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Grassley: ag will gain from today’s election

DANIEL LOOKER 11/02/2010 @ 11:33am Business Editor

Senator Chuck Grassley,  the top ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and one incumbent who appears headed to victory in today’s election, predicts more bipartisanship in his own chamber of Congress--and several benefits for agriculture from the approaching GOP takeover of the House of Representatives.

Besides being an influential member of his own party Grassley, of Iowa, is one of only two active ag producers in the Senate, along with Democrat Jon Tester of Montana. When asked how farmers and ranchers might benefit from the coming changes in Washington, Grassley keyed in on these:

--Trade. “The number one area would be trade,” he told Agriculture.com Tuesday.  “We export more than a third of our ag products. I think there is going to be more encouragement to the president, who I think down in his heart, is a free trader.”

Grassley believes Republican control of the House will make it easier for Obama to push for Congressional approval of free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama.  President Barack Obama wants to increase U.S. exports but members of his own party and the unions who support them are more protectionist, as well as some of the Tea Party members adding to the GOP wave in this election.

--Reining in the EPA, which Grassley says stands for “End Production Agriculture now.”

He’s been critical of the agency’s proposed rules to limit fugitive dust, which would apply to combining during harvest, an impossible standard to meet in Grassley’s view. “There’s a lot of regulations like that that are very anti-agriculture and I think there will be an opportunity to intervene to prevent some of these policies from going into effect.”

--Restoring higher estate tax credits. The Bush-era tax law that gradually raised estate tax exemptions and eliminated them for this year expires on December 31. After that, the unified credit reverts to the pre-2001 level of $1 million per spouse. “That would force the sale of even small farms,” in order to pay the taxes, Grassley said. Earlier this year Grassley helped craft a bipartisan extension at the level of $5 million and at a 35% rate that wasn’t offered for a vote. But Tuesday he indicated that he’s changed his position to get something passed before the end of the year.

“Settling on what the House has already passed at $3.5 million and 45% would be pretty good,” he said.

That would have to happen in a 24-day lame-duck session of Congress still controlled by Democrats and packed with pending legislation. Grassley said he’s not certain the estate tax bill will come up for a vote.

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