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Grassley back on the ag competition warpath

It's not the first time Senator Charles Grassley has been down this road, but this time, he thinks his chances of reaching his destination are a little bit better.

The Iowa Republican senator said Tuesday morning he'd be introducing the Agriculture Competition and Enhancement Act to the Senate later in the day. It's not the first time he's moved the legislation forward only to see it die on the vine for lack of support in Congress. Grassley introduced the package to the Senate last in July 2007, but it failed to gain traction and expired with the end of the session of Congress then underway.

But, despite its not-so-stellar sowing that time around, Grassley's hopeful things will be different with a new administration and congressional leadership.

"I think that this administration and the Congress will help us. I think the chances are better this time," Grassley said of moving the act toward being signed into law. "Don't forget we've probably got nine or 10 new senators."

The act, among other provisions targeting anticompetitive practices in agriculture and agribusiness, would set up "ag-specific guidelines" for ag business mergers. With this inclusion, Grassley says he's hopeful family farmers are considered when it comes to agribusiness mergers just as much as large corporations.

"Basically, it's from my premise that people in the Justice Department don't have enough of an understanding of agriculture to really make decisions that would adequately take family farmers into consideration," Grassley said Tuesday.

To this end, he proposes putting people with "that type of expertise" in advisory positions to provide oversight of ag-specific business merger. Without going into specifics Tuesday, Grassley said those in advisory roles would comprise ag industry representatives like state department of agriculture officials and state attorneys general as well as farmers and farm group leaders.

"This bill seeks to ensure a level playing field for all participants in agriculture and also intended to make sure family farmers aren't left behind," said Grassley, who's joined by Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin in sponsoring the Ag Competition and Enhancement Act. "We've been tinkering around the edges on this for years. This legislation attempts to deal with it head-on."

It's not the first time Senator Charles Grassley has been down this road, but this time, he thinks his chances of reaching his destination are a little bit better.

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