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HELP FOR NEW FARMERS: Legislation to increase funding for Iowa’s Beginning Farmer Tax Credit program is being considered by state lawmakers.

Iowa legislative update

Legal Issues: Several bills important to agriculture are still alive in the 2019 session.

In my previous column, we focused on several areas the Iowa Legislature will address with respect to agriculture in 2019. To keep on pace to finish the session in 100 days, the Legislature sets two self-imposed “funnel” deadlines. 

The first funnel was March 8 (when Senate bills needed to be reported out of Senate committees and House bills out of House committees). Those bills that were introduced but didn’t pass in their committee of origin prior to the first funnel are now deemed “dead” and do not progress. It’s important to note that appropriations, ways and means, and oversight bills are not subject to the funnel deadlines, so keep watching those bills.

So far, two bills affecting farmers have been signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds. The Agricultural Facility Trespass Bill (SF 519) created the criminal offense of ag production facility trespass, which involves the use of deception to obtain access to or obtain employment at an agricultural production facility with intent to cause harm. 

Senate File 220 was signed by Reynolds on March 14, expanding the Section 179 expensing available for the individual state income tax to include corporations, financial institutions, limited liability companies and partnerships for tax year 2018, up to $70,000 and $280,000 for the minimum deduction and investment limitation. The law applies retroactively to January 2018.

Bills surviving first funnel

Here’s a summary of several bills that were introduced since our last column and are still alive after the first funnel deadline:  

Iowa Hemp Act. SF 279 and HF 733, which were introduced with broad bipartisan support, establish the Iowa Hemp Act. It authorizes the production of hemp under the Iowa Department of Agriculture’s regulatory supervision. The 2018 Farm Bill authorized the production of industrial hemp and defines hemp as having less than 0.03% THC. The farm bill authorized states to assume primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp by submitting a state plan for approval to USDA, which must approve, disapprove or amend the plan within 60 days.  

Beginning Farmer Tax Credit. SF 444 and HF 647 establish a new Beginning Farmer Tax Credit program to replace the Agricultural Assets Transfer Credit. This gives farmers with agricultural assets a tax credit for assisting beginning farmers. The credit is capped at $50,000 in one year for one farmer. The Iowa Finance Authority can issue up to $12 million in credits a year.

County zoning regulations. HF 239 relates to the exemption to county zoning regulations for property used for ag purposes. It further defines that the property is used for ag purposes and qualifies for the exemption “if at least 51% of the annual gross revenue derived from the property comes from the growing, harvesting or selling of crops and livestock raised and produced on the property or brought to the property, and not more than 49% of the annual gross revenue derived from the property comes from the sale of ag experiences and other farm-related activities.”

Criminal surcharges, ag theft. SF 457 establishes a 35% surcharge for the felony theft of crops, livestock or honeybees. These funds are to be directed to the judicial branch to support judicial branch operations. 

Hiring unauthorized workers; mandatory e-Verify. SF 516 prohibits employers from knowingly employing unauthorized aliens and defines employer as a person that transacts business in Iowa and that has a license issued by an agency in this state (includes this state, a political subdivision and self-employed individual). The bill requires an employer to use the e-Verify program and to keep records of the verification for the duration of the employment or three years, whichever is longer.

Government land acquisitions. SF 548 prohibits local governments from acquiring land from a private entity that purchased the land with federal funds.

Bills that didn’t survive funnel 

Several bills relating to livestock regulation were introduced in the House at the beginning of the 2019 session, including House Files 191, 200-203, 397 and 398, 407, 410 and 521. They relate to an array of issues involving confinement animal feeding operations, including siting and proposing moratoriums for certain proposed sites and Master Matrix issues.
These bills also did not survive the funnel deadline:

COOL labeling program. HF 58 sought to amend Iowa Code Ch. 191 that sets forth labeling requirements for food products and establishes a country-of-origin labeling program for food. 

Cover crop tax exemption. HSB 78 sought to establish a property tax exemption for planting cover crops and make the exemption for 50% of the assessed value of the land planted with cover crops. 

Meat sales. SF 404 sought to prohibit a food product vendor from advertising food for sale as meat if it does not contain meat. 

This column is current as of March 26. The second funnel deadline is set for April 5. For updates and more information on the bills mentioned above, search the bills at legis.iowa.gov.

Herbold-Swalwell is an attorney with Brick-Gentry in Des Moines. Contact erin.herbold-swalwell@brickgentrylaw.com.

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