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GOP hopeful for Iowa Attorney General says she’d challenge Biden on ag climate rules
‘Unconstitutional overreaches that have to be stopped’
Iowa’s Republican nominee for attorney general Brenna Bird said, if elected, she Wednesday would challenge the Biden administration on various executive and administrative rules around climate change and the environment that she sees as hurting farmers.
Bird held a news conference with Republican Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig criticizing both the Biden administration and Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller for what they said was federal overreach on agriculture.
Bird pointed to several administrative rules that she said she’d challenge in court as Iowa’s attorney general, including plans to change the Waters of the U.S. rule, implementation of the Endangered Species Act and Environmental Protection Agency rules regulating the use of herbicides.
“Those are unconstitutional overreaches that have to be stopped, and they’re stopped in court with a federal judge, and that’s exactly what I aim to do as attorney general,” she said.
Naig said climate and environmental rules from the Biden administration have hampered farmers’ controls over their land and warned that more regulation would hurt farmers at a time when input prices are historically high.
“We’ve seen that this administration has not been friendly to the ag sector and further efforts along this line could make things worse,” he said.
Waters of the U.S. is an administrative rule that defines which waterways can be regulated by the EPA under the Clean Water Act. During President Barack Obama’s presidency, the rule was extended to small streams and wetlands, which affected what farmers could do near those waterways.
The rule became a common rallying point for Republican politicians, and it was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in 2015. President Donald Trump in 2020 implemented a narrower reading of the rule. Under President Joe Biden, the EPA is in the process of rewriting the rule.
The EPA is also considering adding or changing rules around common herbicides and pesticides, which has been challenged by some farm groups and Republicans.
In an interview, Miller said he’s been focusing on agriculture issues for his whole career, and he said Bird was running a campaign focused on “ideology and politics.”
"We think we have a strong and broad record on serving farmers," he said. "That's always been a huge concern and priority of mine."
Miller pointed to a study he commissioned in February into the causes of high fertilizer prices to determine whether price gouging was occurring in the market. In 2021, he filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court over exemptions for some fuel refineries from blending renewable fuels into their gasoline and diesel, and he said he has led antitrust efforts against the meatpacking industry.
“I care deeply about farmers, I’ve worked with them for 40 years and I’m working very closely with them as we speak on the fertilizer industry,” he said.
Bird also took issue with the structure of Miller’s farm division, a division of the office dedicated to farm issues. The division does not have dedicated attorneys, which she said shows a lack of focus on the area. “The current attorney general says he has a farm division, but there are no lawyers in it at all," she said.
Miller said the structure of the farm division allows for streamlined handling of agriculture issues based on the issue. Lawyers assist with the division based on their expertise, such as consumer protection or environmental law.
“So we're able to access the right people and the right resources when we need them for farmers,” he said.