Iowa Farm Bureau delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) annual policy-drafting session last week in Phoenix successfully worked on policies to emphasize the importance of a strong crop insurance program in the new farm bill, to maintain support for strong conservation programs and to protect livestock farmers hit by catastrophic disease outbreaks.

"Our Iowa group worked together well, and we were able to get most of our key issues in the AFBF policy book," said Craig Hill, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation president. "The AFBF priorities mesh very well with the issues that have been stressed by our members in our policy development process. Our Iowa delegates said, loud and clear, that crop insurance was the most important risk management tool for farmers and that it should be protected. And that will also be a priority for the AFBF."

Hill and the Iowa delegation also worked to maintain strong support for conservation programs in AFBF policy. "Iowa farmers have worked so hard to take on the challenge of improving water quality and reducing soil erosion, so we didn’t want to give up any of the tools we have to accomplish that," said Hill, a Warren County crop and livestock farmer who was re-elected to a two-year term on the AFBF board of directors.

One conservation issue that was discussed during the voting delegate session was the link between conservation compliance and crop insurance.

Linking conservation requirements to crop insurance helps maintain the integrity in the program, encourages conservation and is a key tool for building alliances with environmental groups as the farm bill negotiations begin this year, Hill said.

CRP rental rates

Other Iowa Farm Bureau farm bill provisions were adopted by the AFBF, including the need to continue combining farm and nutrition programs in the farm bill, to improve safety net programs and to make them fairer to all farmers. The national organization also adopted Iowa language to make sure that Conservation Reserve program (CRP) rental rates are re-adjusted annually so they better mirror the rental rates of comparable farmland.

"We want to make sure that the CRP program is targeted and the rental rates don’t get out of line," said Joe Heinrich, IFBF vice president and a Jackson County farmer.

The AFBF also accepted Iowa policy to help livestock farmers in the event of a catastrophic animal disease outbreak, such as the avian flu outbreak that devastated Iowa’s poultry industry in 2015. The AFBF delegates accepted Iowa provisions calling for business interruption payments and insurance options for farmers who are forced to idle barns during a disease outbreak.

The national organization also adopted an Iowa provision calling on officials to develop contingency for on-farm animal disposal programs to help farmers with containment and clean-up efforts if an outbreak occurs.

In addition, the AFBF adopted Iowa policies on self-employment tax liabilities and requiring farm machinery manufacturers to provide diagnostic information, re­­pair tools and service information at a fair and reasonable rate to independent repair shops, service toolmakers and consumers.

Regulatory reform

The delegates at the 2017 AFBF delegate session approved provisions calling for regulatory reform, improvement in immigration programs and the protection of data generated by farmers.

"The actions taken today by our farmer and rancher delegates from across the nation represent the culmination of our yearlong grassroots policy process," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. "It also provides us a roadmap for actions AFBF will take to implement our policies throughout this year, and I am optimistic about those prospects."

In their strong effort for regulatory reform, the AFBF delegates passed policy that calls for an end to "judicial deference," which has essentially nullified the power of the courts to serve as a check on agency abuses.

They also approved policy to oppose agency advocacy campaigns in support of their own proposed regulations, which was used by the Environment Protection Agency to support the controversial Waters of the United States or WOTUS measure.

Antibiotic rules

The delegates also passed provisions to enhance the new Veterinary Feed Directive or VFD, a new program designed to ensure the judicious use of antibiotics in food-producing animals.

The newly-passed lang­uage calls for AFBF to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase education about the directive and to find ways to employ technologies, such as telemedicine, to help address shortages of large animal veterinarians

Delegates reaffirmed support for the protection of proprietary data collected from farmers, voting that farmers should be compensated when their data is used by third parties.

Along with Hill and Heinrich, the members representing the Iowa Farm Bureau at the 2017 AFBF policy session were District 6 Director Nick Podhajsky, Allen Burt of Marshall County, Andy Hill of Worth County, Terry Murray of Buena Vista County, Gary Rayhons of Hancock County, Karen Seipold of Mills County and Don Swanson of Wapello County.