Iowa capitol

(Photo: Joseph Hopper/Iowa Soybean Association)

ISA pushes legislation for upcoming session

January 5, 2023 | Jeff Hutton

Improving the state’s water quality, updating the Maximum Return to Nitrogen (MRTN) calculator and supporting efforts on animal disease preparedness and prevention.

Those are among the priorities the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) will be pushing during the 2023 Iowa Legislative session, which gets under way next week.

ISA Director of Public Affairs Michael Dolch says those efforts are important to ISA farmer-members and will be conveyed to legislators.

Water wishes

Iowa Water & Land and Legacy (IWILL) funding of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund continues to be a focus of ISA and many Iowans, Dolch says.

The trust fund, created in 2010 as a constitutional amendment and supported by more than 60 percent of Iowans, has sat empty over the past 13 years. Funding would require that 3/8ths of the next state sales tax increase would go toward IWILL, but legislators have been hesitant to support raising the sales tax.

Dolch says ISA continues to support the measure because it would be a permanent and protected funding source designed to support clean water, productive agricultural soils and protecting wildlife habitat.

“Thus far, the legislature has been reluctant” to support the effort, despite interest from some Democrats and Republicans to do so, Dolch says.

He says, however, with 44 newly elected policymakers in Des Moines this year, sharing the importance of IWILL as well as Iowa’s agricultural industry as a whole, is paramount.

“First and foremost, it presents itself for education and for us to remind them of the importance of the soybean and agricultural industry,” Dolch says. “We want to offer up ISA as a resource. We’re really excited to get in front of these new faces. Education is going to be key and critical to familiarize these folks with Iowa agriculture and ISA.”

Dolch acknowledges it will be a challenge to see movement on IWILL. In fact, Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley told Radio Iowa that legislators are unlikely to fill the fund in 2023.

But Dolch says ISA’s advocacy on this issue hasn’t stopped since last session and will again be encouraged in 2023.

“We’ve continued and will continue those conversations,” he says.

Dolch adds that while that potential sales tax increase has ISA’s support, the organization is also supportive of proposed property tax reform because “we know it’s a burden for many of our producers.”

Calculating tool funding

Dolch says ISA is also pushing legislators to fund an additional $1 million to update the MRTN calculator, a tool to assist farmers in making the right nutrient decisions for their crops.

In 2022, ISA and others helped to secure a $1 million appropriation for the calculator and hope legislators in 2023 will again do the same thing.

“It’s fallen behind the past decade,” Dolch says. “It’s almost archaic.”

The MRTN provides estimated statewide nitrogen fertilizer rates needed for Iowa corn production. Supports say implementing the nitrogen rate reduction to the MRTN on all corn-soybean and continuous corn acres is estimated to have the potential to reduce nitrate loading by about 9% statewide.

Livestock protection funding

Dolch says ISA will also ask legislators to support a proposed budget increase from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) for animal disease preparedness and prevention.

“Just last year, we saw the impact of the Avian flu situation on Iowa’s egg-laying economy and poultry,” he says.

Millions of chickens and turkeys were destroyed to help contain the disease, impacting producers and consumers.

But any kind of disease outbreak with poultry populations, as well as pork and/or other animal producers also impacts soybean farmers whose products feed poultry, swine and cattle.

“We will actively be supporting that,” Dolch says. “Again that increased funding ask from IDALS would help with their response plans.”

Dolch says ISA is coming off a successful 2022 in which biofuels received a historic push from a bill signed into law – the bill received a great deal of support from ISA, its farmer-members, as well as other organizations.

“There may be some fatigue on ag lobbying this year,” he concedes. “We’re hoping too for a little quieter session. But being aggressive has made us successful.”