Iowa state capitol

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

ISA priorities progress in the statehouse

March 28, 2024 | Jeff Hutton

As farmers prepare for the upcoming planting season, legislators at the Iowa Statehouse are a little more than a month from wrapping up the 2024 session.

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Chief Officer for Demand and Advocacy Matt Herman shares some insights into what has happened thus far in the session and what else is on the ag policy radar.

Foreign land ownership

A bill passed this session is providing more bite when it comes to foreign ownership of Iowa land and property.

Herman says the new updated bill builds upon current Iowa law to cover agents and others (the middlemen) from using a farm or a trust to mask ownership.

“The law increases penalties on foreign entities for failing to register the land, as well as failing to do their annual reports,” he says.

More important, Herman adds, the bill provides the Iowa Attorney General subpoena power to look into and investigate these foreign-ownership cases.

“Previously the law didn’t have a lot of teeth,” Herman says. “It will help maintain and track any of these purchases.”

Grain Indemnity Fund

One of the ISA’s legislative priorities for this year is to modernize the state’s Grain Indemnity Fund.

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 to help bolster the fund.

The fund balance has dropped below the statutory $3 million floor as outlined in Iowa code, prompting the restoration of fees this past year. Herman says these fees will likely continue for the next two years until the fund reaches an $8 million ceiling.

However, legislators are looking to raise that number from $8 million to $16 million as part of any potential new legislation.

But Herman notes the real point of discussion for modernizing the fund would be whether or not the fund would cover credit sale contracts. While many farmers may not think credit sale contracts impact them, Herman says that’s not necessarily the case.

“In fact, we do have a lot of farmers who engage in those agreements,” he says, pointing out that some soybean and corn producers who sell grain to a co-op in the fall but take payment in the spring, is technically a credit sale contract.

“If new legislation includes credit sale contracts, the liability could balloon to hundreds of millions of dollars at any given time and that’s something we need to be aware of,” says Herman.

“How big a liability would that be? We’ve requested a fiscal note from the legislature as to what that might be.”

Timber Reserve Program

Herman says the legislature is still looking at changes to the state’s Timber Reserve Program, which currently allows landowners to take land off the tax rolls at the state level.

“But in some areas of the state, frankly, it’s being abused,” he says. “People are buying the land and using the land to ostensibly hunt on the land.”

Potential legislation, Herman says, “would not do away with the program, but would kick it down to the counties to have more local control about how many acres go into the program.”

Over the years, this abuse of the program has meant a loss of tax revenue which has negatively impacted county budgets, he says.

Meat Labeling Bill

A bill is under consideration to ensure that non-meat products are labeled appropriately, Herman says.

The concern is that the bill might place restrictions on the use of cellular-based meat and insect protein use in federal nutrition programs in the state.

Herman says ISA wants legislators to know that soy-based products and plant-based products would still be included in the federal nutritional programs and would be excluded from those potential restrictions.

Federal update

While work in Des Moines continues, Herman says ISA continues to follow what is happening in Washington, D.C.

He says while there is some indication from some in the House of Representatives that a farm bill proposal from the Republicans could be unveiled in the near future, Herman says there are still differences between them and Democrats in both the House and Senate that would prevent passage anytime soon.

“I wouldn’t hold my breath,” Herman says. “It’s more likely we should expect a one-year extension to the current farm bill.”

While a new farm bill seems to be on hold, ISA continues to meet with all six members of Iowa’s congressional delegation emphasizing any new legislation that will help expand and elevate the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program.

Herman says these trade promotion programs lead to increased demand for Iowa soybeans and are indispensable for expanding our market reach and promoting Iowa soybeans around the world.

“It’s important to diversify and expand market opportunities,” he says. “As we build crush plants across the country, we have to look for new markets for soymeal and biofuels.

“We understand this boon in renewable diesel production and soybean meal production has a direct relationship with export markets and that it’s going to be incredibly crucial for us to make sure we can export out products out of the country.”

‘Farm to Fly’

Herman noted that Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst is working on legislation known as the “Farm to Fly Act,” which would clarify eligibility for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) within current U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) bio-energy programs and expands markets for U.S. agricultural crops through aviation bioenergy.

Her legislation would provide for greater collaboration for aviation biofuels throughout USDA agency mission areas, increase private sector partnerships and affirm a common definition of SAF for USDA purposes.

Dicamba deliveries

Herman says ISA continues to monitor issues related to dicamba and its use.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an existing stocks order to distribute and use dicamba products in 2024.

The existing stocks order resulted from an appeal from a federal court decision in Arizona which vacated the 2020 registration for over-the-top (OTT) dicamba. This ruling would have prevented soybean farmers from using this crop protection tool for the upcoming planting season.

On Feb. 14, the EPA issued the existing stocks order for dicamba products previously registered for OTT on dicamba-tolerate soybeans and cotton.

While ISA is thankful the administration gave soybean producers the existing stock order, Herman has received reports that farmers are not receiving deliveries of the dicamba they previously ordered.

Those farmers who are having trouble with those deliveries are encouraged to contact Herman so they can reach out to the EPA and the American Soybean Association. Contact Herman at