Senator Dan Zumbach

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Lifelong farmer and legislative leader

May 31, 2024 | Jeff Hutton

Here’s a multiple-choice question: is state Sen. Dan Zumbach a legislative leader, a lifelong farmer or a friend to those in the field?

If you answered all of the above, you’re a winner.

Zumbach, a state legislator and Delaware County farmer, was recently awarded the 2024 Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) Friend of the Iowa Soybean Farmer Award, presented by Cargill.

Zumbach has shown a deep understanding of agricultural issues and is a steadfast supporter of Iowa’s soybean producers. His unique perspective and distinguished career in public service has helped expand access to higher blends of biodiesel and ethanol across the state and further advanced Iowa’s ag economy.

He was first elected as a state legislator in 2012 and continues to exhibit skillful, thoughtful and solution-oriented leadership. His appointment as chairman of the Iowa Senate Committee on Agriculture, according to those who know him, is a testament to his expertise.

The need to advocate

The Ryan area farmer is firmly rooted in agriculture, raising soybeans, corn and hay on the family farm where he was raised.

“As a kid on the farm, you learn about responsibilities,” he says. “it sets you on a good path from day 1 — learning to absorb and deal with risk, stress and how you work through it. An agricultural background helps you in the game of life.”

It also gives you a foundation to make positive changes for those in agriculture.Farmer standing near John Deere tractor

Zumbach has put those foundational skills to good work. Along with row crops, he and his family previously raised milking cows and had a farrow to finish hog operation.

But when he decided to get out of the livestock business and focus on row crops, Zumbach had more time on his hands.

“I like being busy and I thought I could run for the legislature while promoting agriculture,” he says.

Under his leadership, the eastern Iowa farmer masterfully managed the historic Iowa biofuels access bill through the Iowa Senate, securing strong bipartisan support. The legislation is now instrumental in expanding the access to higher blends of biodiesel and ethanol across the state, further bolstering Iowa’s ag economy.

The bill received bipartisan support at the statehouse — something Zumbach points out that 82% of the time, Republicans and Democrats vote together on the issues to “do what’s right for Iowa; it’s good policy.”

On the Senate Agriculture Committee, Zumbach says he pushes for legislation that is friendly to both row crop and livestock producers — everything from transportation to manure management plans, while also focusing on reducing regulatory barriers.

Most recently, Zumbach helped to run a bill on the Senate floor addressing foreign ownership of Iowa farmland. The bill, sf2204, was signed into law by gov. Kim Reynolds in April. The new law strengthens reporting and ownership requirements providing greater enforcement and penalties for those who do not comply.

“We want to know what they’re up to and if they break the law, they will pay,” he says.

ISA President Suzanne Shirbroun, who has known Zumbach for several years, says he’s more than deserving of the Friend of the Iowa Soybean Farmer award.

“What I like about dan is that he’s a farmer, his family farms, so he has a good background with what’s going on in agriculture,” she says. “He has the farmer’s best interest in mind.”

Shirbroun says Zumbach approaches ag legislation with a far-seeking perspective, not someone who is myopic in their approach to policy.

“He looks at things more long term,” she says. “What stands out to me is that he’s looking several steps down the road — what’s going to impact the farmer today, tomorrow, a year from now, 5-, 10 years from now. What are the ramifications?

“he’s a thinker and helps to educate others. That’s the core of all of our concerns. He’s one of the few farmers in the Iowa legislature at this time and we need more people like Dan.”

‘A true friend’

Not only is Zumbach an outstanding legislator, he is also a well-regarded community leader, having served on the West Delaware School Board and the Delaware County Fair Board. His involvement as a former Delaware County 4-H Leader and his contributions to organizations like the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Ryan Lions Club highlight his dedication to nurturing the rural community spirit.

“It has truly been humbling to receive this award,” Zumbach says. “I was surprised and didn’t expect it. The award is such an honor when your peers think you’ve been helpful to an organization like (the ISA); there is great appreciation.”

Zumbach is also quick to pass the credit to his family.

“It was my mom who taught me how to be kind and gracious,” he says. “And my dad taught me to work hard and be productive.

“But I want to thank my wife because she has been by my side every step of the way,” he says. “She keeps me on the straight and narrow and helps me make sure I remember who I am.”

So, who is Dan Zumbach?

His nomination may have said it best: “He is a man of high character who has instilled the same love for agriculture and a strong work ethic in his four children, leaving a legacy in the state. Iowans and the soybean industry are unquestionably better because of Sen. Zumbach’s exceptional leadership and dedicated service. He is a true friend to Iowa’s soybean farmers.”

In his nomination, Zumbach was cited as “a true champion of Iowa’s agriculture industry, particularly the soybean sector. His unique perspective as an active farmer and legislator from Delaware County has allowed him to deeply understand the needs and challenges faced by Iowa’s agricultural community. He recognizes that the soybean industry is not just an economic engine for the state but also a cornerstone of its heritage and future success."