Path to policy01/02/2019 | Soil Health, Water Quality, Soybean Exports, Biodiesel, Policy, Soybean News, Economics
By Matthew Wilde, ISA senior writer
Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) members and staff have an updated policy playbook to reference while advocating for issues impacting farmer competitiveness.
Delegates from the state’s nine crop districts approved new guiding principles during the association’s annual policy conference Dec. 13 in Ankeny. The 15-page document affirmed polices regarding conservation, trade, biofuels and a host of other issues.
The 2019 Iowa legislative session convenes Jan. 14. ISA Policy Director Michael Dolch said the document, which contains a variety of new, tweaked or existing policies, will aid lobbying efforts in Des Moines and Washington, D.C.
“I think we arrived at a very workable document,” Dolch said. “It will guide us when we’re at the state or U.S. capital. It’s something we refer to when talking with legislators or other government officials about topics important to soybean farmers.”
Dolch and the ISA Producer Services team traveled to every district in the weeks leading up to the policy meeting. More than 2,000 miles were logged soliciting input from members.
The feedback was critical, he said, so the ISA’s Resolution Committee could update policies before the conference.
“This policy is for soybean farmers, by soybean farmers,” Dolch added. “It exemplifies the grassroots engagement of ISA.”
It took a little more than an hour for ISA leaders and delegates to examine, update and ratify the 2019 policy document.
One of the more notable policy changes pertained to soil and water conservation districts and watershed management.
Delegates approved new language concerning state soil and water conservation districts and watershed management plans. More details were included in the policy, such as state soil and water conservation districts should be the primary jurisdictional organization providing leadership and coordination for local watershed initiatives.
The new policy also states farmers within watersheds should be consulted with and engaged in the development, implementation and review of watershed management plans. And, state soil and water conservation districts and watershed management authorities should work to coordinate urban and rural stakeholders to support comprehensive watershed management planning and implementation.
Improving water quality will continue to be an emphasis for ISA in the upcoming state legislative session, ISA members say.
“The document is great to direct our policy efforts when speaking with legislators,” said Tom Adam, ISA District 9 director from Harper. “We made some refinements that were necessary, like watershed planning based on changes in state law and the environment.”
Conservation is a persistent priority of soybean farmers at the state and national level.
The ISA updated, with a handful of nays, its policy stance on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
The association reaffirmed its support for the land set-aside program, but with a few changes and additions.
ISA now supports CRP contracts that enable differential payments, enhancements and re-enrollment sign-up. Soy farmers support focusing enrollment on environmentally sensitive lands and conservation objectives such as the Iowa Monarch Pollinator Strategy. Support of CRP enrollment for “historically unprofitable lands” was eliminated since, according to some members, the term was too subjective. Ground may be unprofitable for row crops in some areas but not for pasture or forage.
ISA District 7 Director Jeff Jorgenson of Sidney supports the new CRP policy.
“There are differences among what is unproductive land from north to south and east to west,” he said. “I think leaving the unprofitable part out was the right thing to do.”
A new policy this year opposes small refinery exemptions under the Renewable Fuels Standard to a refinery or entity that is operating profitably.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved a waiver for Exxon Mobil Corp.’s refinery in Montana for the 2017 compliance period despite reported company earnings of nearly $20 billion. Rules say waivers are based on the financial situation of the refinery, not the owner, according to the EPA.
“We need to keep pushing on biofuels legislation,” Jorgenson said.
It’s extremely important ag groups effectively communicate positions with policymakers and their staff, Dolch said. He served as Sen. Joni Ernst’s ag policy advisor before joining ISA.
“The real work begins now,” Dolch said. “The policies are set. It’s time to implement them at the state and federal levels.”
ISA’s policy document can be found at www.iasoybeans.com under the policy section. The 2019 version will be available soon.
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