Soybeans July with waterway

DES MOINES — Tim Bardole is upbeat.

“I think that, after the last two months, everybody is a lot more hopeful than they were during the harvest,” said Bardole, a farmer from Rippey, Iowa, who serves as president of the Iowa Soybean Association.

ISA held its annual membership meeting and delegate session Jan. 28, and Bardole said the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the signing of a phase 1 agreement in the trade war with China, and the passage by Congress of an extension of the biodiesel tax credit have all boosted morale among members.

And the announcement a few weeks ago by Gov. Kim Reynolds of a plan to raise the state sales tax as part of a broad proposal that would put more money into water quality efforts is also good news, Bardole said.

The ISA had been public in its support for raising the sales tax. In 2010 Iowa voters approved a ballot initiative that required the first 3/8 cent of any sales tax increase to go toward a natural resources fund that would include money for water quality, trails and a variety of other items. As the state grappled with water quality issues, ISA leaders had pushed for the idea, called IWILL.

“There’s been discussion about water quality for some time,” Bardole said. “When you get runoff there’s going to be nitrates in it. If we can continue to improve the way we mitigate that it is better for all of us. … What the governor is proposing is very beneficial to the state.”

That doesn’t mean what Reynolds is proposing is perfect or that the ISA is promising to support every aspect of it, Bardole cautioned. But he said the basic ideas of pumping money into water quality efforts, as well as mental health funding and possible property tax relief, all have merit.

Reynolds spoke to the ISA delegates and said her proposal is simply aimed at “starting the conversation” in regards to tax and water quality issues in the state.

She also mentioned her directive that all new diesel-powered state vehicles should be capable of running on B20 or greater blends of biodiesel, and delegates were told officials in Dickinson County approved a similar measure for the future purchase of any county vehicles there.

ISA officials say they are hopeful that may start a trend of other counties making the move toward vehicles designed to run on higher biodiesel blends.

There was little controversy during the voting delegate discussion of issues at the annual meeting. Some language was approved voicing support for research into and adaption of practices to help farmers deal with changing climatic conditions.

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.