ISA farmer leader Suzanne Shirbroun on her farm.

ISA District 3 Director Suzanne Shirbroun is one of four farmers heading to Washington, D.C., this week to talk infrastructure, trade, RFS, and other ISA priorities. (Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)

ISA farmer leaders return to Capitol Hill

June 23, 2021 | Bethany Baratta

The wait is over. For the first time since March 2020, Iowa Soybean Association farmer leaders are returning to Washington, D.C., this week to meet face-to-face with elected representatives on a host of issues.

“We have some new representatives out there, so we want to put faces with names so they know who the Iowa Soybean Association is,” says Suzanne Shirbroun, ISA District 3 director and vice chair of the ISA public affairs committee.

She says the slate of meetings and meet-and-greets set up this week will provide insight on a host of topics including infrastructure, RFS, trade, biodiesel, and others.

“We want to hear what they’re thinking, and for them to know what priorities we have as farmers,” Shirbroun says.

The last ISA farmer face-to-face visit to Washington, D.C., was March 10, 2020, when ISA President-elect Robb Ewoldt testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture about the importance of trade.

Since then, visits to Capitol Hill have been via Zoom and other digital platforms due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Zoom is fine, but it’s not the same as being face to face,” says Shirbroun, who farms near Farmersburg. “It’s important to be out there and meet with them and voice our concerns and support.”

Shirbroun will be joined by ISA President Jeff Jorgenson, ISA President-elect Robb Ewoldt, ISA District 1 Director Brent Swart, and ISA Public Affairs Director Michael Dolch.

Dolch says the farmers will lead the discussions taking place in Longworth House Office Building and Hart Senate Office Building.

“Farm policy impacting Iowa soybean farmers is discussed every day on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and across federal agencies,” Dolch says. “After a year and a half of non-traditional federal outreach and policymaker education, it’s important that the handshake is made and farmers’ voices are once again heard on the critical issues impacting the soybean industry. These farmer-led, face-to-face reconnect meetings are vital to the legislative process and will help shape and improve legislative and regulatory proposals. This week, ISA farmer leaders are moving about Capitol Hill talking biodiesel, infrastructure, conservation, waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), and potentially devastating changes to the inheritance tax code.”

ISA Advocate membership critical

Since soybean checkoff dollars cannot be used for public affairs efforts, ISA Advocate membership is critical in supporting efforts in Washington, D.C., and in Des Moines.

ISA’s grassroots efforts are further strengthened by Advocate membership and engagement, Dolch says.

“The growing support from Advocate membership ensures that farmers’ voices are heard and understood at the Capitol in Des Moines and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.,” Dolch said.

Policy issues are surfaced in discussions with farmers and refined through the policy development process. These issues are oftentimes elevated by Advocate members who bring concerns, concepts, and ideas forward to directors, delegates, and various committees.

Setting policy priorities gives Dolch a compass by which to focus advocacy efforts at the state and federal level, but it all starts locally at the field entrance and farm gate.

“I cannot stress the importance of ISA Advocate membership and engagement enough as we consider the short and long-term challenges facing the soybean industry,” Dolch says. “We must show up and show out as the policies being considered today will impact the farm community for generations to come.”