Hinson talks beef with cattlemen in Toledo

Congresswoman Ashley Hinson speaks with Murph’s Creamery & Grill owners Joe Murphy (right) and Jeremiah Murphy (right) following a lunch discussion held at the restaurant with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. Murph’s is competing as a top 10 finalist in the Iowa’s Best Burger Contest. Judging for the contest is underway with the winner to be announced on May 3 to kick off National Beef Month. Darvin Graham/News Chronicle

Congresswoman Ashley Hinson made a stop in Tama County on April 12. She first met with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association (ICA) for a lunch meeting at Murph’s Creamery and Grill in Toledo before departing for a meeting on the Meskwaki Settlement.

Hinson’s visit to Murph’s comes in conjunction with the restaurant being named as a Top 10 finalist for the Iowa’s Best Burger Contest put on by the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

The discussion began with a legislative update from Hinson who spoke about concerns she has regarding the recently announced infrastructure plan proposed by President Biden.

Given the narrow congressional majority by the Democratic party, Hinson said she feared the budget reconciliation process may again be utilized to pass a large plan without buy-in from the Republican party.

Hinson said she felt there may be opportunity for bi-partisan agreement toward smaller bills for targeted projects like locks and dams or roads and bridges.

Area producers and Iowa Cattlemen’s Association officials joined Congresswoman Ashley Hinson for a lunch meeting at Murph’s Creamery & Grill in Toledo on April 12. Pictured, from left: Dysart producer Drew Hennings, ICA Regional Vice President Rob Medberry, Benton County Cattlemen President Drew Fish, Congresswoman Hinson, Toledo producer and feedlot specialist Zeb Gray and ICA District 6 Director Mark Putney. Darvin Graham/News Chronicle

Her concern, which was echoed by ICA representation present Monday, was about the potential in the Biden plan for reform in generational wealth transfer mechanisms like increasing capital gains tax or the removal of the step-up in basis tax relief measure that could impact Iowa farmers. Hinson indicated she thought removing the step-up in basis provision may be unconstitutional.

Hinson’s hope when considering infrastructure projects was to lean more heavily on things like fuel taxes rather than raising corporate tax rates.

The group held discussion on renewable energy and climate topics as they pertained to the cattle livestock industry.

Hinson said she was alarmed at the amount of subsidies she saw in the Biden infrastructure plan for electric vehicle production.

“I don’t think there’s been adequate discussion about what to do with these batteries when their lifespan ends,” Hinson said. “We as a state addressed the road use tax fund equity issue but I haven’t seen a plan for that at the federal level, which concerns me. Obviously if they’re using electric vehicles they’re not paying the gas tax.”

She also said there were concerns expressed to her that large farm equipment would not be able to convert from combustion engines to battery power as easily or as quickly as consumer vehicles.

The association discussed their views about the role the cattle industry plays in sequestration of carbon and their concerns about the rise of plant-based food alternatives in the retail market.

They also thanked Hinson for signing on to a letter to the USDA to expand CFAP aid to producers that operate feeder cattle operations and gave her an update about delays in COVID relief payments to cattle producers from the USDA that are just now being sent out.

“Direct payment is very needed, but nobody here wants to rely on (those) payments,” ICA District 6 Director and Tama County native Mark Putney said. “We want an open and fair market and we have to have more cash negotiations.”

Putney said producers are seeking access to more market data that could help level the playing field in negotiations with packing companies.

Drew Hennings, a cattle producer from Dysart, spoke to Hinson about issues he’s heard from distributors about beef orders being shorted from packing companies recently.

He said some of the explanations he’s heard were that trucking companies were having a hard time finding drivers and packers were also having a hard time maintaining their workforces.

Hennings said from the producer stand point, he felt that product demand is there and that most producers are ready and open for business.

“Anybody around here knows our feed costs are going up,” Hennings said. “We want to sell cattle.”

The processing plant expansion at Iowa Premium in Tama was also discussed as a major development in the Iowa cattle market.

“It’s a good thing for us because that means we’re going to have more competition in the marketplace,” ICA Director of Government Relations Cora Fox said. “It will double the capacity and they’re going to add another shift so there will be some job creation. But we don’t want to just stop and say that’s enough. The ultimate goal for our cattlemen is to have a new competitor come into Iowa outside of the primary four packers and slaughter maybe 1,200 head to provide more competition for us to choose from.”

Although area producers generally spoke in favor of the Iowa Premium plant expansion, a concern was voiced about buyers from Greater Omaha Packing Company departing the area following the Iowa Premium expansion announcement, leaving little in the way of options for producers to efficiently sell their cattle.

“When producers go to sell their livestock, unless they set up a deal with another outfit to truck the livestock a long ways, you have take what you can get,” Fox said. “And that doesn’t put us as producers in a good position.”

Hinson’s Toledo stop marked the second time she’s visited Tama County since taking office in January. The congresswoman also made a brief visit to the South Tama Food Pantry in Tama in early February.