Iowa in great shape due to agriculture, Kibbie says
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 06/25/2012 1:56 PM
EMMETSBURG, Iowa —Iowa's budget is in great shape with a $1 billion surplus because of the agricultural economy, said retiring Iowa Senate President Jack Kibbie.
"Only two states are better off than Iowa," Kibbie said. "North Dakota has oil, and Wyoming has coal. In Iowa we have ethanol."
Kibbie played a major role in getting Iowa to promote renewable fuels legislation.
"I'd go to state meetings, and they always talked about Minnesota and Brazil," Kibbie said. "In the late 1990s Minnesota passed a mandate for 10 percent ethanol. I thought that would be a good idea in Iowa, but we've never been able to get that passed because of concerns about mandates."
The Legislature did pass renewable fuels incentives.
"Under the last three governors, Iowa has built 44 ethanol and 13 biodiesel plants, and that's been a wonderful thing for our state," Kibbie said. "Add to that wind energy, and now there's an effort to help with solar energy. The Legislature needs to promote renewables."
Kibbie, who served as a tank commander in the Korean War, said too many American lives have been lost in various wars for oil.
He bristles at criticism of renewable fuel subsidies and counters that the oil industry is heavily subsidized.
"The subsidies for renewable fuels are a drop in the bucket compared to oil subsidies," Kibbie said. "When you compare the lobby for renewable fuels to the oil industry, it's like Emmetsburg Junior College going up against the NFL."
Distillers grains, an ethanol byproduct, provide feed for cattle, hogs and poultry.
"POET exports dry distillers out of the plant at Emmetsburg to the Philippines where they feed it to fish," Kibbie said. "There's great demand for distillers in China and other countries around the world."
He is concerned that the state's infrastructure, primarily the highway system, is lagging behind.
"By not passing a fuel tax increase, pretty soon we won't be able to catch up," Kibbie said. "I've been told by engineers that we have over 300 bridges in the state that are not adequate for legally licensed truck to drive across."
Kibbie served on the agriculture committee much of his time in the Legislature. He had a role in creating the Iowa Grain Indemnity Fund in the 1980s, worked with confined animal feeding operation rules and many other agricultural bills.
"We had to strike a balance where we could continue to have large animal operations and still have clean air and water in the state," he said. "You hear a lot about Iowa being over regulated and driving people out of business, and we have to watch that, but we also have to have rules to protect the public."
Many people are running campaigns based on anti-government agendas.
"Most of my adult life we raised corn for less than the cost of production, and the government kept us in business through subsidies," Kibbie said. "Today subsidies are not necessary because we can go to the market place to make a living, but other people do need government help whether it's education, health care or jobs."
Kibbie is troubled by Tea Party activists who criticize candidates for compromising with Democrats.
"We need both parties and both viewpoints, and we need compromise," Kibbie said.