The Iowa Legislature passed several bills that addressed Farm Bureau members’ priorities during the recently adjourned 2020 session. Those priorities included protecting property taxpayers, maintaining funding for water quality programs and passing other measures to address pressing needs in Iowa agriculture.

“Farm Bureau thanks Iowa legislators and Gov. Kim Reynolds for stepping up to protect property taxpayers as they set the state’s 2021 budget,” said Craig Hill, a Warren County farmer and president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF). 

“During these uncertain times in Iowa agriculture, it was critical that the state did not shift funding obligations onto the backs of property taxpayers,” he said. 

The budget for fiscal 2021, which begins July 1, 2020, protects property taxpayers through several different items. Lawmakers allocated $75.1 million in property tax replacement payments for K-12 education and another $39.1 million for the Ag Land/Family Farm tax credit. The Legislature also allocated full funding of $142.8 million for the Homestead Property Tax Credit. All of these measures provide dollar-for-dollar property tax relief for Iowans.

Despite facing difficult budgeting decisions because of the COVID-19 crisis, legislators protected and maintained water quality funding for both the current fiscal year, as well as for the 2021 fiscal year. 

Using the general fund ending fund balance, the Legislature filled a $70 million shortfall in the fiscal 2020 Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF). That protected water quality funding in the current fiscal year. 

In the fiscal 2021 budget, legislators protected and maintained funding for the state’s Water Quality Initiative, conservation cost-share programs and ag drainage well closures at fiscal 2020 levels, despite projections for reductions in gambling revenue and in the general fund revenue.

“We are very pleased that the Legislature continues to see the value in supporting farmers’ conservation and water quality efforts,” Hill said. “Iowa farmers have consistently proven over the years that they are willing and able to take on the challenge of improving water quality if funding and sensible state and federal cost-share programs are available.” 

Farm animal vet program

The 2020 Iowa Legislature also passed a measure to create a student loan repayment program for veterinarians who agree to practice in shortage areas in the state. They also appropriated $300,000 in fiscal 2021 for the newly created program. 

Creating a program to help maintain an adequate number of food animal vets was a key focus for Farm Bureau members in 2020, Hill said. 

“Raising pigs, cattle, poultry and other livestock is a vital part of Iowa’s economy, so maintaining an adequate supply of food animal vets is essential for the state,” Hill said.

Other FB-Supported bills
The Legislature also passed Farm Bureau-supported bills that strengthened the ag exemption to county zoning, eliminated the requirement for an oversize load permit when hauling hay, straw or stover and modernized the fuel tax deferential to promote the sale of higher biofuel blends. In addition, the Legislature increased penalties for trespassing on livestock farms and strengthened the authority of landowners and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to destroy feral hogs to help prevent the spread of disease.