The Iowa Legislature kicked off the 2021 legislative session on Jan. 11. In last month's column, we mentioned that Iowa's lawmakers are hard at work on several bills that would impact farm families. To keep on pace to finish the session in 100 days, the Legislature sets self-imposed deadlines to either finalize and move bills forward, or simply to let them die in committee.
There have been many bills introduced this session relating to rural development issues, including the expansion of broadband access to rural areas, child care assistance and other issues of critical importance for encouraging business expansion in rural municipalities. Along with those issues, we have seen a multitude of bills introduced that could affect farms. Below is a discussion of some of those bills.
Renewable fuel bills
Several bills relating to the expansion of renewable fuel usage and infrastructure in Iowa have been introduced. In brief, the Gov. Kim Reynold's renewable fuels bill (HSB 185/SSB 1179) would require all gasoline in the state to include at least 10% ethanol and at least 5% biodiesel (from October through March and 11% from April through September).
In 2025, the governor would have the option of bumping up the baseline to 15% ethanol and contains similar provisions for biodiesel. The bill would also extend expiration of certain renewable fuels tax credits and require that motor vehicles that are part of state government use the highest classification of renewable fuel available, among other requirements.
SF 356 would establish liability protections for farm tourism and create the Iowa Agricultural Tourism Promotion Act. The bill would limit the liability of certain persons involved in ag tourism on an ag tourism farm (defined by the act) due to inherent dangers, failure of a visitor (ag tourist) to follow instructions, or for ignoring signs or taking unreasonable actions — if the cause of action by a visitor to the farm alleges an injury, loss, or death due to the above.
There have been several other interesting bills introduced including HF 387/ SF 79 that would allow the DOT to issue a special minor driving license for drivers 14 to 18 who live or work on a farm and need to drive to do farm work. HF 241 would authorize counties through boards of supervisors and upon recommendation of the soil and water conservation district commission to adopt a riparian buffer ordinance to control soil erosion and for related matters. SSB 1152 would requires the operator of a wind turbine to have $100,000 in financial assurance that the land the turbine sits on will be fully restored when the turbine is removed.
On the livestock side, HF 387 would exempt certain confinement feeding operations that treat manure using an anerobic digester system from the requirement for a qualified confinement feeding operation to use aerobic treatment of manure. The anaerobic digester system must produce methane or other biogas for electricity, hydrogen fuel or heat for commercial purposes. SSB 1166 would make it a crime to interfere with the transportation of an agricultural animal.
HSB 130 would create a central filing system for security interests in farm products to notify buyers of farm products. This system would replace the current system that requires a secured party (a lender with a security interest) to directly notify farm product buyers of the security interest. The bill also creates a new grain warehouse drying and storage lien on crop delivered to a warehouse for the reasonable value of drying or storage of the crop. This bill is substantively the same as bills filed in prior sessions.
Every session in recent memory has included the introduction of bills to repeal the state inheritance tax. This session is no different. SF 110 proposes to the Iowa inheritance tax effective July 1 of this year. It remains to be seen if efforts to reduce or repeal the tax will go anywhere this session. There have also been several bills introduced relating to the Iowa Beginning Farmer Tax credit.
HF 242 would allow an eligible taxpayer with an agreement with a beginning farmer that has received tax credits to transfer the credits to the beginning farmer. The bill requires that certificates to be issued to the beginning farmer be used to pay taxes or for a refund and the agreement between taxpayer and beginning farmer must be at least two but not more than five years. HF 484/ SF 291 also address beginning farmer issues. I would encourage those interested in beginning farmer issues to review those bills and talk to your legislators about them.
In next month's Legal Issues column, we will continue to provide updates on some of the bills introduced this session, their status and potential effect on farms and farm families. Stay tuned for new developments and answers to other reader questions next month. The information contained in this article is current as of Feb. 16.
For more information on any of the bills listed in this column, visit legis.iowa.gov. It should be noted that several of the bills introduced above may not be "funnel-proof." The first "funnel" deadline was March 5 (when Senate bills must have been reported out of Senate committees and House Bills must have been reported out of House committees). So, those bills that were introduced that did not pass in their committee of origin prior to the first funnel are now deemed "dead" and do not progress. Appropriations, ways and means, and oversight bills are not subject to the funnel deadlines, so keep watching those bills.
Herbold-Swalwell is an attorney with Brick-Gentry in Des Moines.