Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Senate late Thursday approved a bill that outlaws states' efforts to put labels on food products made with genetically-modified organisms and instead gives companies more leeway in disclosing GMOs.

The measure must still be passed by the U.S. House, but there are lots of questions. Harvest Public Media has been watching this ongoing battle for more than a year and we have answers for the five big questions about this latest volley in this food fight.


Just a week before a Vermont law kicks-in requiring labels on food containing genetically modified ingredients, U.S. Senate agriculture leaders announced a deal Thursday that takes the power out of states' hands and sets a mandatory national system for GM disclosures on food products.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, unveiled the plan that had been negotiated for weeks with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.

There’s rarely seen public animosity within Iowa’s congressional delegation.

2nd District Congressman David Loebsack, the only Democrat in the delegation, is calling 4th District Republican Congressman Steve King an “embarrassment to Iowa”.

It concerns King’s statements after introducing an amendment that would block plans for replacing former President Andrew Jackson’s image on the $20 bill with one of African American civil rights activist Harriet Tubman.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The proposed takeover of a major seed company by a Chinese government business is getting some scrutiny on Capitol Hill. U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) chairs the Senate Judiciary committee and says he's looking at state-owned ChemChina's plans to buy the Swiss company Syngenta.

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Schools across the U.S. served more than 5 billion meals in the national school lunch program to millions of students last year. Each one of the meals has to meet federal rules for nutrition. Now, those rules are up for debate and Congress could impose changes on the cafeteria.

courtesy of Ben & Jerry's

Calling a Vermont law that creates mandatory labeling of food that has genetically engineered ingredients a "wrecking ball," Republican Sen. Pat Roberts won first-round approval Tuesday of his bill that would circumvent the state law.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

One of Iowa's U.S. Senators says he's surprised at how far the state's wind energy production has come. Iowa continues to lead the nation in wind energy, and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley was among its early backers. This week the US Department of Energy reported Iowa generates more than 30 percent of its power from wind, the highest percentage in the country. Grassley says back in 1992 when he pushed for tax incentives for wind energy, he didn't expect it would get this big.

"I'm glad it is," Grassley says, "but I'm just telling you I didn't foresee that."

Amy Mayer/IPR

The path to a lifelong appointment on the Supreme Court passes through the Senate Judiciary Committee. And with the opening created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend, some in the Republican-controlled Senate are hoping to put off a replacement until after the November elections.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the judiciary committee, says he is in no hurry to confirm a replacement for Justice Scalia.

Don Graham/Flickr

Cuts to the crop insurance program will again be a talking point on Capitol Hill.

The budget drafted by President Obama and released Tuesday would make cuts to the crop insurance system, allocate more funds for agricultural research and fund the summer program that provides free meals to children.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A Labor Department proposal could make some nitrogen fertilizer more expensive or harder to find. That has Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asking the Labor Department some questions about its new guidance on chemical storage.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

As Congress moves toward a budget deal, a $3 billion cut to crop insurance is now on the table. This comes after the money was approved as part of the 2014 farm bill, and the proposal is not sitting well with some Midwest senators. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says in a party caucus Monday, he and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) both expressed frustration over pulling more from farm programs. The current five-year farm bill, which includes crop insurance, other agricultural subsidies and many other programs like school nutrition and rural development, was passed early last year.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

A top Iowa Republican has harsh words for his party’s representatives in the U.S. House, where the GOP has so far been unable to agree on a new House Speaker to replace the outgoing John Boehner.

Opposition from a cadre of conservatives known as the Freedom Caucus helped lead Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to withdraw from the race for the top post.

Former Iowa Republican party chair Matt Strawn says it looks like Republicans don’t know how to govern.

Photo by John Pemble

The U.S. Congress is back at work with a lengthy agenda for a short month and the federal budget squarely in its sights. Iowa's senior senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, says the Waters of the U.S rule (WOTUS) is in the cross-hairs.

That rule, which extends Clean Water Act regulations to more bodies of water, went into effect in August, but only in states where courts hadn’t ruled to block it.

Clay Masters/IPR

Iowa Fourth District Republican Rep. Steve King today showed up on the Washington Post’s list of questionable tweets by members of Congress. But the project that made his activity public was shut down after Twitter withdrew its permission.  

Twitter gave the Sunlight Foundation access to deleted tweets by members of Congress and King’s activity caught some attention. The congressman retweeted a message from someone getting on the subway.

John Pemble/IPR

The annual State of the Union address last night offered a national spotlight for Iowa’s junior senator.

Gregory Hauenstein /

Iowa Congressman and Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley has apologized for comments he made at a January fundraiser in Texas. 

"If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice ... on the Senate Judiciary Committee," Braley said. "Or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee."

Tim Hipps / IMCOM Public Affairs

Wrestling is back in the Olympics after being removed earlier this year.  Hear from University of Iowa Head Coach Kevin Jackson, University of Iowa Associate Coach of Wrestling Terry Brands, and the Manager of Communication at USA Wresting Craig Sesker.  Hear their reactions and hear what will change about wrestling in the future.

Also in this program, Iowa's First District Congressman Bruce Braley talks about whether he would support a resolution authorizing limited action in Syria, and other issues looming as Congress resumes its work.  

Politics Day

Jan 9, 2013
KP Tripathi / Flickr

Chuck Hagel, John Kerry and John Brennan are the first picks for President Obama’s cabinet.  Ben Kieffer, discusses the possible nominees to play key roles in Obama's second term. Political analysts also discuss the ongoing talks about the debt ceiling and gun control.

KP Tripathi / Flickr

Last minute deal making on Capitol Hill may have helped avert the fiscal cliff for now, but many law makers are still divided over the measure. Ben Kieffer talks with political experts Tim Hagle and Bruce Nesmith about the fiscal measure and other recent political events.

Bill Roehl / Flickr

After months of campaigning, it’s all over. Ben Kieffer talks with political experts Christ Larimer from the University of Northern Iowa, and Dennis Goldford of Drake University, to analyze the election results for Iowa’s Congressional, legislative, and judicial races.

Clay Masters

Iowa has been in the center of the presidential campaign since mid-2011. In less than a week campaigning will end, and governing will begin. It’s the last politics day before the election. Steffen Schmidt of Iowa State University and Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa asses where things stand.

Legislative Services Agency website

We hear from the two candidates vying to represent Iowa's new 2nd congressional district, which covers the southeast corner of the state. Incumbent Democrat from Iowa City, Dave Lobesack, will defend his three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives against challenger John Archer, a Republican and corporate attorney from Bettendorf, who tells us why he thinks he would be better for the people of Iowa in the second district.

Iowa Democratic Party / Flickr

This election season we’ve invited all of the Republican and Democratic candidates vying to represent Iowa four new congressional districts to share their views. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Christie Vilsack, who is challenging Republican Congressman Steve King in Iowa’s new 4th district.

Then Ben talks with incumbent Democrat Leonard Boswell who is facing Tom Latham in Iowa’s new 3rd district.

Iowa Public Television

Redistricting has pitted long term congressmen Republican Tom Latham and Democrat Leonard Boswell against each other in a tight race for Iowa’s 3rd district. As Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports, the Congressmen are trying to convince Iowan’s to send them back to Washington.   

Coalescing around the Farm Bill

Sep 25, 2012
Amy Mayer

The current farm bill expires at the end of September and lawmakers won’t have a new one passed, thanks largely to election-year politics. Despite the partisan bickering in Washington, many in farm country are working together to keep their concerns on the front burner.

The November elections feature only four congressional districts in Iowa instead of five… and the districts’ new boundaries offer new challenges for incumbents.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with several political experts about Iowa’s congressional districts including the match-ups, the issues, the polls, and the prospects.

The Democratic challenger in Iowa’s new Fourth Congressional District, Iowa's former first lady Christie Vilsack, came out swinging in the first face-to-face debate of the campaign.   Incumbent Republican Congressman Steve King was caught a little off guard.   

Dean Borg/IPR

In next Tuesday’s primary election, two Republicans are seeking the party’s First District Congressional nomination. Independence attorney Ben Lange and Dubuque businessman Rod Blum are campaigning for a chance at denying incumbent  Democrat Bruce Braley a fourth term representing the newly-configured northeast Iowa district.


There are going to be a lot of political fireworks in Iowa between now and November: President Obama and Governor Romney, Congressman Steve King and challenger Christie Vilsack to name a couple examples. But one race that’s flying mostly under the radar so far is in Eastern Iowa, where Republicans are hoping they have a shot at Democratic congressman Dave Loebsack. Iowa Public Radio’s Kate Wells has the story.

Host Ben Kieffer speaks with University of Northern Iowa seniors Ian Goldsmith and Scott Connerley about leading thousands of people, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, yesterday in the "Interlude Dance" they created.

The Des Moines Register has the video from yesterday.