Iowa farmers criticize Ernst on climate change, RFS

'Lots of jobs in Iowa depend on the RFS'

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A super PAC backing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley enlisted a pair of central Iowa farmers to criticize his Republican opponent, Joni Ernst, for a lack of leadership on renewable fuels and climate change — issues they said hit home with Iowa ag producers.

Bill Gannon, who has been farming for six decades, said flooding was rarely a problem until 1993. Since then, the Mingo farmer has seen crop damage and soil loss nearly every year due to flooding.

“Serious rain events cause great losses for farmers who are trying to make ends meet,” Gannon said on a conference call sponsored by NextGen Climate. The group is working to elect Braley of Waterloo, who has served eight years in the U.S. House.

Gannon believes “climate change is a given.”

“You just don’t get this much variation in weather … it is not normal,” Gannon said. “Either (Ernst) doesn’t go outdoors or she can’t find her rain gauge.”

The Ernst campaign called his criticism “false attacks from a group funded by a California extremist billionaire who opposes ethanol.”

Ernst spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel was referring to Tom Steyer, who is bankrolling NextGen Climate. He has been critical of ethanol in the past, but NextGen Climate is pushing for the Environmental Protection Agency to maintain the Renewable Fuel Standard for ethanol usage to reduce carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuel.

Ernst has expressed philosophical criticism of the RFS, but defended it when it appeared the EPA would reduce its ethanol requirements in the RFS. A state senator from Red Oak, she sponsored resolutions calling for the federal agency to maintain current levels.

“This is a personal issue because these are my family, my friends and my neighbors,” she said. “Lots of jobs in Iowa depend on the RFS. I will continue to stand for the RFS.”

That wasn’t enough for Donna Windburn, who has farmed more than 50 years near Grinnell.

“We need strong leadership in the Senate,” Windburn said. “She’s shown she’s clearly not the one for the job. Why would we elect an amateur like Joni Ernst?”

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