Iowa Legislative Panel to Study Impact of Flooding on Livestock Industry

June 17, 2008

Iowa lawmakers agreed on June 12 to create a special committee to examine the economic impact of this spring’s flooding on Iowa’s livestock industry.

The Legislative Council, a bipartisan group that runs the legislature between sessions, approved a 10-member committee to study the matter. The panel initially plans two days of meetings, but lawmakers said that would be only the first step in their efforts.

“Nobody can predict what’s going to happen, but we need to get some of the best minds in the state together,” said Republican Rep. Sandy Greiner, a farmer from Keota. “We’re just on the brink of an incredibly serious problem.”

At least initially, livestock farmers’ biggest problem appears to be soaring commodity prices as corn and other grains wither in water-logged fields. Livestock and poultry producers rely on the grains for their feed, so any increase in costs could be passed along to consumers.

Separately, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin offered similar concerns in a conference call with Iowa reporters and said federal aid was possible. Harkin, who heads the Senate Agriculture Committee, noted that some futures prices for corn have already soared to $7 a bushel.

“We could see corn prices as high was $9 a bushel,” said Harkin. “There’s going to be a lot of fallout from this one. This is a disaster and our national government should respond.”

The Legislative Council each year approves the creation of study committees to examine various issues between sessions, and those committees often set the agenda for the following session. Adding a panel examining the economic damages from flooding virtually assures that topic will be before lawmakers next year, regardless of which party holds a majority.

House Speaker Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque, said other legislative oversight committees would consider how lawmakers can deal with other financial impacts of the flooding.

Lt. Gov. Patty Judge told the legislative panel that officials are only beginning to see the extent of the damages.

“It’s really affecting the entire state in one form or the other,” Judge said.

In all, the Legislative Council approved creation of 14 study committees to examine issues ranging from freedom of information to health care to livestock odors.

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