Transportation of grain and equipment is a major concern for Iowa farmers. Lobbying the Iowa Legislature to get lawmakers to appropriate money to repair and replace Iowa's deteriorating roads and bridges is one of the top priorities of the Iowa Soybean Association during the current legislative session in Des Moines.
The ISA board of directors established the priorities during their annual winter meeting held Jan. 23-24 in Ankeny. "Hauling grain and livestock to market and moving farm equipment from farm to farm over rural roads and bridges is a major concern for Iowa farmers," says ISA president Mark Jackson.
An increase in the fuel tax to fund the maintenance and repair of rural roadways and bridges is critical to expediting agricultural commodities from farm to market and beneficial to the safety of all Iowans.
It's unusual for Iowa farmers to encourage state legislators to raise taxes
"It's unusual for farmers to encourage legislators to raise taxes. But the fact that the fuel tax is constitutionally protected for road construction appeals to our members," says Jackson, a farmer from Rose Hill. "This source of funding (the state fuel tax) has not been raised since 1989 and yet modern agriculture has nearly doubled production in this time frame. Safe, reliable roads are critical and this source of funding is key to this coordinated effort as we fund the much overdue repairs for rural infrastructure."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
ISA also supports the recently introduced Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and its voluntary approach to water quality improvements. Many ISA members have been active in watershed projects and on-farm research projects working to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus losses from farm fields.
"This Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is the first coordinated effort at managing non-point source nutrients and includes practices and techniques that have been used successfully by farmers participating in our environmental programs," says Jackson. "We hope legislators will provide the funding to successfully launch this effort." The funding would go to help boost the state's conservation cost-share program, which matches funding provided by farmers to put more conservation practices on the land such as grassed waterways, terraces, filter strips, field buffers, etc.
Also asking lawmakers to provide funds for Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy
More cost-share funding to encourage farmers and landowners to put more soil and water quality protection practices on the land is needed, says Jackson. Funding for agricultural and bioeconomy research is also included in the ISA's priorities this year.
The association seeks continuing support for the On-Farm Network, an ISA program that uses precision agriculture tools and technology to collect information used to determine best management practices that help farmers be more efficient and economical. These practices also improve erosion control and improve water quality. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's proposed budget also supports funding for "Leading the Bio-Economy," a new initiative proposed by Ag-State, a coalition made up of Iowa State University, ISA and several commodity groups.
In addition, the ISA will also continue to defend Iowa's livestock industry against detrimental legislation. Statewide, Iowa's livestock and poultry farmers' work contributes nearly $1.1 billion to household income and generates 43,324 jobs in Iowa. For more information about the Iowa Soybean Association's legislative program, contact Carol Balvanz, ISA policy director, at 515-251-8640. To learn more about ISA, visit its website.