Sen. Ernst makes stop at New Century FS in Melbourne Saturday
MELBOURNE — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) swung through Melbourne on Saturday afternoon and crossed Marshall County off of her annual 99-county tour list after a visit to New Century FS and a tour of the facility with members of the cooperative’s leadership team.
Unsurprisingly, agricultural policy was the primary focus of the discussion at New Century, as the staff asked questions about Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on farm chemicals, safety protocols and procedures and the fact that employees with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) have to wait until they turn 21 to obtain their hazardous materials endorsement, which would allow them to transport anhydrous ammonia.
On the issue of chemical regulation, New Century Agronomy Sales and Marketing Manager Jason Paper said he was hopeful that a “middle ground” could be found.
“What we’re doing today doesn’t hold a candle to what we did 30 years ago (environmentally),” Paper said.
Retail Division Manager Troy Koehler, who led the tour along with Location Manager Clint Hilleman, highlighted New Century’s commitment to safety, noting that the goal was always to send employees home with both eyes, 10 fingers and 10 toes, and it was mentioned that the co-op will be holding its first mass casualty training in August.
“Safety culture is very, very important,” Koehler said. “Knock on wood, we’ve been very, very clean, and we want to keep it that way.”
As the conversation shifted to the CDL restrictions, which New Century’s Celsey Stevenson said have been a “roadblock” to hiring, Ernst recalled her own experiences in the military serving in Iraq, where 18-year-old soldiers often transported dangerous chemicals across the desert.
“If they can do it in a war zone, they should be able to do it here,” Ernst said.
Once the tour wrapped up and Ernst officially crossed her 57th county off of her 2023 list, which she joked put her ahead of her colleague Chuck Grassley, she fielded questions from the reporters in attendance before heading off for a quick appearance in Des Moines and then back to her home in Red Oak. The Senator had already made stops in Linn, Jones and Tama counties on Saturday.
Year-round E15 (15 percent ethanol) and the Biden administration’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, which she strongly opposes, have been two of Ernst’s biggest focuses in the agricultural realm in Washington, D.C., but ongoing negotiations regarding the new Farm Bill are also high on her priority list.
The total cost of the omnibus legislation is estimated to run close to $1.5 trillion, and Ernst said if it was up to her, it would key more on actual farmers and less on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food assistance programs. She hopes the bill will protect federal crop insurance and add a work requirement for able-bodied single adults to receive food assistance.
“We want to make sure that the program is focused on those that need the food assistance the most. We most certainly would make sure that crop insurance stays protected. That has been the number one issue I hear from farmers,” she said. “I don’t see a threat to it right now, but we need to make sure it stays there. That would be my Farm Bill.”
After the official adjournment of the 2023 session last week, Ernst gave the Iowa Legislature high marks on its work to address property and income taxes, and she hopes it will encourage more people to claim the state as their primary residence even if they have seasonal homes elsewhere.
“If we can lower that, make those taxes reasonable here in Iowa, continue to encourage people to live here (and) claim it as your primary residence, I think it’s a great thing, and I think the federal government could take a look at some of these conservative states and say ‘Wow, we really want people to keep more of their money in their own pockets as well,’ because they will invest wisely in their communities,” she said. “The federal government, they just spend way too much, so I would much rather see us be measured and responsive to our constituencies. The federal government, right now, doesn’t seem to be doing that.”
Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or email@example.com.