U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, was the second Democratic presidential candidate to visit an area ethanol plant as campaigns remained focused on garnering Iowans’ support.

Gillibrand toured Big Bend Resources plant in Dyersville on Monday afternoon, getting a firsthand look at the operations and processes. In a call to the Telegraph Herald between the plant and a meet-and-greet in Maquoketa, the senator said she learned a lot about the industry’s actual nuts and bolts.

“Our next president really needs to understand how rural America works,” she said. “We also have to understand the future of energy independence.”

Gillibrand said she would continue and bolster the year-round sales of gasoline with 15% ethanol enabled by President Donald Trump to bipartisan and industrywide cheers.

The fossil fuel industry grumbled about that move, but Trump also chose to waive biofuel quotas for oil refineries owned by giant corporations. The move was viewed by many ethanol producers as, at best, two steps forward, one step back.

“I would not allow big oil to get waivers for their processing,” Gillibrand said after her visit, refusing to accept that Exxon-Mobile gets waivers meant for small businesses.

When she visited in May, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., expressed the same plans if she were elected in 2020.

Big River Resources General Manager Jim Leiting attended both tours. He said this exposure to policymakers was great for the company and industry as a whole.

“From our point of view, any chance for education and an understanding of who we are and of agriculture — educating all of the candidates, be they Republicans or Democrats — is beneficial,” he said. “Small refinery waiver exemptions, E15 are important. And with Warren and Gillibrand, not only are they presidential candidates, they are senators. We want all lawmakers know about agriculture and us as a part of agriculture.”

Leiting said former U.S. Reps. Beto O’Rourke, of Texas, and John Delaney, of Maryland, have visited other Big River facilities. He said other candidates have visited sites owned by other producers.

“It’s an education process as the candidates are touring Iowa in their quest to win the (February) caucus,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s any significant difference in direction between the candidates. They’re all supportive.”

Gillibrand said promises to support ethanol production on the trail in Iowa shouldn’t take away from her message in other early primary states.

“It’s about a value-added crop as well as manufacturing and fuel independence,” she said. “We want to get the Green New Deal. Part of the green new deal is investing in green technologies.”

FINKENAUER APPLAUDS RURAL BROADBAND

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, applauded a Federal Communications Commission announcement that it would provide nearly $51 million to connect more than 15,000 rural Iowa homes and businesses to broadband.

Internet service providers will begin receiving funding this month through the Connect America Fund, according to a release. Counties in Iowa’s First Congressional District set to receive these connections include Clayton, Dubuque, Jackson and Jones.

“Access to broadband is vital to our small businesses and farmers, who depend on it to identify new customers, sell their products and create jobs in their communities,” Finkenauer said in the release. “Investing in broadband is a common-sense issue that both parties can work together on and actually get something done.”

Finkenauer serves on the House Task Force on Rural Broadband in Congress and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She chairs the Small Business Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship Subcommittee.

BOGUS BONUS BAN ACT

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced this week legislation to reel in federal spending on contractors who do not properly do their jobs.

The Bogus Bonus Ban Act targets federal contractors which charge “award fees” in their contracts, which the government must pay even if the resulting work is allegedly incomplete or shoddy. Ernst pointed at contractors for both the Department of Defense and NASA that were paid millions in these fees for work officials said was unfinished or poorly performed, according to a release.

SENATORS MOVE TO BLOCK CORPORATE INVERSIONS

Democratic U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, of Illinois, and Tammy Baldwin, a fellow Democratic senator from Wisconsin, were among those who introduced legislation this week that would plug loopholes allowing U.S. corporations to shift corporate citizenship out of the country to avoid taxes.

The Stop Corporate Inversions Act would stop corporations from purchasing companies in another country to move their “tax home” to that other country, according to a release. The American Business for American Companies Act would extend a ban on federal contracts with inverted corporations.

“Inversion loopholes allow American companies to skirt tax obligations, and it’s just plain wrong,” Durbin said in a release. “These companies benefit from America, but when it comes to their taxes they’d rather scheme their way out of paying their fair share. That leaves families and small businesses behind, and it has to end.”

O’ROURKE OPENS DUBUQUE OFFICE

O’Rourke is the third Democratic presidential primary candidate to open a brick-and-mortar headquarters in Dubuque. The office and staff are located at 962 Main St.

HEIN: DROP IN OPIOID DEATHS SHOW STATEWIDE EFFORTS ARE WORKING

Iowa Rep. Lee Hein, R-Monticello, touted a recent report showing a 33% decrease in opioid-related deaths statewide last year. He said that shows that actions taken by lawmakers are “coming to fruition.”

“I will continue to work towards common-sense solutions that keep our communities safe and help those suffering from drug addiction and abuse,” Hein said in a Facebook post.

CALENDAR

5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 30, Timmerman’s Supper Club, 7777 Timmerman Drive, East Dubuque, Ill. — Illinois Rep. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, will host a Pizza and Politics event with East Dubuque Mayor Kirk VanOstrand.

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