Each year at the Iowa Legislature and in their communities, Farm Bureau members work together to support agriculture and rural communities. Over the years, this grassroots approach has resulted in continued legislative gains for Iowa farmers and for all Iowans.

During the 2016 legislative session, for example, state lawmakers approved Farm Bureau-backed legislation which coupled state tax rules with federal rules for the 2015 tax year, maintained funding for vital water quality and soil conservation programs and continued programs to protect property taxpayers.

In the upcoming 2017 legislative session, which will begin Jan. 9, Farm Bureau will work to permanently couple Iowa tax code with Section 179 asset expensing of the federal code. The organization will also work to create a long-term, dedicated funding source to support Iowa’s critical water quality and soil conservation programs. In addition, Farm Bureau will continue its efforts to protect property taxpayers.

In late 2015 the federal government passed legislation to permanently extend Section 179 asset expensing, which allows for accelerated depreciation up to $500,000 in one year for both new and used equipment purchases. In the 2016 legislative session, Iowa retroactively coupled state taxes with the federal rules for Section 179 asset expensing, but only for the 2015 tax year.

Farm Bureau will work to permanently couple state tax code with Section 179 asset expensing at the $500,000 level. The organization strongly believes that this important economic tool should not be taken away, and that farmers need consistency between state and federal tax rules and should not be required to maintain two sets of books for different tax rules.

Conservation funding

Iowa farmers are taking on the challenge of improving water quality and conserving the state’s valuable topsoil. They have made significant progress in reducing nutrient loss in the past three decades. As a number of surveys show, farmers have embraced Iowa’s science-based water quality initiative, officially called the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

To continue that momentum, Farm Bureau will work with lawmakers to adequately fund programs to hold up the state’s share of the long-standing partnership with farmers on conservation and water quality.

Last year, various measures to create a sustainable funding source for water quality and conservation were proposed, but only one plan came up for a vote in the 2016 session.

The bill, which Farm Bureau supported, would have prioritized nearly $500 million in existing state funds to create a long-term, sustainable funding source.  The bill passed out of the House chamber and was supported by the Governor, but was never considered in the Senate. 

In the end, the 2016 legislative session passed one-year status quo state funding for the water quality initiative, conservation cost-share programs and for efforts to close ag drainage wells.

During the 2017 legislative session, Farm Bureau will continue to work on programs which focus on sustainable and dedicated funding with a clear focus on implementing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Protecting property taxpayers

Farm Bureau will remain vigilant during the session to make sure that property taxes continue to be a priority for lawmakers as they try to craft a budget in tight fiscal conditions. Iowans will pay more than $5 billion in property taxes this year, and the Legislature has the opportunity to address several measures that help protect property taxpayers from further increases.      

One of those is property tax contributions to Iowa’s mental health system. Farm Bureau will work to ensure that property taxpayer contributions to the state mental health system remain limited and controlled.

Property taxpayers’ contributions to this system have operated under a limited and controlled statewide dollar cap since 1995. This statewide dollar cap is again scheduled to sunset next year, and Farm Bureau will work to permanently extend the statewide dollar cap into the future.

During the past four fiscal years (FY2014 through FY2017), property taxpayers have saved a total of $41 million through a funding mechanism that insures increases in state supplemental aid to K-12 schools is fully paid for by the state, and capping contributions from property taxes. This funding mechanism is also set to expire, and Farm Bureau will work to ensure that it is extended into the fiscal year 2018 budget and beyond. 

Farm Bureau will also work to ensure that the Ag Land/Family Farm and the Homestead property tax credits remain unchanged from last year’s levels.

Other issues that Farm Bureau will monitor during the 2017 session include the infrastructure program for renewable fuels, foreign animal disease preparedness, trespassing laws and any regulatory reform measures.