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Serving: IA

Bringing Land Out Of CRP Draws Debate

Delegates at Iowa Soybean Association annual meeting set policy on a number of hot topics.

The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) held it's annual meeting and leadership conference December 13 and 14 in Ames. More than 120 members attended.

They adopted policies related to a number of topics, including conservation, biodiesel production and value-added soybeans.

"We do this to determine what position ISA will take on state and national legislative issues in the coming year that impact the soybean business," says Ray Gaesser, president of ISA who farms near Corning in southwest Iowa.

One of the issues getting the most debate at the ISA annual meeting was the Conservation Reserve Program, a USDA program that pays landowners to keep environmentally sensitive land out of crop production.

Use CRP land for fuel production?

Ed Ulch, a farmer from Solon in eastern Iowa, submitted a proposed resolution to support the regulated release of a limited number of CRP acres, depending on grain prices and supplies. With the growth of the state's ethanol and biodiesel industry, Iowa will need to increase its crop acreage to satisfy this new demand for corn and soybeans.

Farmers may want the option to take land out of the CRP for corn production rather than waiting for their 10- to 15-year CRP contracts to expire. Ulch says markets should determine whether it makes economic sense for farmers to remove land from the CRP, as long as the land is suitable for crops.

Also, taking land out of the CRP could boost rural economies by opening up more land for livestock grazing or alternative crop production. "In northeast Iowa I see some areas along the rivers that are completely in CRP and the small towns have dwindled," said Glenn Janssen, a Fayette County farmer. "The younger farmers say they can no longer get land to rent, because of the tremendous competition for existing land. The CRP makes the shortage of land worse because it takes land out of production."

CRP resolution was voted down

Janssen says some CRP acres can be farmed if planted to a conservation crop that can be used for ethanol production. For example, switchgrass or corn—and use the biomass for cellulosic ethanol production.

The ISA delegates voted against the resolution. "When you start taking CRP acres out, they will never get put back in," said John Schott, a farmer from Pocahontas County. "I think taking land out of the CRP would just aggravate the problem we've had for many years and that is producing a surplus of grain."

On another resolution, ISA members voted to support the "25 by 25" initiative. The initiative is also backed by the Iowa Corn Growers Association. The goal is to increase the share of renewable fuels used by the nation's transportation system to 25% by the year 2025.

Extend biodiesel tax incentives

ISA delegates also agreed to support an indefinite extension of state and federal biodiesel tax incentives. Rick Ostlie, president of the American Soybean Association, attended the meeting. He told the Iowa growers that biofuel tax incentives for fuel blenders and retailers have helped boost U.S. biodiesel production from 75 million gallons in 2005 to an estimated 150 million gallons in 2006. "Economists tell us that for every 200 million gallons of biodiesel production and use in the U.S., it increases soybean prices about 10%," he said.

In an effort to continue expanding markets for soybeans, ISA delegate adopted a resolution to support an incentive grant program that encourages growers to plant value-added soybeans that benefit consumers and the environment.

Dave Schmidt, who farms west of Iowa City, said the incentive program could reimburse producers for any yield drag in the early years of growing a new value-added bean variety. "Farmers who are innovators in value-added soybean production need to be paid by some incentive to make value-added soybeans become a reality in the marketplace," he says.

ISA adopted several other resolutions

ISA is calling for an agricultural dust exemption in federal EPA air quality regulations. ISA also passed a resolution supporting tax incentives for state-approved, farmer-driven environmental management programs. The organization also is asking for increased funding for Iowa State University research on soybean production issues.

ISA wants to see regular third-party evaluations to ensure the efficient and effective use of soybean checkoff dollars. The organization also passed a resolution calling for establishment of a state-funded, certified biodiesel testing laboratory and quality enforcement program for production of the fuel.

County soybean award winners

Awards were also handed out to ISA members. Honors such as the Active County Award, Membership Recruitment and Growth, Top Recruiter and Top New Member Recruiter were presented.

The Western Iowa Active County Award went to Adair County, while the Eastern Iowa winner was Scott County. The award for Western Iowa County Membership Recruitment and Growth went to Fremont/Page and the Eastern Iowa winner was Bremer County.

The Western Iowa Top Recruiter award went to Delbert Christensen from Audubon County. Christensen is also the treasurer of the ISA board of directors and a director from district four. The Eastern Iowa Top Recruiter was Earl Brandt from Bremer County. Top New Member Recruiter award for the western half of the state went to Delbert Christensen and for the eastern half of the state the award went to Larry Marek of Washington County. Marek is the secretary of the ISA board of directors and a director from district nine.

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