The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation wrapped up its 2011 Summer Policy Conference in Des Moines last week, debating a number of issues and deciding its position on several of the hotter ones that affect Iowa agriculture. The more controversial issues included flood control management of rivers by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, proposed nutrient limits for application of fertilizer and manure to cropland, and other 2012 legislative priorities.
Farm Bureau, which is Iowa's largest farm organization, called for changes in the Army Corps of Engineers' management of the Missouri River in order to prevent the kind of flooding which devastated farmers and residents along the western edge of Iowa this year. The Army Corps of Engineers' authority was just one of the policy issues discussed by Iowa Farm Bureau voting delegates August 30-31.
IFBF delegates gather each year to discuss and set state policies which impact not just farmers, but all Iowa taxpayers, says IFBF president Craig Long. They also discuss and recommend policy for national debate at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in January.
Farmers lost thousands of acres of land and property to 2011 flooding
Flood control was clearly on the minds of IFBF farmers; many lost thousands of acres of farmland and property in this year's flooding.
"Flooding this year along the Missouri River took trees, farms, towns and impacted more than 400 homes. The land is forever changed. Our members don't want to see it happen again and that's why our voting delegates had a lengthy discussion about prevention," says Lang, a dairy farmer from Brooklyn in east central Iowa. "Our members discussed the short-term management so levees can be repaired quickly, and also the long-term management changes that need to be made to minimize future flooding."
In addition, Farm Bureau voting delegates also supported highly erodible land and wetland conservation compliance requirements of the current farm bill, but opted not to link it with eligibility for federal crop insurance in the future. This issue will be discussed by voting delegates at the American Farm Bureau meeting in January and by the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. during debate on the 2012 farm bill.
Delegates vote to not link conservation compliance with crop insurance
Conservation compliance is, however, a condition of receiving other farm program benefits. The IFBF voting delegates said they are committed to caring for their land without putting a possible future key farm financial safety net—crop insurance--in jeopardy.
Water quality was also a top-of-mind issue for Iowa farmers attending the 2011 Summer Policy Conference. In the end, the voting delegates adopted resolutions to support an effective state nutrient strategy which is scientifically-defensible and incentive-based, calling for voluntary soil and water conservation programs and best management practices.
The delegates also voiced their opinions regarding their support for the targeted, continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), but called for an end to general CRP signups which USDA holds periodically for the program.
Farm Bureau is asking US ag secretary to release CRP acres early
The delegates also asked for the U.S. secretary of agriculture to use his authority to begin early release of acres now from the CRP program in order to allow farmers plant those acres to crops such as corn, soybeans and hay. The Farm Bureau delegates want farmers to be able to respond to tight feed supplies caused by recent natural disasters and other market conditions.
Regarding the state of Iowa's budget, the delegates called on the state legislature to avoid using one-time money to fund on-going expenses. Instead, the Farm Bureau delegation asked for specified money to be used for one-time expenditures such as infrastructure improvements and property tax relief.
County Farm Bureau delegates further defined their support for legislation to make it a crime for someone to gain fraudulent access to crop and livestock facilities. There have been problems with some people signing up and becoming employees of large hog and poultry operations so they can get inside the livestock facilities and make video recordings and shoot photos.
They want to make it a crime for activists to gain fraudulent access
These people are animal rights activists and they record video and take photos of so-called incidents of animal abuse and release that film to the general news media. Their idea in doing this is to drum up support to get the public to oppose animal confinements and livestock feeding operations.
In addition, Farm Bureau members also discussed farm policy as it relates to the development of the next Food Security Act, or federal Farm Bill. Farm Bureau delegates endorsed a flexible farm program safety net that serves differences in regions and in commodities produced by agriculture.
"Our Summer Policy Conference is a step in Farm Bureau's grassroots policy development process, and is subject to national debate during American Farm Bureau Federation policy discussions in January," notes Lang. "All state Farm Bureaus meet in January to finalize the organization's national policies."