Rotunda in downtown Des Moines

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joseph Hopper)

Farmers determine top state priorities for 2024

January 4, 2024 | Jeff Hutton

What happens at the Iowa Statehouse in 2024 will directly impact the livelihoods of Iowa soybean farmers.

That’s why the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and its farmer-members are working proactively to ensure farmer fortunes aren’t left to legislators alone to determine what’s best for those out in the field.

ISA Senior Director of Public Affairs Michael Dolch lays out the top state priorities — determined by farmers — in 2024.

Restore grain indemnity fund

Modernizing Iowa’s Grain Indemnity Fund alongside the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and other industry stakeholders continues to be a priority for the state’s 40,000 soybean farmers.

The restoration of fees on grain sold to or deposited at Iowa-licensed grain dealers and warehouses was initiated in September 2023 following a series of dealer/warehouse bankruptcies.

“Considering the fund was established in 1986 when the value of Iowa’s grain production was significantly less than today’s, ISA supports efforts to modernize the grain indemnity fund, which has proven incredibly successful at protecting Iowa farmers from catastrophic financial losses,” Dolch says.

Currently, those who have grain stored in an IDALS-licensed warehouse and those who sell grain to a licensed dealer are covered by the fund. In a loss situation, the fund pays the claimant for 90% of the claimant’s loss up to a maximum of $300,000.

Over the history of the fund, more than $19 million in claims have been approved to more than 1,500 grain producers, according to IDALS. The fund has generated approximately $9 million in assessed fees, which were last collected in 1989. Interest income, combined with the fund’s ability to recover losses from defunct grain dealers and warehouses, has provided additional revenue.

Educate on soybean checkoff

Following the successful defense of an attack on commodity checkoff programs during the 2023 legislative session, ISA will continue efforts to protect the future of commodity checkoff programs that provide real, tangible value for farmers. A recent study shows a return of more than $12.34 for every farmer-invested dollar into the soybean checkoff.

“Iowa farmers continue to see additional value because of their checkoff investments at the state level,” Dolch says. “From the nationally recognized research at ISA’s Research Center for Farming Innovation, to the increasing use of biodiesel that secures our status as the nation’s leading producer, Iowa farmers have seen their checkoff dollars generate a real and meaningful return on investment.”

Invest to scale conservation efforts

ISA has long supported and championed conservation and water quality funding efforts at the statehouse, an effort Dolch says will continue in earnest in 2024.

“The overarching goal remains the same — secure the long-term, dedicated investment necessary to scale up and accelerate the adoption and implementation of conservation practices across the state, practices that carry both soil carbon and water quality benefits,” he says.

Fund fueling infrastructure

During the 2022 Iowa Legislative Session, ISA and Iowa Biodiesel Board helped pass the Iowa Biofuel Access Bill championed by Gov. Reynolds.

“The legislation created some of the nation’s most robust production and consumption incentives for higher blends of biodiesel and ethanol,” Dolch says.

The bill also made changes to the successful Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP), designed to assist retail operators of motor fuel dispensing sites or fueling stations to expand the use of renewable fuels across the state.

With FY24 RFIP funds already depleted, ISA and IBB, Dolch says, are searching for opportunities to increase funding for biodiesel applications to clear a growing project backlog.

Reduce property tax burden

The Iowa House and Senate, with support from Gov. Reynolds, have considered and passed property tax reform and protection bills during each of the past two legislative sessions.

“We not only applaud the legislature’s commitment to current property taxpayer protections, but also efforts to help slow the future growth of property taxes,” Dolch says. “We fully expect Governor Reynolds and lawmakers to take aim at tax relief for hardworking Iowans again during the 2024 legislative session. As proposals become known, ISA will support solutions that utilize property taxes for critical property-related services, as intended.”

Monitor ownership of Iowa farmland

ISA will also continue to monitor legislative proposals related to foreign ownership of Iowa farmland.

“As we consider our relationship with other countries - including China-in the context of food and agriculture, we must do so strategically with a firm understanding of our country’s national and agricultural interests,” Dolch says. “Farmers rely on strong international partnerships to keep operations productive and profitable. We must be deliberate and thoughtful in navigating issues that could have real consequences to these partnerships and U.S. farmers.”

He added that soybean farmers support legislation that governs foreign ownership of farmland and business that protects U.S. farmers, consumers, national security and economic interests. However, these policies should not hinder soybean market access or industry research.

Iowa Soybean Association | 2024 State Priorities

  1. Modernize Iowa's Grain Indemnity Fund.
  2. Educate policymakers on the value of checkoff programs for Iowa farmers, including the soybean checkoff, which shows a return of more than $12.34 for every farmer-invested dollar.
  3. Support continued (and increased) water quality investment to scale up and accelerate the adoption/implementation of conservation practices across the state.
  4. Seek additional funding for biomass-based diesel fueling infrastructure to reduce the current project backlog.
  5. Support continued efforts to reduce property tax burden on farmers.
  6. Monitor legislative proposals dealing with foreign ownership of Iowa farmland.