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IFU Urges Ernst to Focus on Farmer, Not Coal, Relief
Iowa Ag Connection - 05/19/2020

In a letter late last week, Iowa Farmers Union President Aaron Lehman urged Sen. Joni Ernst to focus her efforts on helping family farmers and Iowa's ethanol industry instead of the fossil fuel industry. The Iowa Farmers Union concern centers on a letter co-signed by Sen. Ernst along with 16 other Republican Senators asking federal officials to ensure that coal and other fossil fuel interests are considered eligible for federal economic recovery efforts.

Currently farmers in Iowa are facing crippling decline in prices as the food supply chain faces massive challenges due to the current pandemic. In addition, ethanol plants in Iowa are under extreme economic stress as they idle or close production.

On April 7 Ernst co-signed a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Powell regarding BlackRock, Inc., a large asset manager which has been retained by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to administer part of the terms of the CARES Act. The letter asks for assurances that commercial fossil fuel entities not be excluded from these funds.

This past January, the chief executive officer of BlackRock stated in his annual letter that his firm, the world's largest money manager, would overhaul its investing strategy to make sustainability the "new standard" for investing. He said that "a fundamental reshaping of finance" is coming about because climate change is becoming "a defining factor" and that climate change poses a risk to long term viability. BlackRock had already made known that it is moving away from investments in the coal industry.

In an apparent response to this announcement from BlackRock, Senator Ernst joined 16 colleagues to urge both the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board to assure that BlackRock must act "to avoid conflicts of interest."

Lehman wrote to Ernst, "The Iowa Farmers Union is deeply disappointed in your decision to seek assistance for the fossil fuel industry at a time when Iowa family farmers are suffering from the devastating economic impacts of the pandemic. Instead, our farmers and our ethanol industry deserve your support first and foremost."

"We urge you to focus your support on family farming, sustainable energy, and other enterprises that contribute to a livable future and long-term viability for Iowa," said Lehman.

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