Lobbying efforts by the Iowa Corn Growers Association at the State Capitol in Des Moines during the 2007 Iowa Legislative session were successful, says Mindy Larsen Poldberg, director of government relations for the ICGA. The session ended April 28. She offers the following observations:
* Livestock bills - During this year's session, ICGA worked in coordination with other farm groups to protect agriculture from what they considered to be harmful livestock bills. In the final days of the session, ICGA continued to oppose two "live" livestock bills (HF873 & SF 550) of concern and closely monitored amendments to appropriations bills.
ICGA opposed an amendment that would have made it easier for plaintiffs to have successful nuisance lawsuits against livestock operations and opposed another amendment that would have allowed a two-mile separation distance for any town or lake listed by the Governor of Iowa, without public input. "In the end, though we will have to work very hard again next year, agriculture successfully defended livestock issues this session," says Poldberg.
* Preserving Iowa's Renewable Fuels Standard - ICGA worked to defend Iowa's RFS fund.
"We successfully opposed a provision that would have allowed private parties to apply for funds from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board," says Poldberg. "These funds, $13 million in total, were meant to support the success of Iowa's RFS through distribution to accountable retailers."
"The second thing we did was address a major concern of many fuel retailers who want to sell E85 ethanol fuel. They are concerned about installing E85 tanks before an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification is given," she notes.
Retailers are concerned with new Iowa Department of Natural Resources requirements for certification that would leave retailers with added costs to upgrade equipment. ICGA, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and the Iowa Farm Bureau supported an amendment to SF 551 to encourage retailers to continue to install E85 tanks without fearing possible added costs. This amendment will allow retailers to exceed the original $30,000 limit for E85 tanks with a cost share of 75% instead of 50%. This is money from the state Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board. It used to make needed equipment upgrades to E85 dispensers at gas stations--upon Underwriters Lab certification.
* Ethanol fuel tax extension - ICGA received an overwhelming response from members in a call to action a week or so before the end of the session. Farmers were asked to contact legislators in support of a 5-year extension of the ethanol fuel tax credit. The credit is a two-cent benefit for ethanol (19 cents per gallon for ethanol, 21 cents per gallon for unleaded gasoline).
"It looked like a one-year extension was all that we were going to get," she says. "But thanks to our member's efforts, a 5-year extension was achieved during the final hours of the session as part of the Standing Appropriations bill. Thanks to ICGA members for taking the time to contact their legislators."
* Iowa Power Fund - The Iowa Power Fund was approved by both chambers last week and is expected to be signed into law soon by Governor Chet Culver. The final version does several key things.
First, this bill creates an Iowa Office of Energy Independence. Second, it establishes a governor-appointed 18 member Iowa Power Fund Board to award specific Power Fund projects. Third, it establishes goals to increase development, production and use of biofuels, research and commercialization projects and workforce development training for persons who work in ethanol plants biodiesel plants and other businesses that serve the new bioeconomy.
In a separate spending bill, the Fund was appropriated $25 million per year for four consecutive years. The success and impact of ICGA will depend on who is chosen to sit on the board, and what direction those board members take in awarding grants. But the fund's potential is very positive, says Poldberg.
* State Interagency Missouri River Authority - This bill (SF 543) ensures that all five interested agencies are involved in decision-making about the Missouri River, and provide for an annual rotating chairmanship for representation among five state agencies. Those agencies are Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Economic Development, Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Utilities Board. "This bill was approved in both the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate and is likely to be signed into law soon," she says.
* 10 x 5 - Bio Economy Research at ISU - This bill was not considered individually. But ISU will receive $5.5 million for a new renewable fuels building on its campus through the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund Appropriations bill. ISU will also be eligible to apply for research grants from the $100 million Power Fund, the same as any other state educational institutions. That preserves the "intent and purpose of the 10 x 5 fund. "This has been a very successful year for ISU and bioeconomy research," notes Poldberg.