(Photo by Ken Ross)
Illegal immigration, corporate consolidation at the expense of competition - especially in the meat packing industry, an import tax on ethanol, potential health insurance legislation, proposed payment limits on farm subsidies and other matters were discussed.
In response to a comment from an audience member who opposed amnesty for illegal aliens, Grassley said that he voted for amnesty about 20 years ago but currently opposes it. "Back then it was a one or two million person problem rather than an 11 million person problem and I thought we were solving the problem," Grassley explained.
Grassley said he favors a program to ease the read tape for limited time guest workers but that would not solve the problem of illegal aliens. He also favors tighter border security.
Regarding consolidation of power within the meat packing industry, Grassley said that it is not a matter of needing new laws but using the laws that are already on the books. Grassley stated that the Packers and Stockyard Act would provide more comprehensive controls over the meat industry than contained in anti trust laws if they were enforced.
One member of the audience expressed concern over the possible elimination or reduction on the tax for importation of ethanol. Grassley indicated that he is not in favor of any change in the tax.
It was noted that there is currently a local initiative to convert solid waste that would otherwise go to the landfill (and in some cases already in the landfill) to fuel pellets, solving space problems while creating an asset. The problem is that this does not qualify as a biomass energy project under current federal definitions.
Grassley said he would look into the matter and see what can be done. He warned that if this required a change of law, there wouldn't be anything done during the present year.
A member of the audience objected to high farm subsidies for corporate level farming operations. He noted that there is some resistance in the south to payment limits because they have more of a plantation system.
Grassley said he favors a reduction in the maximum payment and eliminating loopholes that allow a single entity to collect for each of many units.
"When 10 percent of the farmers get 72 percent of the benefits, something is wrong," Grassley said.