The recently completed 2011 Iowa legislative session in Des Moines was the third longest session in Iowa history. In the end, the state budget approved for fiscal year 2012 spends $5.99 billion and is projected to leave the state with a $284 million ending balance, after all the state's reserve funds are filled.
On behalf of Iowa's soybean farmers, the Iowa Soybean Association reports having worked successfully on several important issues. Those include:
* Biodiesel Credit. The bill extends the biodiesel tax credit to 2014 and eliminates the eligibility requirement that the dealer sell and dispense 50% or more biodiesel-blended fuel during the tax year. The minimum biodiesel classification is increased from B-2 to B-10 (10% biodiesel) for calculating the credit. The requirement that the tax credit be calculated separately for each motor fuel site is eliminated.
* Family Farm Tax Credit. This bill allows family farm LLCs to qualify for the family farm credit in the same way that a family farm corporation can qualify.
* Ethanol and Biodiesel Tax Credits. Changes include various and significant improvements.
* Water Resources Council. This bill transfers the council from the office of the governor to the secretary of agriculture and provides the secretary of agriculture is the chairperson of the council.
ISA also supported a number of issues directly related to agriculture that did not pass the 2011 session of the Iowa Legislature. Those include:
* Ag Protection Bill. The agriculture protection bill started out covering several areas that are problematic in agriculture's fight against animal rights activists. The bill passed the House but ran into political issues in the Senate. It is believed when the legislature returns in January, they will take up the agriculture protection bill early in the session.
* Electrical Farm Inspection Repeal Bill. Many commodity groups worked together to draft an agreement addressing problems associated with electrical farm inspections. In addition, a coalition of legislators wanted a complete exemption for electrical inspections done on farms. The total exemption passed the House; however, complete exemption was not able to pass the Senate. No changes were made to the current law.
* EPC Restructuring Bill: Three bills were introduced in the House to address the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). The bill that passed the house would shift rulemaking authority to the director and not the appointed body, and would require all rules being written to be done within the confines of passed legislation. The bill did not pass the Senate, perhaps because the sense of urgency subsided following new appointments to the EPC.
ISA director of policy and producer outreach Carol Balvanz says, "Given the fact that budget issues consumed so much of legislators' time, we feel it was a successful session in that many of our issues were addressed. Looking ahead, ag groups will need to work together to keep farmers' needs in front of an increasingly urban legislature." Soybean farmers with questions about legislative issues can visit with Balvanz by calling 800-383-1423.