Iowa Corn shows strength in numbers at 'Day on the Hill'

Iowa Corn shows strength in numbers at 'Day on the Hill'

Corn growers are lobbying state lawmakers for more funding for water quality efforts.

More than 100 members of the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) came to Des Moines and descended upon the state Capitol on Wednesday, March 30 for the second “Iowa Corn Day on the Hill” lobbying event this year. This delegation included the ICGA board of directors, county leaders and student FFA members from across the state.

WATER QUALITY: Water quality and soil conservation funding continue to be a focus for ICGA chairman Jerry Mohr (left). Talking to state lawmakers on March 30, the Scott County farmer said “Iowa needs legislation that will create a sustainable, reliable source of funding for water quality programs.”

“A critical part of our legislative success is the relationships our ICGA members have with their elected officials,” said ICGA president Bob Hemesath, a farmer from Calmar in northeast Iowa. “Our ‘Day on the Hill’ events help facilitate those one-on-one interactions where we are able to discuss and promote ICGA priorities for legislation. It’s the dedication and engagement of our members which allows ICGA to have a strong, unified voice at the state capitol.”

ICGA’s Day on the Hill effort focused on these legislative issues:
•Water Quality: long-term funding for voluntary programs
•Support for ethanol infrastructure
•Support for research at Iowa State University including ISU Extension programs and livestock research

ICGA members also took time to recognize and thank state legislators for their bipartisan support of Iowa agriculture this session. “ICGA would especially like to thank all the State House and Senate members who supported passage of the section 179 coupling bill, for coupling state and federal income tax provisions,” said Hemesath.

SPEAKING UP: A large group of Iowa Corn Grower Association members visited the Iowa State Capitol last week, lobbying state lawmakers on issues important to farmers in the final weeks of the 2016 Iowa legislative session.

Priority is to get increased funding for water quality programs
“Also, we will continue to work with our state legislators and the Governor to support any and all legislation to create long-term and consistent water quality initiatives in our state.” He added, “ICGA also appreciates the support in passing the bio-based tax incentive for Iowa’s value-added agriculture industry.”

There are still some issues in the 2016 session of the legislature that haven’t been decided yet. “So we are making another plea to our legislators to work on these issues,” said Hemesath. “One of the big issues is to increase the funding for water quality programs, our top state priority. Our members are telling us water quality funding is very important to them; our state needs long-term funding for the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, to get more water quality protection practices on the land.”

Funding for Iowa water quality efforts needs to be long-term
There have been a couple of water quality program proposals, and some of them aren’t getting much traction among lawmakers. “But we have been getting our message to our legislators. That message is we need funding for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and it needs to be long-term,” says Hemesath.

There has been some cost-share money made available by the state, and some other water quality and soil conservation programs and appropriations the past few years. “But the Legislature the past few years has provided annual funding -- for only one year at a time,” says Hemesath. “They have to re-appropriate money each year for Nutrient Reduction Strategy funding. What we are looking for is a long-term solution to water quality issues in Iowa. We need to have some structure in place to provide more funding for cost-sharing with producers, to make this voluntary program effective and to show the results that the Iowa Nutrient Reduction strategy needs to accomplish.”

Has the 2016 Legislative session so far been productive?
“We’ve got the coupling of state and federal income tax, section 179, passed and signed into law this session. That’s an issue we lobbied hard for and were successful in getting the state income tax coupled with federal, although it’s only for tax year 2015. The coupling issue will need to be revisited in 2017 session of the Iowa Legislature.”

Also, the biochemical and biobased tax credit has been passed by the state legislature and sent to the governor’s desk for his approval. This tax credit will help anyone who is trying to make products in Iowa from biobased materials, whether it’s corn grain or cornstalks or whatever, notes Hemesath.

So those two pieces of legislation got passed, “and they were a couple of our priorities,” he says. “On those issues we’ve done well. Of course, we’ve got other things to try to get the Iowa Legislature to move forward on before it adjourns for the year. But so far we’ve been happy with the results and what has been accomplished.”

Ethanol infrastructure is also important to corn growers
The priority will be to work on getting long-term funding for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and for other water quality programs, says Hemesath. Other important issues for corn growers this year include ethanol infrastructure: to expand the availability of the flex fuel, E85 and E15 cost-share program to provide more blender pumps across the state. “We need to make these higher blends of ethanol more available to gas stations across not only Iowa, but the nation, too. And we need more funding for Iowa State University -- increased funding for research at the Iowa Experiment Station and for ISU Extension programs. These are our top priorities right now,” says Hemesath.

Got your corn planter out of the machine shed and ready to go? “Yes, I do,” he says. “But I think it’s going to be a little while before we get into the fields to do any planting. It’s early and our soils haven’t warmed up enough yet.” To see ICGA’s full list of state and federal legislative priorities, visit iowacorn.org/policy.

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