(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joseph Hopper)
Delegates define, set ISA policies
December 21, 2023 | Jeff Hutton
A number of policy resolutions were addressed during this week’s Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) annual meeting and winter soy summit.
ISA Senior Director of Public Affairs Michael Dolch says the policy resolutions agreed upon are a testament to the challenging work by many stakeholders.
“Today’s policy session is the culmination of lot of hard work by farmers, directors, delegates, advocate members and staff to comb through our existing policies, address the relevancy of those policies and moving the industry forward,” he says.
Policy resolutions, which will be published on the ISA website after the holidays, are there to “ensure they work for Iowa’s soybean farmers,” Dolch says. “It sets the advocacy roadmap for the upcoming year at both the state and federal levels, carrying those messages to Des Moines and D.C.”
Among the policies were directives on renewable fuels, biotechnology, farm policy, energy, sustainability, trade policy, regulatory concerns and expressing opposition to anything that might be detrimental to Iowa’s soybean farmers.
A glimpse at the policies
Among the topics agreed to:
The ISA supports renewable fuels derived from soybean oil, including biodiesel, renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The organization calls for tax incentives, cost-sharing programs and education initiatives that enhance the production and consumption of these fuels. ISA also supports policies promoting higher blends of domestically produced biomass-based diesel in compliance with WTO standards. Board members and delegates also expressed opposition to the expansion of the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) to encompass non-biomass-based fuels.
Environment and Natural Resources
The ISA is asking for enhancing conservation planning by increasing [public] technical assistance personnel and equipping private-sector planners with the same tools and resources as the public sector. ISA supports the use of private Technical Service Providers, funded by producers, whose work should be fairly and promptly evaluated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to expedite conservation practices.
The ISA is opposed to new permitting processes for crop protection products and insist that EPA’s regulations do not burden farmers. The ISA also rejects the need for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for pesticide applications in crop production.
Board members and delegates support a comprehensive approach to validating the sustainability of U.S. soybean production, endorsing adherence to state and federal conservation, environmental and labor laws, while affirming the sustainable practices of soybean farmers. The ISA also supports the opportunity for farmers to participate in premium pricing structures that compensate for sustainability initiatives.
Federal Farm Policy
The ISA supports the use of sound science, realistic assumptions and real-world data for Endangered Species Act (ESA) evaluations and consultations that protect producers and landowners from penalty if species for which they develop habitat are listed under the ESA. Board members and delegates are opposed to the implementation of broad, disruptive measures, including county-wide prohibitions in enforcing ESA stipulations in pesticide registrations.
The ISA backs a farm bill conservation title focused on enhancing air and water quality and fostering resilient productive soils. They also support U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiatives enhancing farmer-level data analysis and integration of conservation practices and the provision of incentives and research to help farmers achieve these goals.
ISA farmer-members also support robust funding for foreign market development by the Foreign Agricultural Service, the United Soybean Board, the American Soybean Association, the United States Soybean Export Council and qualified state soybean boards to develop international markets for soy.
The ISA supports the continuation and maintenance of farm bill programs that support animal disease prevention, surveillance and management.
Property Rights and Land Use
ISA members support a minimum distance requirement for the construction of wind turbines. Specifically, wind turbines should be built no closer than one-half mile for any existing residence and one-quarter mile from any property boundary. However, ISA says if landowners involved mutually agree on a different distance, this requirement can be adjusted.
The ISA also supports increased oversight and reporting of foreign ag land and business transactions in the United States, ensuring protection for farmers, consumers, national security and economic interests, while also maintaining unrestricted research and market access for the soybean industry.
Soybean Production and Marketing
ISA supports soybean seed selection based on quality, yield, protein and oil content and urges seed companies to include these estimates in sales literature. ISA also supports the mandatory disclosure of soybean cultivar and variety numbers at the point of purchase, enabling farmers to make informed selection decisions.
The ISA board and delegates support the classification of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments as rental income.
Trade and Market Access
ISA supports new, comprehensive WTO agreements that lower trade-distorting domestic support and enhance market access through tariff reductions in both developed and developing countries. They also support retaining the “de-minimus” exemption for minor, non-product specific support from trade-distorting program cuts and is opposed to any reductions of limits on “green box” domestic supports that have minimal or no impact on production or trade.
ISA backs bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations that are focused on countries that represent commercial markets for U.S. soybeans and products, livestock products and ag exports in general.
Transportation and Infrastructure
ISA supports the restoration of field access driveways to at least their original width during roadway improvement projects.
The organization also backs increasing the weight limit for trucks with a sixth axle to 91,000 pounds on federal interstate highways, as recommended by the Soy Transportation Coalition study.
Reynolds shares her views
During the meeting, a video commentary from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds commended the ISA and its ongoing efforts in bolstering soybean farmers and soybean production in the state.
“I’m so grateful for everything you do,” Reynolds says, noting that Iowa soybean farmers have weathered derechos, trade wars and regulatory battles while continuing to feed and fuel the world.
The governor says her administration has helped with significant policy victories for soybean producers, including support for biofuels in the state, doubling the biodiesel tax credit and investing in renewable fuels.
“Rarely has there been a better time for agriculture,” Reynolds says, adding that she and others are always looking for ways for Iowa farmers to be profitable and productive.
She says improving upon infrastructure, being more business friendly and opposing burdensome regulations from the EPA will allow Iowa agriculture to move forward.
“We cannot let Washington get in the way of our success,” she says.
The future starts here
District 2 Delegate Tony Schwarck of Riceville says working on ISA policies is important.
“If we don’t take an active interest in policy, somebody else is going to,” he says. “I look around the room here and see like-minded people. The future of Iowa’s soybean farmers starts here.”
Schwark, who is in his second year as an ISA delegate, has a diversified farm, focused on soybeans, corn and a cow-calf operation. He says digging into policy and helping to formulate an agenda that benefits Iowa soybean producers has been eye opening.
“It’s really a chance to get behind the scenes and find out what’s going on in farmers’ day-to-day activities.
Dolch, who announced in November he would be leaving his position at ISA at the end of December, says he is heartened by the efforts of Schwark and the others.
“I commend all of the delegates and board members, farmer-members and advocates,” he says. “The policy resolutions approved today will carry a lot of weight in Des Moines and D.C.”