Kirk Leeds

(Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Executive Insights: Power of Policy

November 3, 2020 | Aaron Putze, APR

Aaron Putze, APR, Sr. Director of Information & Education, sat down with Iowa Soybean Association CEO Kirk Leeds to discuss the power of policy.

You’ve always had a keen interest in public policy. Why?
I ran for a seat in the Iowa House of Representatives when I was 26 years old because I knew engaging in the policy arena was important to me and the state that I love. Although I was unsuccessful in that bid, I saw firsthand that those who are engaged are the people who influence decisions that impact people’s lives. It’s the same reason I joined the staff of a Presidential campaign in Iowa a couple of years later. We need more Iowans to engage.

What issues(s) impacting farmers are likely to dominate the upcoming legislative session?
The impact of the pandemic on Iowans and our state’s economy. Although Iowa’s budget is in better shape than most states, the uncertainty will likely cause legislators to have a less aggressive agenda. ISA will continue to support efforts to expand biodiesel usage and increase funding for enhanced water quality and soil health outcomes. We will be making sure that the limited state tax dollars are targeted toward the needs of our farmer members. 

What is unique about ISA’s approach to advocating for soybean farmers on legislative matters?
We have always taken pride in positioning our organization as transparent and one that makes decisions based on facts and data. We go where the data takes us. This approach has proven effective as policymakers see us as in this state as a valuable resource on issues impacting agriculture. Our credibility and consistency have given us the ability to affect issues as they are discussed, debated and decided. 

Why doesn’t ISA have a Political Action Committee or endorse candidates seeking elected office?
We are the only major ag organization in Iowa that does not have a PAC or endorse candidates. This approach has worked well for ISA and the farmers we serve for several decades. ISA is a fully non-partisan organization and our farmer leaders have shown on countless occasions our ability to work on both sides of the political aisle. Iowa’s Governor, legislators and our entire Congressional delegation on both sides of the aisle respect and appreciate our approach to advocating for soybean farmers. We have never had to contribute to a politician to gain access.

What is the most impactful thing a farmer can do to positively influence ag policy during the 2021 legislative session?
Get engaged. ISA gives soybean farmers lots of ways to do so. It begins by becoming an Advocate Member and learning more about the issues that impact your farm. Attend local meetings with elected officials. Call or send an email to your state representative and senator when there is an issue you care about. Join ISA at its policy conference and legislative reception in January.

This story was originally published in the November 2020 issue of the Iowa Soybean Review.