growth.

Federal tax and energy policies have encouraged the American entrepreneurial spirit, giving farmers, captains of industry and investors the green light to think big, dream big and go big.

In fact, from conception to commercialization, Iowa’s newest ethanol biorefinery is a by-product of Iowa ingenuity, innovation and investment.

The brand new, state-of-the-art, next-generation, $225 million cellulosic ethanol production facility is opening for business during the heart of harvest season right in the heart of Iowa.

DuPont expects its fully integrated production facility will convert 370,000 dry tons of corn stover to 30 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol each year. Corn stover is what’s left-over from the harvest – cobs, leaves, husks and stalks.

We’re talking about adding value to organic crop waste. More than 500 local farmers from a 30-mile radius will supply the biorefinery with their “post-harvest” harvest each year.

Just think. Iowa is ground zero for next generation biofuels.

According to DuPont, this biorefinery is the largest cellulosic ethanol facility in the world. It is a world-class model for next-generation, sustainable, clean energy. And it’s right here in Iowa.

As an outspoken champion for rural America and a renewable energy policy leader in the U.S. Senate, I worked successfully a decade ago to secure passage of the federal Renewable Fuels Standard that planted seeds of opportunity for growth, innovation and stability in the marketplace.

The RFS was created to help diversify and propel next-generation biofuels to market, give consumers a competitive choice of fuels at the pump, curb reliance on foreign fossil fuels and protect the environment.

Despite Big Oil’s tricks to spin a web of misguided information and spook renewable fuels growth, investment and development, groundbreaking collaboration continued among scientists and researchers, as well as farmers, job creators and investors in the private sector.

The brain trust masterminding the new world-class facility in Story County represents the best and brightest from leaders in agriculture, academia and industry.

In the meantime, I am continuing my clarion call in Congress to shake sense into the Environmental Protection Agency.

It got stuck in Big Oil’s sticky web. Specifically, I have pressed the EPA to live up to its legal obligations to provide certainty to the biofuels industry and set robust RFS volume requirements that were passed by lawmakers elected by the American people.

The EPA’s proposed volume requirements under the RFS program for 2014, 2015 and 2016 must be finalized by Nov. 30. It’s disappointing the EPA ignored targets set by Congress.

I will continue working to prevent Big Oil from hoodwinking the EPA so that critical investment in infrastructure will grow and allow American consumers to have clean energy choices.

Iowa’s new cellulosic facility also will help dry up the crocodile tears spilled by Big Food that tries to assign blame to corn-based ethanol for rising food prices.

Don’t forget, the facility in Nevada will produce fuel-grade ethanol from crop residue, not corn kernels. As long as it takes, I will continue debunking myths from the cauldrons of Big Oil and Big Food and press the EPA to uphold the law.

As Iowa’s senior U.S. senator, I welcome Iowa’s shining new star to America’s renewable energy constellation.

Like the pioneers who made their mark generations before us, Iowa’s 21st century risk-takers and innovators are embracing environmental stewardship as they plow forward to achieve prosperity and work to make tomorrow even better than today.

Sen. Grassley has represented Iowa in the U.S. Senate since 1981.

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GUEST COLUMN

By Staff | Nov 6, 2015

By GEORGE NAYLOR

More farm co-op mergers? I’ll be voting “no” on the proposed merger of my farmer co-op, FC, the largest in Iowa, with another large co-op, West Central.

I’ve seen my local co-ops, Churdan and Farnhamville, merge in 1980 followed by many other mergers to create what we now know as FC.

Promises of more buying power and efficiencies have not proven true, I believe.

Some farmers I know buy their chemicals from private companies or other co-ops because of cheaper prices and the farmers feel no loyalty to FC whatsoever.

This isn’t what our parents and grandparents had in mind when the original co-ops were started.

Like a lot of our institutions, the logic of gradual small changes through the years ends up with something we didn’t anticipate, and reform will be needed.

I’d say that creating bigger co-ops has led to a loss of membership input and governance.

Decisions have been made that I don’t believe helped members or their communities, and the provisions for member input just don’t exist, even though multi-million dollar decisions can make or break these rural communities.

One example is FC’s and West Central’s feed service.

FC has only three feed mills for its huge territory and West Central has three or four. My neighbors and I can’t buy feed in bags locally.

We have to travel 20 or 30 miles to get it. I’ve learned that even if I wanted bulk feed, FC would refer me to a private supplier because FC doesn’t have smaller feed trucks in my area.

The problem is we’ve kept the same governing mechanisms of voting for a board of directors that worked fine when we knew virtually all the farmers in the community and had a chance to discuss our concerns.

I also remember when farmers weren’t afraid to speak up at annual meetings.

Two years ago, and again this year, the FC ballot for district directors offers only one name to choose – this year, all incumbents.

With no choice, how can our vote be meaningful? Two years ago at the annual meeting when I questioned this situation, management said they couldn’t find anyone else to run.

So in two years, nothing has changed? At that same meeting, a board member stood up and told me, “This is the annual meeting. This is no place to discuss issues.”

So when could directors find out what the members think?

And yes, there’s really no way for me to find out if others share my sentiments or have good ideas themselves.

In other words, I believe when co-ops get big, there needs to be a new model of governance. Democratic control is a bedrock principle of co-ops and will assure we won’t lose years of investment.

Here are my, hopefully, constructive suggestions for changing co-op governance.

As with our local Farm Service Agency committee, a letter can be sent to all farmers asking for nominations. To become a member of the first Iowa Corn Promotion Board, I needed 25 signatures to get on the ballot. Co-ops could do the same.

Also, once or twice a year, smaller local districts could hold member-only luncheons where different ideas could be discussed about what needs changing or what new services could serve the farming community in that area.

We may need different services in our area than others half way across the state.

Resolutions could be passed and sent out to the membership to see what other farmer-owners are thinking so that good ideas are generated and can’t be ignored.

Some people might stand out as potentially good board members. FC and West Central could both be better co-ops.

It’s my stand that without such changes for member input and control, our co-ops are co-ops in name only, and I’ll be voting “no” on any more co-op mergers.

George Naylor is a 40-year farmer in Greene County and a member of both FC and West Central cooperatives.

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