Farm groups are pressing Iowa lawmakers to find a “long-term” source of tax dollars for state programs that prevent soil and fertilizer run-off from farmland and improve the quality of Iowa water.
Matt Steinfeldt of the Iowa Farm Bureau says it’s his organization’s top 2018 legislative priority.
“Farm Bureau members are going to be focusing on water quality and soil conservation funding,” Steinfeldt says.
State grants and loans for water-related projects are a “catalyst” for even greater private investment from farmers, according to Steinfeldt. Steinfeldt spoke last night during a state budget hearing in the governor’s office. Mindy Larsen-Poldberg of the Iowa Corn Growers Association was there, too, with a similar message for the governor.
“I know that annual budgeting is very difficult and it’s very easy to focus on the annual needs of the state budget and water quality is an issue that, quite frankly a long-term issue,” she said, “so I would ask that you consider the long-term as well as the short-term as you head into this very difficult year.”
Larsen-Poldberg said the demand from farmers for state and federal soil conservation programs far “outstrips” the amount of tax dollars currently available.
Tyler Bettin of the Iowa Pork Producers Association said getting a stable funding stream for water quality efforts is crucial to the “viability” of rural Iowa.
“This funding establishes a building block to continue positive momentum of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and encourages continued collaboration between urban and rural partners,” Bettin said.
The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is the voluntary effort to get farmers to employ conservation practices that prevent nitrogen and phosphorus run-off from their fields. All three farm group representatives who testified at last night’s hearing stressed that voluntary approach.
Key state officials have predicted a water quality plan will be among the first bills to clear the 2018 Iowa legislature. A bill that passed the Republican-led senate in 2017 relied on gambling taxes as the source for financing water quality projects. Republicans and many Democrats in the House last year endorsed the idea of using state sales tax revenue that’s currently reserved for school infrastructure on water improvement initiatives instead.