Iowa Legislature Begins 2008 Session

Ag-related issues include ethanol, transportation, livestock odor, water quality regulations and deer control.

The 2008 session of the 82nd Iowa General Assembly convened on January 14. There are a number of ag issues and proposed legislation the state lawmakers will discuss this year under the golden dome of the State Capitol in Des Moines. The legislative session will likely run through late April.

The Iowa Corn Growers Association is backing several ethanol and E85 legislative proposals that could provide benefits to Iowa consumers; if the ICGA can persuade state legislators to pass the plans.

"We would really like to see Iowa provide a consumer tax credit of $500 for anyone who buys E85 fuel," says Tim Recker, a grower from Arlington and ICGA president. Recker says the tax credit is just one of several ethanol proposals that ICGA is backing for the 2008 Iowa legislative session.

Promote use of higher ethanol blends

The corn growers will also work to increase the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board's cost-share program. That funding helps retail gas stations pay for special pumps and equipment needed to dispense E85 and other blends of ethanol that are higher than E10. The cost-share funds can be used to help pay for biodiesel pumps, too.

The program is an incentive to get gas stations to install the pumps to make E85 and biodiesel more available to consumers across the state. Installing the equipment is expensive and cost-sharing helps lower the cost and thus expand the use of higher blends of ethanol such as E15, E20 and E85.

On the transportation front, Recker says ICGA hopes the legislature will consider a permanent solution to the annual weight exemption for trucks hauling grain in the fall. "That will avoid the confusion we go through every year as we wait to see what the rules will be on harvest weight exemptions," he says. ICGA will also work to make sure rural roads receive fair funding to maintain the state's transportation system.

Livestock odor research money needed

Livestock will continue to be an area of concern, as ICGA maintains its commitment to responsible livestock producers in Iowa. Even with the growth in ethanol processing, Recker notes that livestock continues to be the largest market for Iowa corn usage.

ICGA supports a new livestock odor control research and demonstration program that has been proposed for funding by the Legislature. The program, if approved and funded, would conduct on-farm odor control research on 250 or so livestock farms across Iowa. Farm Bureau, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Iowa State University have collaborated to develop the proposed program to test various methods to control livestock odors. The proposed program would cost a total of $23 million and be conducted over a period of five years.

Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Lang says that organization will work with other groups and the Legislature to protect Iowa's water quality, another issue that will come up in this year's session. Farm Bureau will also push for measures to reduce the size of the state's burgeoning deer herd.

Water quality discussion also on tap

Other priorities for Farm Bureau are: keeping Iowa at the forefront in renewable energy production, making sure Iowa's school infrastructure needs are funded equitably and reforming state election laws. Water quality is also an issue.

Regarding proposed water quality legislation - Farm Bureau supports creation of a coordinating council charged with developing an integrated approach to water resource management. The council is an idea that was recommended in late 2007 by the Iowa Legislature's Watershed Quality Planning Taskforce. It would work to manage water on a comprehensive basis, rather than compartmentally.

In addition to creating the council, Farm Bureau supports a voluntary, incentive-based state water protection plan. The taskforce recommended additional spending of state funds for watershed assessment, monitoring and prioritization to make sure the efforts result in real water-quality protection.

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