County Farm Bureau vot­ing delegates adopted policy language on livestock, biofuels, biosecurity and other key state and national agricultural issues last week at the Iowa Farm Bureau’s 2020 Summer Policy Conference in Des Moines.

Delegates discussed and ad­­opted a series of national policy recommendations during the two-day conference seeking more transparency and fairness in cattle markets, including improved price reporting, more diverse marketing options and a higher percentage of negotiated cash sales. Delegates also said incentives should be made available to small and start-up meat processing facilities to increase overall processing capacity. Those national policy recommendations will direct Iowa Farm Bureau’s policy dev­elopment efforts on issues to be considered at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in January 2021.

“Our cattle industry has relied on a free market with transparency,” said Brent Lorimor, Fremont County voting delegate. “It’s something that a lot of small towns have been built on, so I think we should do anything we can to enhance that.”

Packing plant shutdowns caused by a fire at a Kansas packing plant last year and by the COVID-19 pandemic led to record price spreads between live cattle markets and retail beef prices over the past 12 months. 

Independent cattle feeders said the disruptions made it difficult for them to market cattle in a timely fashion as major meatpackers gave preference to livestock raised under contracts.

Renewable fuels

Voting delegates also adopted national policy recommendations supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and other programs to promote increased sales and higher blends of biofuels. They also said a national standard for labeling and identification of biofuel products should be established.

“We need to continue the RFS to promote increased biofuel sales and higher blends. Long term trends show a drop in the consumption of fuel, so we need higher blends to maintain a robust biofuel industry,” said Mark Ogden, a Johnson County Farm Bureau member who served on the 2020 state resolutions committee.

Delegates also adopted a na­­tional policy statement re­­garding biosecurity for feed imports from regions with known outbreaks of African swine fever or other animal diseases.

Local foods

On state issues, delegates said Iowa should work to in­­crease the amount of ethanol used in the state and streamline the permitting process for farmers and others to sell directly to consumers. State resolutions will guide Farm Bureau’s work on Iowa agricultural issues during the next year.

“Selling beef and pork off the farm is an opportunity for younger producers to start a business,” said Kossuth County voting delegate Matt Bormann. “Consumers have a lot of interest in where their food is coming from, and this is a way for them to support their local communities.” 

(Photo above: Craig Hill, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation president, speaks to delegates and others at the organization's 2020 Summer Policy  Conference in Des Moines. PHOTO / TOM BLOCK)

Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill praised the work done by the delegates and all Farm Bureau members throughout the organization’s grassroots policy development process.

“The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) annual Summer Policy Conference is the culmination of our year-round policy development process and provides our organization with a clear direction from our membership on policy for the upcoming year,” said Hill, a Warren County crop and livestock farmer. 

“IFBF’s policy development pro­­cess is truly grassroots with active engagement and input from our members, providing every county an opportunity to be heard on critical issues. This process ensures a strong and unified voice on behalf of our membership to support Iowa agriculture, farm families and their communities, particularly during these challenging times.”

State and national policies for 2020

The following new state policy resolutions were adopted by the voting delegate body last week at the 2020 Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Summer Policy Conference. The national policy statements aren't final Farm Bureau policy, but will direct Iowa Farm Bureau efforts on national policy at the American Farm Bureau annual convention in January 2021.

State policy statements

Iowa should require a minimum 10 percent ethanol blend for all gasoline sold for on-road vehicles.

Drainage Project
The project cost threshold requiring a drainage district to hire an engineer should be increased to reflect increased construction costs.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Certification Incentives
Incentives should be provided to increase Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provider compensation in rural areas.

The process for individuals to meet certification requirements should be streamlined and expanded to include prequalified individuals.

Feral Swine
The State Veterinarian should have authority to order the elimination of feral swine.

Forest Reserve Program
Protocols should be developed for the investigation and enforcement of the economic gain limitations for ground enrolled in the state forest reserve program.

Local Food
A single, state streamlined permit process should replace city and county permitting for entities preparing and selling food products directly to consumers.

Agencies regulating direct food marketing need to provide regulatory transparency for entities obtaining permits or licenses.

Local Government Accounting
Local governments should deposit refunds they receive for contracts, products or services back into the same account where the original purchase was recorded.

Local Government Debt
Local government projects that include significant debt financing should require voter approval from the taxpayers responsible for repayment. A 60 percent threshold for approval should be required regardless of the facility’s location, governance structure or funding sources.

Stream Bank and Streambed Erosion
Stream bank and streambed erosion sources should be considered as a separate category from point sources and nonpoint sources in watershed plans and programming.

Representation by County Supervisors
County supervisors should be elected by district and reside within the district they represent in counties larger than 75,000 population.

Rural Road Closure Notifications
Notification to landowners, lessees and the public about rural road closures and maintenance reductions should be expanded.

National policy proposals

Programs such as the Renewable Fuel Stand­ard should be continued as legislated to promote increased sales and higher blends of biofuels.

A national standard for the labeling and identification of biofuel products should be established.

Country of Origin Labeling
We support mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for cattle and beef that meets WTO requirements.

Feed from African Swine Fever (ASF) Hot Spots
Science-based information should be relied upon when determining restrictions of imported feed or feed additives from known African Swine Fever (ASF) and any future foreign and domestic infectious animal disease hot spots.

Feral Swine
The economic value of a state’s pork industry should be strongly considered when determining federal feral swine control program funding.

Data reported by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service needs to be much more transparent and flexible. This reporting process should include information about futures-based cash pricing. All cattle sales information should be reported regardless of how the cattle are marketed.

Packers should make all types of beef marketing options they offer available to all producers nationwide.

Packers should be required to purchase a minimum of 50 percent of the cattle they purchase as negotiated cash sales with a 14-day delivery period.

Incentives should be made available to small and start-up meat processing facilities to increase overall processing capacity. We believe USDA and DOJ should increase their enforcement of GIPSA regulations in order to protect these small and start-up packing facilities from price manipulation and other monopolistic practices.

Prevent Plant Fall Price
A harvest price option for prevent plant coverage should be available to producers with an unsubsidized buy-up option.

Stream Bank and Streambed Erosion
Stream bank and streambed erosion sources should be considered as a separate category from point sources and nonpoint sources in watershed plans and programming.