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ISA members map out policy direction

Article cover photo
Karen Seipold of Hastings makes a motion to amend an ISA policy during the ISA policy conference earlier this week in Des Moines. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

Profitability, conservation and managing weather variability were top of mind during the 2020 policy discussion at the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) Advocate Day earlier this week.

Delegates made very slight changes to verbiage which already existed within ISA policy, but did adopt a new policy in those three areas.

Supporting profitable opportunities

“There’s recognition throughout the ag industry, especially from soybean farmers regarding lost market access and trade, demand destruction caused by the EPA and its granting of small refinery waivers and ongoing issues with the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Michael Dolch, director of public affairs for the ISA. “Farmers are very interested and keen on additional revenue streams and opportunities moving forward.”

One of those opportunities is the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund. Jointly administered by the Iowa Soybean Association and Quantified Ventures, the fund provides financial incentives to farmers and landowners to implement agricultural best management practices and monetizes the resulting environmental benefits by selling verified outcomes.

By providing meaningful financial incentive to farmers, the Fund supports implementation of conservation practices in the agricultural landscape that result in quantifiable environmental benefits. These benefits may include improvements in water quality, increased carbon sequestration, reduction in emissions from on-farm operations, creation or protection of habitat, reduced downstream flood risk, and enhanced financial resilience for farmers.

The adopted policy says ISA members support “the development of voluntary ecosystem service markets such as the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund.” Additionally, delegates said they support farmers being compensated for voluntarily providing ecosystem services, including water quality improvements, carbon sequestration, habitat creation and more.

“The ISA delegates’ emphasis on conservation outcomes is compelling on multiple levels,” said Roger Wolf, ISA director of Innovation & Integrated Solutions. “It reinforces the idea that farmers can be providers of solutions and organizations and others who value these outcomes may pay farmers for delivering them.”

Roger Wolf, Iowa Soybean Association director of Innovation & Integrated Solutions, informs delegates about the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund during the ISA policy conference earlier this week in Des Moines. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Associatio

Payments for outcomes may extend farmers’ return per acre depending on starting baselines and quantity of outcomes realized, Wolf said.

“Practices such as no-till, strip-till and cover cropping also lead to more sustainable and resilient farming systems over time,” Wolf said.

Delegates also renewed their support of the Iowa Water Quality Initiative and efforts to help farmers implement management practices dealing with variable weather events and changing climatic conditions.

“There’s recognition that Mother Nature is the toughest farming partner of all and she’s very uncertain and unpredictable,” Dolch said. “Farmers emphasized the need to adapt to these variable weather patterns to be productive and profitable in the future.”

Bolstering biodiesel support

ISA delegates also renewed their support for the expanded use and production of biodiesel.

“Soybean-based biodiesel is the ultimate way to turn the solar into energy,” said Karen Seipold, a soybean and corn farmers from Hastings. “Those little green leaves are the best solar receivers that you can possibly make, and it’s fully biodegradable.”

The adopted policies were the result of grassroots efforts, further strengthened by Advocate membership, Dolch said.

Policy originates in discussions at the farm gate with farmers. It’s elevated through Advocate members who bring it forward to directors, delegates and committees of jurisdiction.

Setting the policy priorities gives Dolch a compass by which to focus his efforts at the statehouse, but it all starts locally.

“More and more we’re realizing that state and federal policy is changing or has the opportunity to change what we do on the farm,” said Jeff Jorgenson, ISA president-elect and district 7 director from Sidney.It becomes more important all the time to stay on top of what’s happening and have an understanding of how it will impact you on the farm.”

Contact Bethany Baratta at bbaratta@iasoybeans.com.

For media inquiries, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at kjames@iasoybeans.com or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at aputze@iasoybeans.com

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