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Action on ag policies critical to rural livelihood, Iowa soybean farmer testifies

Article cover photo
Dave Walton, secretary of the ISA's board of directors, says the extension of the biodiesel tax incentive and implementation of trade agreements should be a top priority. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

The Walton family has worked hard to continue their family’s farming legacy which began in 1835 in Cedar County. But the federal government’s inaction on critical trade agreements and tax credit extensions is threatening the existence of that diversified crop and livestock farm near Wilton.

Dave Walton, secretary of the Iowa Soybean Association’s board of directors, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Small Business today, urging bipartisan, bicameral support of important ag policies.

“For the past year, farm families like mine haven’t been in a celebratory mood. Regardless of running a diversified enterprise, managing cash flow responsibly and doing things the right way and for the for right reasons, I can tell you firsthand these are difficult times, perhaps the most difficult I’ve faced as a farmer,” Walton said before the committee in Washington, D.C. Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) invited Walton to speak on behalf of farm families who play a vital role in small businesses of America.

Dave and his wife, Paula, grow soybeans and corn, raise beef cattle and sheep, and operate a seed company. They recently established a trucking company to transport sand, gravel and fertilizer to provide additional revenue and opportunities for their sons, Brad and Alex to join the family’s farm as partners.

Despite their best efforts, they and others in rural America are struggling.

“While I’d like to say all is well in rural America, it is not,” Walton said.

He pointed out the inaction on the biodiesel and renewable diesel tax incentive. Biodiesel production adds 63 cents to the market value of every bushel of soybeans on his farm, or about $40 per acre.

“That additional $40 per acre across my farm would enable us to re-invest an extra $12,000 this year into our operation to update machinery like a 20-year-old tractor that’s wearing out, or invest in technology to improve our efficiency,” Walton said.

But an extension of those tax incentives hasn’t been passed for 2018 or 2019, and it’s creating a questionable future for the Cedar County farmer and others.

“If Congress doesn’t extend the biodiesel and renewable diesel tax incentive, small businesses like mine, and the biodiesel producers in our small towns, will continue to suffer,” he said.

He recognized Finkenauer for leading a bipartisan effort in the House to retroactively extend the biodiesel tax credit. The bipartisan legislation introduced by Finkenauer was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax-writing committee, but the panel’s leadership has yet to schedule a hearing on the measure.

The ongoing trade impasse with China and other trade disruptions have created a “tremendous” financial strain on America’s farmers, Walton noted. The extra 25 percent tariff is an additional tax on U.S. soybeans going into China. It makes U.S. soybeans more expensive to our once top market. And, he said, it’s providing no help in easing burdensome soybean supplies. Instead, soybean prices have taken a $2-per-bushel hit in the past year.

“Adding to the complexity and pessimism is that no one knows when the anxiety and pain will ease. This makes planning for the future nearly impossible,” Walton said. “Until the trade issues are resolved, we’re stuck in limbo, unable to move forward with any clear direction. I can tell you, this is not an enviable position for any business owner.”

Approving the U.S.-Mexico Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) would help open up markets for soy products and provide a bright spot badly needed in farm country, Walton said.

“Combined, inaction on critical issues are creating the kind of financial headwinds the likes we haven’t felt since the 1980s. If action isn’t taken immediately by Congress and the Administration, the crop some farmers are currently planting may be their last,” he said.

The future of the Walton family farm — and many others in America — rests on the ability of elected officials to support farmers and small business owners.

“My sincere hope,” Walton said, “is that these issues will be resolved quickly so many more generations of Waltons can continue this 400-year journey of farming in this great country.”

Contact Bethany Baratta at

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