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State

Boswell: Rein in ag program spending

CEDAR RAPIDS (MCT) — It may be 2010, but Rep. Leonard Boswell has been working on the 2012 Farm Bill and warning that farmers may see some cuts in agricultural programs as Congress tries to rein in the federal debt.

The next farm bill will include a safety net, the seven-term Des Moines Democrat told The Gazette Editorial Board last week, but programs may have to be capped or “adjusted.”

“There’s going to be a major effort to get our arms around reducing the debt and starting to draw back on it,” said Boswell, who served 20 years in the Army, farmed and served in the Iowa Senate before being elected to the U.S. House.

“We can’t keep accumulating this debt. Everyone has got to share, so how can you share and still do what you do and have a safety net?”

In hearings with farmers, producers, processors and others who make their living on agriculture, “We put the serious question to them: What do you really need?

“You’re not going to get everything,” he said. “I think they understood.” Boswell, 76, who is being challenged by state Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, offered few specifics on adjustments to crop insurance, which he called farmers’ safety net. Capping subsidies will be a part of the discussion, too. He wants to protect and, perhaps, increase assistance for biodiesel and other forms of renewable energy. He thinks the Department of Energy is close to approving a dedicated pipeline to carry biofuels from the Midwest to the eastern United States, which will be more efficient than moving fuel by truck and rail. Building a pipeline, Boswell said, will create 80,000 jobs, many of them in Iowa.

Boswell, who prefers the term “recovery” to “stimulus,” backs federal infrastructure spending because the jobs can’t be exported “and we need to do the work anyway.” Those programs should be tied to “green energy,” including conservation, he said.

‘We have to do (this work) anyway, so why not do it green?’ Boswell said. ‘We can’t afford to send our money to OPEC so they can use it against us.” At the same time, he’s willing to look at expanding domestic drilling for oil ‘with the right regulations and safety balance.’ Without accessible, affordable energy sources, Boswell said, the United States could become a third-world country.

“If we don’t wake up, we’ll be second to China,” he said. “But we don’t have to be if we’re progressive and think about what’s going on and go forward doing the things that need to be done.”

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