Iowa State Capitol Building

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Brock Johnston)

Advocate membership key to policy engagement

June 27, 2024 | Jeff Hutton

If you’re going to make changes in Des Moines and Washington, D.C., it starts on your farm.

Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) Advocate Membership helps empower ISA to positively influence policy and regulatory matters that have a direct impact on the American soybean industry and Iowa’s soybean producers.

ISA leverages these non-checkoff investments with additional partnerships to engage at the state and federal levels to enhance the overall competitiveness on the farm.

ISA’s Matt Herman, chief officer for demand and advocacy, and Megan Decker, manager of advocacy, say Advocate Membership is a great way to have your voice heard and help shape the future of the soybean industry.

“Paid memberships, either as a farmer member or a non-farmer member, allows these financial resources to support the American Soybean Association (ASA) — the industry’s national policy arm. As a paid ISA Advocate Member, participants gain access to these resources and information,” says Herman.

ASA represents U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international policy issues important to the soybean industry. ASA has 26 affiliated state associations representing 30 soybean-producing states and more than 300,000 soybean farmers.

ISA Advocate Members are also provided a digital newsletter that details the latest policy movements and issues that members should have on their radar. There are also alerts issued about matters that one can act on immediately.

On the radar

With the support of ISA’s Advocate Members, here’s how ISA is engaged in state and national soybean affairs:

Enhancing access to biofuels

In April, specifically Earth Day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allocated more than $43 million to increase the availability of domestic biofuels across 15 states, Iowa included. These grants are part of the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) which will support 57 projects aimed at enhancing access to biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Grant money follows successful HBIIP programs in each Iowa congressional district.

Prioritizing the farm bill

Increased government funding has been contentious the last few years as deficits run high and other priority items take precedent over the farm bill. The original deadline for the farm bill, which usually makes up around 2% of federal spending, was fall 2023. Continued extensions have kept important programs like Federal Crop Insurance afloat amidst the delays.

As of mid-May 2024, both the Senate and House Agriculture committee leadership shared their respective farm bill proposals. Both plans would utilize unspent money from the Inflation Reduction Act’s conservation provisions and include that money in the farm bill. The Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow’s (D-Mich.) proposed version includes an emphasis on continuing climate-smart agriculture by expanding conservation policies like increasing the acreage cap for the Conservation Reserve Program. Chair of the House Agriculture committee, GT Thompson’s (R-Penn.) version proposes a new forest easement program to maintain use for the land. Partisanship of the split Congress and different priorities contribute to the growing concern for the future of the farm bill. The ASA, along with a long list of other farm groups are pushing for the success of this legislation.

According to Herman and Decker, the top priorities for Iowa soybean farmers in the farm bill include:

  • Improving the Title I farm safety net to include meaningful adjustments to reference prices and greater access to Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage through expansion of base acres
  • Expanding trade promotion programs through substantial increases for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program
  • Protecting and enhancing crop insurance to assist with volatile weather and crop loss
  • Maintaining the farmer-financed soybean research and promotion checkoff
  • Building biobased market opportunities to promote soy utilization
  • Investing in research for innovation and competitiveness
  • Providing biofuels opportunities to encourage energy independence
  • Enabling greater access to voluntary conservation programs

Protecting crop tools

In February 2024, a federal court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unlawfully approved three dicamba-based weedkillers for use on soybeans and cotton crops. The decision from the U.S. Court of Arizona recognized the usefulness of dicamba but pointed out the harm caused to other plants by wind drift. This is not the first time a federal court has banned dicamba-based herbicides. In 2020 the ninth circuit court of appeals issued a ban, but the Trump administration reapproved the products just before the November 2020 election.

In the months since, the EPA’s existing stock order has allowed for the sale or distribution of existing dicamba but prohibits any new product from being manufactured. ISA welcomed the existing stocks order to allow Iowa farmers to utilize crop protection tools for the current growing season.

However, the real consequences of this ruling will take effect in the upcoming year when the existing stock order is no longer helpful. Uncertainty of dicamba products forces farmers to utilize alternatives in the meantime. ISA joined 25 other state soybean associations and the ASA in a letter to EPA asking the administration for clarity following this dicamba ruling. This past May, Bayer submitted a new registration for dicamba in preparation for 2025. ISA and ASA will be pushing the EPA for an expeditious review.

Weighing in on strategy

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), originally signed into law in December 1973, was intended to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats. In the past decade, EPA has been scrutinized for not complying with the obligations of the ESA. After several court cases, the EPA released a 96-page proposal in July of 2023 to mitigate the impact of herbicides on more than 900 plants and animals that fall under the “endangered” classification. To mitigate potential damage, EPA proposed that farmers would be required to adopt a combination of conservation practices ranging from field edge buffer strips to grassed waterways.

The proposed mitigation plans were immediately deemed to be impractical and overly onerous. ISA and its partners spent the last year analyzing and communicating these challenges to the agency. In response to concern, EPA released an updated proposal in April which expanded potential mitigation solutions, dramatically reduced the impacted area and did away with a convoluted points-based mitigation approach.

The EPA’s deadline to finalize the strategy is Aug. 30.

Staying engaged

For more information and to become an ISA Advocate Member, visit