Prior to the Iowa Legislature starting its 2014 session in January, the Iowa Corn Growers Association has listed a number of issues that it will push for, to try to get lawmakers at the Statehouse in Des Moines to consider and during the new year. ICGA will work with the legislature to get them to raise the legislative cap for the Iowa corn checkoff, says Mindy Larsen Poldberg, government affairs director for ICGA.
The proposed legislation will not increase the checkoff amount or the rate farmers currently pay, she says. The legislation would only change the cap (authority to hold a referendum). Due to today's legislative cap of one cent per bushel, which is established in the Iowa Code, if farmers wanted to hold a referendum on the corn checkoff sometime in the future, it would be prohibited by law.
Today's legislative cap of one cent per bushel is written in the Iowa Code--if farmers wanted to hold a referendum in the future, it would be prohibited by law
The Iowa Corn Checkoff has roots going back to 1977, when it began after farmers approved it in a statewide referendum. In 1977 the checkoff began collection of one-tenth of one cent per bushel from farmers when farmers sold corn in Iowa, and after four successful referendums over nearly four decades, the checkoff rate is now at one cent. The goal of raising the legislative cap now, is to be proactive in planning for challenges of the next 40 years, responding to any urgent needs and supporting the long-term profitability of Iowa corn farmers. As always, any increase in the checkoff rate per bushel will still require a vote by individual farmers in a referendum, notes Poldberg.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
The Iowa Corn Promotion Board is made up of farmers, elected by fellow farmers in each crop reporting district, plus three at large farmer leaders. "The ICPB meets four times per year to make decisions about investing your checkoff dollars," she says. "Corn checkoff dollars are invested in the mandated purpose of promoting research, education and market development for the benefit of Iowa corn farmers. However, the checkoff dollars are also refundable if the farmer so chooses."
In alphabetical order, the ICGA's 2014 state-level legislative priorities include:
Biodiesel: Support extension of Iowa's current production tax credit for biodiesel plants, which is expiring.
Checkoff: Raise the legislative cap that's currently on the corn checkoff.
Conservation: Support implementation of Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy: funding, revisions, monitoring, etc.
Iowa Department of Agriculture: Funding for Iowa Department of Agriculture &Land Stewardship budget requests (state veterinarian, conservation, fuels, etc.).
Ethanol: Support extension or increase of current income tax credits, fuel tax differential for ethanol.
Livestock: Support the livestock industry and the existing laws regulating livestock operations. Also, support for increased funding for Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (to full $4 million).
Research: Increase the funding ($2.8 million) for Iowa State University Experiment Station and agriculture-related research.
Taxes: Property tax—ICGA wants the legislature to maintain agriculture productivity formula for figuring property tax.
Transportation: Increased funding, including a fuel tax increase to raise money to replace and repair Iowa's deteriorating roads and bridges.
In alphabetical order, the 2014 federal-level priorities ICGA wants Congress in Washington D.C. to discuss in its upcoming session include:
Biotechnology: Support and defend the use of genetically modified crops.
Environment: Work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on various water quality issues, such as Total Maximum Daily Loads or TMDLs, nutrient criteria, the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure or SPCC, and the Clean Water Act Jurisdiction.
Ethanol: Support for retaining Renewable Fuel Standard, along with discussion of EPA regulations (Renewable Volume Obligations) with EPA officials and Congress. Also regarding ethanol, ICGA will call for support for higher blends to be used in conventional cars (E15+). ICGA also wants to discuss a regulatory issue, the 1 pound waiver which is keeping the E15 blend of ethanol from wider distribution by gas stations.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Farm Bill: Push Congress to pass the farm bill and retain the current structure and funding level for crop insurance. Also, regarding the Farm Bill, ICGA wants to protect/maintain the Market Access Program or MAP and the Foreign Market Development or FMD program.
Research: Support agricultural research for corn, corn products and agriculture.
Taxes: Extend expiring ag tax credits or make permanent these provisions: bonus depreciation, Sec. 179 and capital gains.
Trade: ICGA will push for support for Trade Promotion Authority.
Transportation: Support for appropriation to fund upgrades and replacement where needed for Mississippi River locks & dams. This legislation is the Water Resources Reform and Development Act or WRRDA & the barge fuel tax.
Other news of concern to Iowa Corn Growers this past week included updates on the following topics:
Farm Bill Update. Farm bill conference negotiations in Washington D.C. continued to take place following the Thanksgiving Congressional break, but a farm bill conference report will not be finished yet this year. Its unlikely Congress will pass a short term extension of the farm bill and they will instead wait until January to complete farm bill negotiations.
Applications for Conservation Stewardship Program due January 17: USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting applications for the 2014 Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) signup. Iowa farmers who apply by January 17, 2014 will receive first consideration for funding selections. Through CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil health, soil erosion, and water quality. CSP also supports the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy through various enhancement options.
The Iowa strategy includes practices designed to reduce nutrient loads from nonpoint sources such as farm fields. Some popular CSP nutrient reduction enhancements include: cover crops, precision nutrient application technology, split nitrogen application, and plant tissue tests to improve nitrogen management. A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. Learn more about CSP by visiting the Iowa NRCS website or your local NRCS office.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
USDA Evaluating Changes to CRP: USDA is conducting a Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) for the Conservation Reserve Program. USDA is looking at possible changes including: reducing CRP enrollment by 20% to 25% over the next five years; changing the enrollment cap on the Farmable Wetlands Program; reducing incentives for tree thinning; evaluating processes for the continuous signup; adding flexibility for haying and grazing; and transitioning acres coming out of CRP to other USDA conservation programs. The comment period ends January 13, 2014. For more information, click here.
Rivers and Waterways Committee Accepting Comments: The Iowa Legislature's Study Committee on Rivers and Waterways is currently gathering information from the public about the topic of river restoration. Click here to submit suggestions for restoring the quality of Iowa's rivers.
Iowa Dept. of Agriculture FY 2015 Budget Request Focuses on Water Quality: On Tuesday, December 10, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship's (IDALS) fiscal year 2015 budget request in a meeting with Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds. The budget request included $6.65 million for the Iowa water quality initiative and $1 million to support urban conservation; the Iowa water quality initiative is part of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy which was passed and funded by the Iowa Legislature during the 2013 legislative session.
Iowa Corn Growers Association supports IDALS' water quality initiative and supports as much funding as possible for IDALS to implement the plan. Also included in the request is $1.2 million for the closure of eight agriculture drainage wells. The rest of Northey's FY 2015 request included a status quo budget which covers required increases in personnel and benefit costs for employees. Click here for more information.