A responsible plan

The Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors should approve a request by a Rembrandt Enterprises subsidiary to build an agronomy center south of Sioux Rapids along Hwy. 71. Farm Nutrients LLC would store farm chemicals and fertilizer for distribution to producer clients. At least one adjacent neighbor is skeptical that the operation will not cause runoff to her property.

It would appear that the supervisors have taken great care to address storage, containment and drainage issues. I&S Group has done the engineering work, and maintains that a storm water containment pond and ditch will secure the property from bothering its neighbors.

Rembrandt Enterprises is the leading North American producer of eggs. It is a major employer in Buena Vista County and has generated considerable property tax revenue (and student enrollment) for the Sioux Central School District and the county.

Supervisors Chairman Paul Merten, D-Storm Lake, endorses the project and is putting his own credibility on the line to help expand the local economy. He deserves support from his colleagues on the board.

Obviously, there are concerns with chicken manure, anhydrous ammonia and other farm chemicals. These facilities must go somewhere, preferably in sparsely populated areas. This location fits the bill. The proposal on the table would appear to meet state and federal environmental requirements. The objecting neighbor does not live on the property but resides at Storm Lake.

Rembrandt Enterprises has been good for Buena Vista County. It is a growing, vibrant business that operates as responsibly as any ag enterprise. The county should let it grow through Farm Nutrients at the intended site.

Sausage finally made

Just two years behind schedule, Congress passed a new five-year farm bill that trims food stamps, ends direct payments (Freedom to Farm), increases crop insurance subsidies and cuts conservation funding. It takes dairy off the subsidy dole and puts it into a risk-management (insurance) program where it belongs. Overall, it is a mishmash that smacks of compromise, imperfect but good enough for now.

The entire Iowa congressional delegation voted for the farm bill.

Two major amendments sponsored by Iowans failed. Sen. Chuck Grassley failed to get stronger farm payment caps. Rep. Steve King failed to undo state laws that dictate how animals are raised; specifically he targeted a California law prescribing cage sizes for chickens.

Grassley’s amendment deserved to win because rich non-farmers who happen to own farmland should not be getting fatter off the taxpayer. King’s deserved to lose because if poultry growers don’t like California’s laws they may set up shop in Iowa. Buena Vista County is a great place to rear chickens (see above). Let California make its mistakes.

Nutrition funding (food stamps) was cut by nearly $9 billion over the next decade. That’s a far cry better than the $40 billion in cuts proposed by Republicans in the House — a position that essentially held up the farm bill going on three years. It was mean and irresponsible. The Senate went along initially with $4 billion in cuts. It is clear to see who the winner was, and it was not the likes of the Tea Party fanatics who shut down government not so long ago.

A good provision was tying crop insurance coverage to conservation compliance. Now we have to make sure that the rule is enforced by the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency.

Finer details of the farm bill will emerge over coming weeks as we get our minds around the 960-page bill that funds everything from school lunches to farm drainage well replacement. Interests so disparate as the Environmental Working Group and the American Farm Bureau supported the bill in its compromised form. We are encouraged that it will be implemented by the greatest Secretary of Agriculture since Henry Wallace, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. He understands how to make the most of it for clean air and water, rural communities, production agriculture and the hungry among us.