Meeting in the middle
Feenstra talks bipartisanship during visit to CJ Bio America
By CHAD THOMPSON
FORT DODGE – U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, said when it comes to issues like spending and the Mexico-U.S. border, he’ll likely disagree with the Democrats on the other side of the aisle.
But he said there’s room for bipartisanship on issues like agriculture.
“There are things in the middle we can work with,” Feenstra said last Wednesday during a visit to CJ Bio America, a company that produces amino acids for animal feed. “Yeah, there are things I am really concerned about. I am concerned about our spending. I am concerned about our borders. When it comes to agriculture and growing our communities, those are areas we can work together on.”
Feenstra’s visit to CJ Bio America included a tour of the plant, which has been in Fort Dodge since 2013. The company is located in the Iowa Crossroads of Global Innovation, an industrial park west of Fort Dodge. CJ Bio America employs over 200 people.
In terms of bipartisanship, Feenstra said he’s worked with U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Des Moines, and other Democrats to push legislation through.
“Congresswoman Axne and I, it was my amendment and she supported it, to make sure we had relief for people affected by the derecho,” Feenstra said. “I did a bill I co-sponsored with Representative (Rob) Kind from Wisconsin. It’s called the ECORA bill to create tax exempt loans in banks. It allows farmers to have 1 or 2 percent lower interest rates in their loans.”
Feenstra and Kind introduced the bill, called Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America, on March 17.
When it comes to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, Feenstra is in agreement about the need for reliable high-speed broadband for Americans.
“Being in rural Iowa, it’s important that we have dollars for infrastructure when it comes to roads and bridges,” the congressman said. “You think about this area, if we want to grow economically, we have to have broadband and fast speeds of broadband. If you look from where we are today and where we are going to be in 10 to 15 years, we are going to have to have 100 upload download speeds. So to me, it’s not only broadband, but it’s the speeds that will be so critical.”
He added, “But understanding how we get things to market, how we do things here. So, it’s roads, it’s bridges, it’s rail. All these things are part of infrastructure. I look at it as an asset. When you build something, it’s a tangible asset and that’s what money should be used for.”
On the heels of multiple mass shootings around the country in recent weeks, Feenstra said the attention should be on individuals committing the crimes and not on the weapons.
“It’s tragic what has happened,” he said. “It’s very sad to see occurrences like that. We in Congress have spent a lot of discussion on mental health. We were just talking in Humboldt about this. We have to start looking at a younger age, in grade school, understanding mental health, brain health issues — making sure we identify people early on that might have vulnerabilities and issues and things like that. That’s sort of where the topic is heading right now.”
When asked specifically about the role semi-automatic weapons like AR-15s, play in some of the country’s deadliest shootings, Feenstra cited mental health as the biggest issue.
“I am a very strong Second Amendment person and so I am not sure where gun legislation will go,” he said. “I think the bigger area is mental health. The responsibility lies with the person. If we really crack down on things like this, it starts with mental health issues. And we have to identify people even at an earlier age. Even employees and employers, where are the concerns?”
Feenstra said he supports additional funding for counselors in schools.
“That’s what we are looking at when it comes to schools,” he said. “Have counselors and those that can identify the concerns that are out there. When children behave out of the normal realm of a child.”
In terms of the Mexico-U.S. border, Feenstra described the situation as a “humanitarian crisis.”
“When you have parents having their children leave to come here, it just shows you what a great country that we have,” he said. “People want to come here because we have so many great things. But we also are a country of rules and we have to know who’s coming in and out of our country, I mean for security reasons.
” I don’t care what country you are. Virtually every country you have a secure border because you need to know who is good and who is evil. I just look at it that way. We first have to secure our borders. Once we secure our borders, then we can talk about immigration issues and how we move forward, but you can’t do both of those things at the same time because you’re not stopping anything. You first have to stop the flow and understanding who is coming in and who’s not and then you can start talking about immigration reform.”
Meanwhile, Feenstra said he’s enthusiastic about biofuels.
“Biofuels is the cleanest form of energy in the country,” he said. “Everybody talks about electric vehicles and all this stuff. With biofuels, you’re squeezing a piece of corn or squeezing a soybean and you’re getting that energy. You are literally storing that energy in that corn or soybean. And now we are talking about carbon sequestration, which could actually be carbon negative. I mean literally carbon negative. There’s no energy in the country that could be carbon negative. That’s why I am such a proponent of it. I hope that the administration really does a deep dive. If you truly want to help clean energy, this is where you got to go. And we are 1 or 2 in the nation.”
Feenstra said another top priority is protecting producers.
“We have a situation right now where there is somewhat of a monopoly with four big packers,” Feenstra said. “You have cattle and hogs in essence that those producers can’t control the market anymore. We have to have pricing transparency. We have to have some way of understanding how trades are happening and how cattle is sold.”
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