Leonard L. Boswell

Leonard L. Boswell is serving his sixth term as the representative for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes a dozen counties in the central-southeast portion of the state, including the state capital, Des Moines.

The district is the country’s 16th largest hog-producing region, and its nearly 1,100 farmers have 7.2 percent of Iowa’s hog inventory.

Boswell is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Subcommittee. In this position, and as one of only 18 farmers in the U.S. House of Representatives, he will play an integral role in writing the new farm bill during the 110th Congress. Boswell also serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

A native Iowan, who grew up in Ringgold and Decatur counties, Boswell has been a long-time champion for agriculture and still owns a working farm in Davis City, where he has a cow/calf operation.

Q: What are your top priorities in 2007 as chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry?

A: As chairman of the subcommittee, the main task at-hand is rewriting the farm bill. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has informed the committee members that he wants the farm bill signed into law by September 2007. Therefore, we are looking at a very ambitious schedule.

In addition to the farm bill, the subcommittee will be looking at the National Animal Identification System and the implementation of the voluntary Country-of-Origin Labeling program. According to current law, COOL will move to mandatory participation in September 2008.

Lastly, we must look at the competition for feed grains between the biofuels industry and livestock industries. 

Q: What can pork producers expect out of the next farm bill?

A: We are in the very initial stages of rewriting the farm bill, and as part of that process, we are talking to farmers, ranchers and agriculture organizations across the country about their priorities for the next bill. During the agriculture committee’s field hearings last year, we heard that most folks are generally happy with the 2002 Farm Bill.

I think that you can expect the 2007 Farm Bill to look a lot like the 2002 bill, with a few changes and some new ideas. There are a lot of proposals and ideas, and we’ll use the best of those to compile a farm bill that most fully meets the needs of U.S. producers.

Q: Do you expect efforts to attach provisions that could be detrimental to pork producers, such as a “downer” amendment or limits on certain production practices?

A: This year, as in past years, “downer” animal bills have been introduced. If passed, these would disallow the slaughter of nonambultory livestock, preventing those carcasses and products from entering the food chain.

I do not support these efforts. The term “downer” animal does not apply to swine and, therefore, it should not apply to the pork industry. 

Q: In the last Congress, you sponsored legislation that would have prohibited packers from owning hogs. Why do you think such a law is necessary?

A: I believe that competitiveness in marketing is essential to the industry and the survival of independent producers. Allowing packers to own the animals they slaughter reduces competition for livestock raised by independent producers. The combination of high market concentration and the increased use of captive supplies means lower prices and shrinking markets for independent producers. 

Q: President Bush has called for a large increase in biofuels production, which likely will mean more corn and soybeans going to ethanol and biodiesel plants that dot your state. Are you concerned about feed grain availability for the pork industry?

A: I believe that corn and soybean producers, with higher yields each year, are capable of providing enough corn and soybeans for both industries. However, we must continue to ensure that the research and technology transfer is available so the crop-production segment can meet the needs of both industries.

There will probably be an energy title in the farm bill, and that section should address our immediate need to expand crop production to ensure that we have enough feed for both the livestock and ethanol industries. We also will prioritize the developing cellulosic ethanol industry, which will reduce the pressure that starch ethanol is putting on corn supplies.

I understand the importance of value-added opportunities in agriculture, and we can’t support one value-added product like renewable fuels at the expense of animal agriculture, which is one of our great value-added success stories.

Q: In the last Congress, you co-sponsored a bill to clarify that livestock manure is not a hazardous substance or pollutant, under the Superfund laws. Why is that clarification needed and what are the chances of it getting through this Congress?

A: It’s vitally important to our livestock industry to clarify that manure is not a hazardous substance or pollutant, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act or Superfund. The intention behind those laws was to provide for cleanup of the worst industrial toxic waste sites and spills in America-- such as chemical plants and landfills. They were never intended to apply to livestock manure. What’s more, growing agriculture sectors, including organic farming, are dependent on animal manure.

Q: As you know, the pork industry is moving forward in implementing a swine ID system. Talk about the importance of being able to trace the origins of a pig.

A: First, I commend the pork industry for moving forward with a swine ID system. I believe that an animal identification system not only ensures the security and safety of our food supply, but also ensures producers’ confidence. 

Q: Iowa is home to a Swift & Company packing plant that was part of the government’s recent immigration raids, which caused some disruption in the pork industry. What can be done to ensure that the pork industry has a stable work force? How important is comprehensive immigration reform to the producers?

A: I was very interested in the raid at the Swift packing plant. I believe that we must provide the agricultural community with a stable workforce. However, we must also ensure that the workforce is in our country legally. No question, we need to look at this and other related issues when we debate comprehensive immigration reform during this Congress.  

Q: Finally, what’s your favorite cut of pork?

A: The Iowa Chop.