Iowa Governor Terry Branstad delivered his 17th "Condition of the State Address" on January 10, focusing on a stable budget, jobs, education and economic prosperity. Each year at the start of the new legislative session, the governor of Iowa is required by law to give this speech to the Iowa Legislature, to outline his goals for the new legislative session.
His 2012 address to the lawmakers and to the people of Iowa highlighted a couple of agricultural areas. Those topics included the Cargill expansion of a big new corn processing facility near Fort Dodge and opportunities to grow the corn industry through increased export sales to China and enlisting top-of-the-line technologies and production techniques.
After hearing the governor's speech, Kevin Ross, Iowa Corn Growers Association president and a farmer from Minden in western Iowa, commented "We agree that agriculture and the corn industry are an important way to move Iowa forward not only domestically, but in a world-wide economy."
As the 2012 session is now beginning at the State Capitol in Des Moines, ICGA will be working with Iowa lawmakers during this new legislative session to promote policies and programs important to Iowa corn growers and to monitor any policy that could negatively affect farmers, says Ross. In late August of 2011, ICGA held its annual policy development meeting in Des Moines. Grassroots representatives from the corn growers' organization reinstated expiring policies and also discussed and adopted ICGA's position on some new issues. The purpose of the annual policy conference is for ICGA delegates to discuss and decide where their organization stands on various issues and topics.
The following issues will be key ICGA state legislative priorities in 2012
Transportation infrastructure: Iowa's roads and bridges in many areas of the state are in desperate need of improvement, and funding to support Iowa's roads is currently not enough to meet the demand for maintenance of Iowa's road system. Iowa's Road Use Tax Fund (RUTF) is funded by the 'fuel tax' and is constitutionally protected from diversions for other purposes. Transportation infrastructure is essential for corn growers and Iowa's economy. ICGA will be asking the legislature to support a fuel tax increase for road infrastructure.
Ethanol infrastructure: Iowa's Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Fund assists retailers in upgrading to E85, blender pumps or biodiesel. The ICGA is committed to maintain or expand the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Fund, including E15 and E85. This program provides an opportunity for retailers to upgrade their infrastructure through cost-sharing grants of up to 70%. ICGA will protect this program, and oppose any diversions of funding to other purposes besides renewable fuels infrastructure.
Regulation and taxes: Agriculture is a vital industry for Iowa's economy. One out of every six jobs in Iowa is directly related to the agriculture industry. Ag can only remain vital in the state if it has reasonable regulations. ICGA is in support of efforts to reduce or revise unnecessary and unworkable regulations for the ag industry. Similarly, ICGA will work to protect the state of Iowa's current tax law as it is applied to agriculture.
Environment: Iowa farmers have made measurable progress in conservation and water quality. According to USDA farmers have increased soil conservation by 44% by using innovative methods and technology. In 2012, ICGA will promote voluntary water quality incentive programs and work to increase funding for conservation cost share which will help farmers introduce practices on their farms which will help to further reduce soil erosion and improve water quality.
Support for Iowa's livestock farmers: The ICGA is committed to a healthy Iowa livestock industry and works with other farm groups to make sure that legislation affecting livestock production is responsible, reasonable and science-based. Livestock is corn's largest customer, and a healthy livestock industry is essential to the Iowa economy.
"Our goal will be to work with legislators to reduce unnecessary regulations as well as provide support for initiatives to increase funding for transportation and ethanol infrastructure." says Ross. "As governor Branstad said we must compete in a worldwide economy. We must compete with Brazilian ethanol, with Chinese production of technology, and with every other emerging nation read to claim our economic mantle."
The complete 2011-12 Iowa Corn Growers Association policy resolution book can be found online at www.iowacorn.org/policy