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Seng has to do list for ag committee

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 02/05/2013 4:22 PM

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DAVENPORT, Iowa —Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Joe Seng has a list of issues on his plate.

The issues include feed-in tariffs, double cropping, stray voltage, pet cemeteries and the proposed nutrient reduction strategy.

Seng, a Davenport veterinarian, said legislation on feed-in tariffs to promote small farm wind energy projects didn't make it to the ag committee last year. Farmers Electric Cooperative of Kalona is the first Iowa rural electric cooperative to offer a feed-in tariff for customer-generated renewable energy.

"I hope to bring that up myself and see if it gets off the ground," said Seng, a Democrat.

He hopes to call attention to double-cropping issues. Farmers who grow corn and then plant a crop like winter wheat or rye can't get crop insurance because double cropping isn't an approved practice in Iowa for crop insurance purposes.

"It's a federal issue, but we want to have speakers explain this and see if we can get some traction to get this changed," Seng said.

Stray voltage will likely come up through the commerce committee on the electrical side, but Seng hopes to visit the bill on the dairy side in the ag committee. With stray voltage, dairy cattle face production problems due to low-level shocking that occurs from possible wiring problems, he said.

"This issue needs its day in court in the ag committee," Seng said.

He wants to promote new technology that allows crop farmers to chop, bale and bag silage so that it can be transported to livestock producers. Vermeer has patent rights on the new German technology.

"This would help livestock producers if they could contract directly with corn producers to lock in a price on a field of corn," Seng said. "The ag committee's job is not all legislative, sometimes it's informational."

Seng expects a discussion of Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey's proposed nutrient reduction strategy.

"It addresses issues raised nationally on Iowa's contribution to pollution of the dead zone," Seng said. "Northey has come up with voluntary compliance and this will come up in the ag and natural resources budget subcommittee, but legislation could definitely come out of ag that would complement the subcommittee."

Seng said $15 million worth of projects were submitted by farmers last year, and state match was only $2.5 million for a total of $5 million.

"If we would have had $15 million available from the state, we would have got $15 million from the farmer match if they qualified for a total of $30 million," Seng said. "We're only doing a sixth of what the farmers wanted to do. We are one of the number one agricultural states, but yet we're not coming up with the fiscal match for what the farmers want to do. The farmers should not be criticized as much as the state as far as I'm concerned. Agriculture has waited in line long enough, and it should be due its fiscal benefits."

There could be a bill to update or completely revise the master matrix for siting large livestock confinement units. Seng has talked to retired Sen. Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg, "the spark plug for renewable fuels legislation," about continuing the torch for renewable fuels, and he will visit with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association about its priorities.

There could be more discussion of animal rights following the passage of last year's ag protection act. Seng anticipates a bill on labeling of GMO grocery products. Some are pushing legislation to regulate zoos that aren't accredited, and Seng plans to bring up a bill establishing pet cemetery regulations.