Iowa Public Television


Earmarks Raise a Stink in Washington and Iowa

posted on March 6, 2009

Federal lawmakers have a long history of creating policy to develop markets for agricultural goods.

Corn-based ethanol has long been a "sacred cow" for farm state lawmakers. Billions of gallons of the renewable fuel must be used in the coming years to comply with the government's Renewable Fuel Standard. But industry experts warn that the current blend rate of 10 percent ethanol to 90 percent gasoline creates an enormous roadblock.

This week, Growth Energy, a renewable fuel advocacy group, called on EPA to raise the current 10 percent blend to 15 percent saying the move is not only safe for automobiles but could create as many as 135,000 jobs and pump $24 billion into the American economy.

In addition to federal mandates, ethanol has thrived on millions in research dollars earmarked by Washington lawmakers. But this week other earmarks for rural America drew fire from Congressional Republicans.

Earmarks Raise a Stink in Washington and Iowa

Once dubbed the "smell of money" by some farmers, hog waste odor in America's Heartland is raising a considerable stink on Capitol Hill. Arizona Senator John McCain, long known as an outspoken critic of so-called government "pork", is blasting a series of congressional earmarks – including one for hog odor studies.

The odor earmark is part of a $410 billion spending bill working its way through Congress. The bill includes operational funding for dozens of federal departments and billions more in individual earmarks for various constituencies.

Other ag-related earmarks include grape genetic research in New York and stable fly analysis in Nebraska but $1.7 million in Iowa pig odor research has caught the most attention from federal earmark detractors.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin added the earmark and insists that hog odor research merits federal spending.

Harkin added…'While we will likely hear about it on Jay Leno or the Letterman show, where they will be yukking it up, it's a profoundly serious challenge.'

Odor issues are virtually a constant issue for the Iowa legislature and lawmakers and private citizens have wrangled over hog confinements.

(Slug "Factory farms no!" or similar line)

Under current earmark provisions, the federal hog study would examine animal diets and how to mitigate ammonia odor from hog operations.

Iowa's $12 billion hog industry makes the Hawkeye State the number one producer of pork as pigs outnumber humans by more than 6 to 1. But while many Republican lawmakers have made a mockery of the hog odor appropriation, Senator Harkin suggested this week that any critics should tour an Iowa hog farm and examine the scent for themselves.


Tags: agriculture Congress government Iowa markets money news