The group had previously opposed the idea of raising state taxes to finance soil and water conservation initiatives. Farm Bureau president Craig Hill says the group believes a voluntary approach that provides government incentives to farmers is the best approach.
“Every farm is unique. Every farm is diverse. Every farm is different in its slope or its topography or its drainage and so we need to develop plans that are uniquely qualified for that farm and you don’t do that through regulation,” Hill says. “You do that through voluntary, incentive-based action.”
This spring, Iowa lawmakers deadlocked over how to best finance a massive increase in state funding for water quality projects. For the past few years, the state has been under pressure from the federal government to reduce the amount of farm chemical runoff, then came the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit in 2015. It amounts to a legal challenge of the voluntary approach to water conservation on Iowa farms.
“The lawsuit may be a way of bullying farmers in a way,” Hill says. “We don’t think that’s the right thing. We think we all should come together. We all should partner together. We all should figure out how to accomplish out goals and solve the problem together. It doesn’t need to be through a court.”
On Monday, a coalition of groups will hold a news conference to declare support for increasing the state sales tax to pay for water conservation efforts. The Iowa Soybean Association along with environmental groups, Iowa Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy are listed on a news release as part of the coalition.
(Reporting by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)