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Subtle Changes in Ag Policy?

Even before Tuesday’s Republican wave became a tsunami that gives the GOP a strong Senate majority, one of its senior members, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told reporters that he doesn’t expect major changes in farm or energy policies that will affect farmers.

“I believe on farm policy, there will probably not be any changes in the farm bill, but I would expect trade would be a bigger issue if Republicans control the Senate,” he said on election day.

The Obama Administration is trying to negotiate a Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other countries and Grassley said there has been some progress, with the exception of Japan, which is trying to protect its farmers. But no new treaty is likely unless Congress grants Obama trade promotion authority (TPA), which is needed to limit congressional debate to an up or down vote on the measure.

Grassley said TPA isn’t likely to pass in the lame duck session this fall that will still be controlled by Democrats, unless Obama pushes for it, but “next year, I think it’s a real possibility.”

On energy policy, “I believe we’re going to still continue with an ‘all of the above’ policy,” he said, which would support biofuels, nuclear energy, and building the Keystone XL pipeline to bring Canadian tar sands crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“I think it would be a lot easier for us to counteract the EPA if they screw up on the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Grassley said, referring to the agency’s proposal last year to lower the RFS blending mandate for ethanol and other biofuels. The EPA still hasn’t released its final rule.

On tax policy, Grassley said he expects that any major tax reform will be taken up next year, but he hopes that 53 tax credits, which include those for biodiesel and machinery expensing under Section 179 of the tax code, will be extended in the lame duck session.

“I think the [tax] extenders, all 53 of them, will pass as a package,” he said.

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