President Jeff Jorgenson, ISA directors and district delegates met on Tuesday in person and virtually to adopt a policy for the 2021 legislative session. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)
ISA sets 2021 policy priorities
January 28, 2021 | Bethany Baratta
Farmer delegates to the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) this week reaffirmed their support of legislation which promotes the expanded use of biodiesel and support of USDA oversight in identifying climate-related efforts and solutions like carbon credit certification.
The ISA policy session was part of the Iowa Soybean Association’s winter soy summit, which was held this week in a hybrid format, bringing opportunities for farmers to participate in the voting process virtually.
Farmers affirmed their support of biodiesel, which adds about $1 to the price of a bushel of soybeans, according to recent studies. ISA supports policies that promote higher blends of biodiesel in any existing or potential renewable fuel legislation or initiative, including the adoption of a statewide minimum blending standard, which Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds hinted at during a meeting with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association earlier this week. She vocalized her support of increasing biodiesel usage and making biofuels a “clear choice” for consumers at the pumps, she said.
“We hope to work closely with the governor and the Iowa Biodiesel Board to increase the biodiesel standard,” said ISA President Jeff Jorgenson.
Soy-based biodiesel reduces greenhouse gasses by up to 86% and is the only biofuel available to meet EPA requirements of an “advanced biofuel”, according to the National Biodiesel Board. It not only increases the value of soybean oil, but also reduces the costs of soybean meal for farmers, making it an economical feedstock.
“Biodiesel is a win for our environment, a win for Iowa agriculture, and a win for Iowa farmers,” Jorgenson said.
Capturing carbon credits
ISA delegates confirmed their support of the USDA assuming the lead role on federal policies and programs involving agriculture- and climate-related efforts and solutions.
This lends support of the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which will be a priority in a Democrat-controlled Senate Ag Committee, says ISA Public Affairs Director Michael Dolch. The Iowa Soybean Association joined eight state commodity organizations/groups in a letter to Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst in support for the Growing Climate Solutions Act.
“Consumers are demanding a lot more with regard to sustainability and companies are responding with voluntary environmental standards. Businesses such as Walmart, McDonald’s, General Mills, Levi Strauss and Co. and Danone have made expansive pledges to consumers and investors to slash the carbon emissions in their supply chains … . Conversations in Washington are beginning to reflect these private market pledges and the policy outcomes could shape the future of farming for decades to come. Iowa’s agricultural sector and the families who rely on it are counting on you to take every opportunity available to proactively join these critical conversations.
“The most immediate opportunity to proactively join the conversation is by cosponsoring the Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA). Showing your support for the GCSA now will ensure that sustainable policies that invigorate the agricultural economy and make it easier for farmers, producers, and foresters to voluntarily deploy their land in the fight to build climate resiliency by solving the technical entry barriers to carbon markets are included in policy proposals next year. These markets aren’t only important to farmers, but also to the producers of renewable fuels, bio-based products, food and animal feed,” the groups said.
ISA delegates voted to support the establishment of a standardized process through which the USDA can determine third-party verifiers of on-farm ecosystem services and markets. This means that ISA, who has been working alongside farmers as they work toward their soil and water health goals, can help verify outcomes in programs like the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund.
“ISA has an established partnership with farmers who want to be involved in these practices,” Dolch says. “This is our line of work, and we’re a trusted resource for farmers. If we have a role in verifying these outcomes, this speeds up the process, benefiting farmers and potentially achieving water quality and conservation goals faster.”
Delegates also supported policy which would decouple the state’s mental health and disability services funding from property taxes.
“While our members understand the importance of these services, property taxes continue to rise, becoming burdensome for farmers and landowners. A more equitable funding source, like those outlined in the governor’s Invest in Iowa Act would be a better funding solution,” Dolch says.
ISA supports the Invest in Iowa Act, which would also fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, providing sustainable, long-term funding for water quality and conservation across the state. The Invest in Iowa Act was shelved this legislative session as the state continues to recover from Covid-19, but Dolch says ISA will support consideration when it’s back on the table.
ISA member Wayne Fredericks introduced policy to affirm ISA’s support of the adoption of practices which improve soil health and the benefits it provides to the ecosystem, environment, and the productive capacity of the land.
ISA District 9 Director Tom Adam introduced policy to support the reduction or elimination of taxation on capital gains as it relates to ag assets. The State of Iowa imposes state taxes on capital gains, which can cause undue burden on Iowa farmers, Jorgenson says.
“To have inheritances where ground must be sold to take care of the inheritance taxes is a burden, and there is potential for those in that situation. We don’t want that for our fellow farmers and landowners in agriculture,” Jorgenson says.
The adopted policies were the result of grassroots efforts, further strengthened by Advocate membership, Dolch said.
Policy issues originate in discussions at the farm gate with farmers. It’s elevated through Advocate members who bring it forward to directors, delegates, and committees of jurisdiction.
Setting the policy priorities gives Dolch a compass by which to focus his efforts at the statehouse, but it all starts locally.
With new faces in local, state, and national positions and limited face-to-face opportunities for engagement due to Covid-19, Dolch reiterated the importance of farmers being willing to share their farm stories with their elected officials.
“This is when the real work starts,” says Dolch.