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ISA Public Affairs Director previews association’s 2019 policy priorities

Article cover photo
Michael Dolch, a Villisca, Iowa-native and the Iowa Soybean Association's public affairs director, says ISA is coordinating efforts to protect Iowa soybean growers’ interests on local, state and national levels. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Lauren Houska, ISA communications specialist

The change of the calendar brings changes at both state and federal levels of government. The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) has already begun work to advance the association’s legislative, policy, and regulatory priorities.

Michael Dolch, a Villisca, Iowa native, joined ISA as public affairs director in October. He coordinates ISA’s lobbying and policy communications activities in the federal and state legislative and regulatory arenas. He interacts with state and nationally elected officials and coordinates a comprehensive outreach strategy with the goal of mobilizing soybean farmers to action in ways that benefit their operations and the soybean industry.

Dolch explains how ISA’s approach will be two-fold, coordinating efforts to protect Iowa soybean growers’ interests in Des Moines and Washington, D.C.

Q: What are some of ISA’s top policy priorities at the state level in 2019?
Entering 2019, the overarching advocacy effort will largely focus on soybean farmers’ competitiveness and profitability. During the state legislative session, which will open next week, we hope to build on the momentum created by SF512 — a $282 million water quality bill — for added long-term water quality funding, especially if Governor Kim Reynolds moves on a larger tax reform package. Integrated Farm & Livestock Management (IFLM) Demonstration funding will also be prioritized. Through manure management, cover crop, and nitrogen management research, IFLM funding gives way to better input and practice decisions that benefit Iowa farmers and taxpayers.

Q: Which issues will ISA focus on at the federal level in the coming year?
In Washington, D.C., ISA’s focus will partly turn to implementation of the Farm Bill. Implementation is as important as the final text, as oversight is key to ensure USDA and other government agencies write rules and administer programs as intended by Congress. Albeit largely status quo, the legislation does provide some peace of mind with improvements to commodity programs (ARC/PLC), conservation programs (CRP/RCPP/EQIP) and commodity loan rates.

Trade continues to be vitally important and will warrant increased attention this year. ISA will work to protect and expand market access, as well as increase funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program during Farm Bill implementation. One additional priority of note is the engagement of the Trump Administration in support of a regulatory framework that reduces barriers for soybean farmers.

Q: How will ISA execute on these specific issues?
Protecting soybean farmers’ interests can take many forms, from lobbying and advocacy efforts, to outreach and education. Given the results of November’s general election, the makeup of the state legislature and U.S. Congress is much different. Therefore, we must first engage and educate new legislators before pressing for action. These coordinated efforts will lay the groundwork and help advance policy priorities this year and beyond. ISA’s upcoming legislative reception on Jan. 22 is a valuable opportunity for this to play out — an opportunity to strengthen existing relationships and start building others. A similar approach will be necessary and pay dividends at the federal level.

Q: How might recent elections impact the progress of ISA’s priorities?
The new makeup of the state legislature and U.S. Congress will certainly influence movement on the above-mentioned issues. For instance, the election provided evidence of a widening urban-rural divide. As we all know, urban legislators oftentimes have different priorities than their rural counterparts. This underscores a need to work hand-in-hand with allied industry partners to engage folks at all levels and across all branches of government. Although we watched several industry champions fall short in November, we are left with a great opportunity to educate a new class of lawmakers.

Dolch previously served as legislative assistant for Sen. Joni Ernst, representing agriculture, trade and biofuels policy. Upon graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in agricultural communications, Dolch took to Capitol Hill where he held several positions with Syngenta before assuming a policy role with Ernst. Contact him at

Contact the author, Lauren Houska at

For media inquiries, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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