Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) voting delegates virtually joined delegates representing all 50 state Farm Bureaus this week during the 102nd American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Annual Convention to approve resolutions that will guide the grassroots organization on national policy throughout 2021.
During the convention, held virtually for the first time in AFBF history, IFBF delegates successfully added state-developed policy to advocate for more negotiated sales and transparency in livestock markets and a push for utilizing higher blends of biofuels -- two issues of critical importance to Iowa farmers.
Cattle marketing issues were a major focus for county voting delegates during the IFBF Summer Policy Conference in September, when Iowa Farm Bureau members laid out policy positions for 2021.
“We are fighting a lot of price discovery issues in the beef industry now, so we need to find ways to have more price transparency,” said Ben Albright, a Calhoun County Farm Bureau member serving as one of nine Iowa voting delegates during the AFBF policy session.
Packing plant shutdowns caused by a fire at a Kansas packing plant in 2019 and supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led to record price spreads between live cattle prices and retail beef prices in the past 18 months. Many independent Iowa cattle farmers found the disruptions made it more difficult to market cattle and placed them at a significant disadvantage over livestock raised under contracts.
“The grassroots effort of Iowa Farm Bureau delegates was a big factor in the AFBF’s adoption of the livestock marketing policy,” said Craig Hill, IFBF president. “Iowa had a big hand in merging the interests of the cattle industry from various parts of the country into one concise amendment that can help lead to remedies.”
The AFBF delegates adopted policy that called for increasing the share of negotiated sales in fed cattle markets with a focus on increased price transparency, leveling the playing field for livestock farmers. The new national policy also states that any governmental effort to increase the amount of negotiated livestock should be respectful of regional differences and that any government marketing requirements be regularly reviewed.
The AFBF voting delegate body also adopted Iowa’s recommendation that the national organization study regional mandatory minimum cash trade in cattle markets and determine what levels are needed to achieve robust price discovery. “We know there are regional differences and we need to know what they look like as we pursue more open market trading and price discovery,” said Albright, who offered the motion for the market study.
Iowa delegates, representing the top biofuels producing state, backed policy to set the stage for increased sales of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel and the adoption of uniform nationwide labeling for ethanol and biodiesel at the fuel pump. The higher blends will be critical to expanding biofuel demand as Congress works to reauthorize the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Risk management was also top of mind for voting delegates, and Iowa leaders joined other Farm Bureau members in supporting the creation of a harvest price option for farmers forced by adverse weather to take the federal crop insurance program’s prevent planting option. The harvest price option for prevent planting will aid farmers’ ability to use the risk management tools in the federal crop insurance program, even if they are prevented from growing a crop.
“With the volatile markets that we have today, we want to be able to have the confidence in our ability to use forward pricing for the risk management,” Hill said.
IFBF was also recognized and received Awards of Excellence, an honor recognizing state Farm Bureaus that demonstrate outstanding achievements in four categories: Advocacy; Engagement & Outreach; Leadership and Business Development; and Membership Value.
Along with Hill and Albright, Iowa’s other voting delegates to the 2021 AFBF policy session were IFBF Vice President Joe Heinrich of Jackson County; District 8 Director Tim Kaldenberg of Monroe County; Dave Bolin of Butler County; Brian Feldpausch of Grundy County; Jeff Pape of Dubuque County; Chris Prizler of Iowa County; and Eric Nelson of Woodbury County.