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Political Mercury

Corn wars: Branstad vs. Cruz

1/13/2016

Dr. Allen “Duke” Anneberg has showed up at dozens of events for Gov. Terry Branstad around Carroll County over the past four decades. The retired Carroll physician often registers his fervent support of Iowa’s Republican governor with the ringing of a cowbell.

Photo by Douglas Burns

Photo by Douglas Burns

At a recent Ted Cruz presidential campaign event, Anneberg shook the bell with gusto with for the Texas Republican.

Outside of the Carrollton Inn rally, though, Branstad’s son Eric said the bell cannot ring for both a Branstad and Cruz.

The two GOP leaders are too far apart on farm policy, Eric Branstad said.

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The state director of the bipartisan America’s Renewable Future, Eric Branstad says Cruz is the most hostile of the major-party candidates to the grain-boosting Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal mandate that, among other things, requires more ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.

Simply put, Eric Branstad said, Cruz is “dangerous” for Iowa’s economy.

“Senator Cruz has sponsored three bills to repeal the RFS,” Eric Branstad said, adding that no other bills Cruz backs call for any cuts to advantages for the oil industry.

Eric Branstad said that between the two poll leaders in the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses — Cruz and Donald Trump — the New York real-estate magnate is stronger on agriculture.

“Donald Trump has given us the time,” Branstad said. “He sat down with (ethanol) industry leaders going back to April.”

Eric Branstad, who has trailed Cruz in an RV across Iowa, noted that Trump toured a POET biorefinery in Gowrie.

“He has continued to show his support having learned about the importance of what ethanol is, what the industry means to Iowa,” Branstad said.

Eric Branstad took issue with Cruz supporter Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, who demeaned Terry Branstad and Iowa agriculture in an email last week to supporters.

“The governor of Iowa is a Big Corn cheerleader, and his son is running a super PAC hitting Cruz for not bowing to worship Big Corn. Tsk, tsk,’’ Cuccinelli wrote.

Eric Branstad said his dad embraces that cheerleading role.

“Let me tell you, Dad is a cheerleader for Iowa farmers, for Iowa corn growers,” Eric Branstad said. “He is a huge cheerleader.”

Added Eric Branstad, “Our economy depends on a strong RFS, and Iowans count on $5 billion in wages thanks to it. Ted Cruz wants to kill their jobs, and we are going to make sure every Iowan knows that.”

Fourth-generation Iowa farmer Lynn Phillips, 55, who works 2,000 acres in the Manning area, said as a Republican he likes much of Cruz’s message. But Phillips, a Republican, said Cruz’s lack of support for the RFS is a deal killer in his decision-making before the caucuses.

“Iowa needs somebody to support renewable fuels,” said Phillips, who owns about half the land he farms. “And frankly, ethanol. Agriculture needs that. It’s huge to me personally, and I think it’s huge to our economy.”

In an interview with Carroll Broadcasting’s Von Ketelsen after the Carroll event, Cruz said the United States should pursue an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, one in which government doesn’t advantage one source over another.

“I believe we should phase out the ethanol mandate,” Cruz said. “There shouldn’t be government picking winners and losers. But at the same time, we should remove the government barriers from the EPA that limit ethanol’s penetration in the marketplace.”

It’s possible, Cruz said, for ethanol to achieve a larger place in the marketplace with that strategy.

Cruz has worked in recent days to somewhat moderate or deflect his positioning on the RFS.

But trust is a big issue here. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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