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Preparedness, planning and discipline

Article cover photo
Carol Balvanz represents the Iowa Soybean Association in policy efforts at the Iowa State Capitol and in Washington D.C. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Carol Balvanz, ISA policy director

These sound like winter-time farmer topics. This is what we tell ourselves to do when we’re sitting at the computer and thinking about what we can get done that will help our next growing season. We order inputs. We develop field plans. We study long-term weather forecasts to see when fieldwork might begin. We talk with neighbors, suppliers, experts and even consult the Farmer’s Almanac. Most of the farmers I know are planners. They really don’t like surprises.

Over the past several years, many farmers have been surprised with the number and scope of new regulations placed on farming practices. We respond to most of these increased regulations by writing comments and speaking with our Congressional delegation, in addition to fuming at the coffee shop and association meetings. We create cost-benefit analyses that are usually heavy on the costs and find few benefits. Until recently, we have not been very successful at rolling back regulations with good-old farmer-common sense.

Two recent examples of regulations impacting farmers are the WOTUS rule (which would have extended EPA’s jurisdiction for water regulations far past the “navigable waters” point), and pesticide restrictions (which would have required permits to spray over a grass waterway or other possible watercourse). Very few of us understood how we could or should prepare to follow those regulations, but we have learned through experience that expanded regulations always increase our costs to operate. Most farmers are relieved that these two regulations, and hopefully others, may be eliminated by the new administration. 

The Trump administration has promised to review and provide relief from many of the regulations facing business, including farming. These regulations include tax and property rights policies as well as environmental and general business regulations. We have an opportunity to highlight which regulations harm farmers the most without providing public benefit. 

The Iowa Soybean Association’s Policy Advisory Council spent a good share of their recent meeting looking at possible regulation roll-backs and developing a document to share with both our Congressional delegation and advisers within the Trump administration. Real regulatory relief requires that we prepare and provide the stories and examples which illustrate both the intended and unintended consequences of regulations on our ability to make a living. If you have examples of negative regulatory impact on your farm, I’d like to hear them. (Please email me at

The opportunity to make regulatory change is real in the next two years. Let’s prepare our plan and go to work.

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at

©2017 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.

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Iowa Soybean Review

August 2017 Contact Ann Clinton for past publications.