Farm Bureau members appreciate passage of long-term, dedicated conservation funding and option created for Iowans lacking affordable health care

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), Iowa’s largest grassroots farm organization, saw the 2018 legislative session conclude with passage of several bills on key issues for Iowa’s farm families.

Long-term water quality funding, a top priority for Farm Bureau members, received bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature and was the first piece of legislation signed by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.  The dedicated conservation funding will allow Iowa farmers and landowners to continue to grow statewide water quality efforts, provide opportunities for farmers to implement new conservation practices on their farm, and expand opportunities for communities to develop and expand collaborative conservation projects. 

“Iowans agree that water quality improvement is a shared goal, and the passage of legislation with dedicated water quality funding is a historic milestone which will allow Iowa to continue to make big strides toward advancing water quality and soil health,” says IFBF President Craig Hill.  “Farmers are taking on the challenge of improving water quality, and we are excited to have the support of Governor Reynolds and the Legislature as we continue this important work with all Iowans to protect water quality and soil health.”

Lawmakers also passed a bill that allows Farm Bureau to develop plans that will provide Iowans access to a health care benefit that is more affordable than the current unsubsidized premiums under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The legislation continues a decades-long partnership between Farm Bureau and Wellmark to provide health coverage to Iowans.          

“According to our annual membership survey, the cost of health care is the top concern facing our members,” Hill says.  “Although it isn’t meant to be a solution for all, we are pleased that lawmakers and the Governor agree it’s an option for Iowans who need an affordable health plan that works until Congress passes a permanent solution to the current health care cost crisis.”

 According to recent reports from the Iowa Insurance Division, more than 20,000 Iowans could not afford to keep their health care coverage in 2018 because they don’t qualify for ACA subsidies.  The legislation was passed with bipartisan support, and brings a new option for many Iowans who can’t afford to purchase health care coverage in the current environment. 

The legislation comes at a critical time for Iowa farmers, as the Iowa agriculture sector faces the fifth year of a downturned ag economy with high production costs and low market prices for commodities.  IFBF anticipates benefits being available by January 2019 with enrollment applications to be opened for members in the fall of this year.   

Farm Bureau members are also pleased that the Legislature’s income tax reform package included several provisions that are beneficial to agriculture.  When fully phased in, the plan includes increasing Section 179 asset expensing to $1 million, as well as fully coupling with the federal qualified business income deduction pass through.  The plan, which will ultimately eliminate federal deductibility and simultaneously lower income tax rates if certain triggers are met, also includes a revised capital gains deduction for the sale of farmland. 

“With on-farm income down 50 percent over the past four years, keeping the family farm sustainable is a top priority for Iowa farm families,” says Hill.  “Including these specific tax provisions will help as Iowa’s agriculture economy weathers the storm of tight margins and high operating costs.”