(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)
Policy Update: Setting the table
January 4, 2023 | Michael Dolch
If your holiday season was anything like mine, you found yourself caught up in the hustle and bustle moving from the grocery store and shopping center to the driver’s seat and dining room table. It’s tough to balance the busyness of the season and still enjoy the moment. That’s why I’ve always found that setting the table is so important. Pointless to some, a table setting can set the tone by enhancing the visual value of the food and promoting fun family interaction. The same can be said about the ties between education and advocacy. Advocacy, like life, is all about how you help people understand and make them feel. Before I tie this all together, let’s first set the table.
In Iowa this past November, we watched as a largely predictable election result was called with Republicans holding several statewide offices and growing comfortable majorities across both chambers of the Iowa Legislature. The 90th Iowa General Assembly was called to order in January with a record-setting 44 new lawmakers present. Although agriculture received strong, bipartisan support from the legislative body last year, the same can’t be expected this year with so many fresh faces. To square up soybean farmer interests and priorities, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) launched a statewide education campaign in recent weeks targeting those who are removed from the farm and the agriculture industry. The goal is to build and strengthen relationships between you and your elected officials.
Entering session, ISA has laid the groundwork for a handful of farmer-focused priorities, including property tax relief, on-farm biodiesel consumption incentives, increased conservation funding, and modernization of the state’s grain indemnity fund. ISA advocates and farmer-directors are working across aisles and the organizational spectrum to renew a funding push for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. This would activate Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWILL), which would scale up funding for statewide soil health and water quality efforts.
Turning to our nation’s capital, the midterm elections delivered a divided outcome. Democrats held the Senate while Republicans gained a slim majority in the House. With the dust settling, all eyes are on the farm bill, which expires in September. The word “easy” should never be used to describe the “farm bill,” but the current makeup does create a pathway to on-time passage. I’m optimistic the narrow margin in the House might just bring about the bipartisanship required to advance a farm bill across the finish line. As the House and Senate move forward with hearings, ISA is well-positioned to lead the conversation and promote positive legislation governing food and agriculture programs. Top priorities seek to address the significant headwinds that farmers experienced during the life of the 2018 Farm Bill. These include an improved farm safety net, stronger crop insurance and greater investment in trade promotion programs.
Needless to say, and regardless of the political winds and policy divisions, ISA, alongside advocate members’ support, is setting the table for a successful year as a steady, solution-oriented voice for members of Congress and their staff. After all, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.