Iowa’s Largest Grassroots Farm Organization Focuses on Measures That Benefit All IowansWritten by Theresa Rose on January 13, 2015
IMPROVING IOWA’S ROADS, SECURING ADDITIONAL CONSERVATION FUNDING AMONG IOWA FARM BUREAU PRIORITIES IN THE 2015 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – January 13, 2015 – Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), Iowa’s largest grassroots general farm organization, will work to increase funding for Iowa’s deteriorating road infrastructure, advance Iowa’s water quality and soil conservation efforts, and protect property taxpayers in this year’s legislative session.
Farm Bureau is pleased to hear Governor Branstad call road funding a “priority for this legislative session” in his Condition of the State speech; IFBF members know that funding is crucial for Iowa’s roads and bridges, many of which are badly in need of repair. Studies have shown that an additional $230 million per year is required just to meet the critical needs of Iowa’s aging infrastructure. “We believe the fuel tax is the fairest and most equitable method to fund these road improvements. The revenues are constitutionally protected from being used for anything else, and out-of-state drivers will help fund the improvements,” says IFBF President Craig Hill. “Statistics show us that two out of every 10 bridges in rural Iowa is structurally deficient. A safe and efficient transportation system is vital for Iowans, whether it’s rural buses taking our kids to school or moving commerce. It’s time to fix our roads, because this has been put off, far too long.”
“The fuel tax hasn’t been raised since 1989, and increased debt and property taxes have become the default funding mechanisms. This past year rural property owners paid over $166 million in property taxes to their local roads and bridges, up from $153 million in the prior year. In addition, 30 counties have now bonded for over $208 million to maintain county roads and bridges. Squeezing Iowans through property tax increases and county bonding isn’t a sustainable solution,” says Hill.
As in years past, Farm Bureau will continue to focus on water quality and soil conservation programs in the upcoming legislative session. “Farm Bureau members have long worked to adequately fund efforts that enhance water quality and soil conservation programs and we want to see this progress continue. Increased funding for the science-based practices outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, the Conservation Cost-Share program, and the Ag Drainage Well closure program are all important. Since the Nutrient Reduction Strategy was put in place less than two years ago, farmers in 13 targeted watersheds have combined more than $10 million in their own funding with $5.8 million in state money. Last year, farmers also invested $13 million of their own money into the Conservation Cost-Share program to install conservation structures, with the state contributing $9.5 million in funds. Adequate funding will help farmers continue to advance these efforts. We must keep moving forward,” says Hill.
Farm Bureau has long worked to limit and reduce the burden for property taxpayers in Iowa. As part of that effort, IFBF will once again work to ensure that property taxpayers’ contributions to the mental health system remain limited and controlled. Farm Bureau will also work with legislators to extend the current education funding mechanism that reduces future property tax growth. Also, Farm Bureau will focus on funding property tax credits, which are currently higher than they have been in over a decade.
“Additionally, since innovation is part of Farm Bureau’s mission to always find ways to improve the land, water and food production, in 2015 our members will also work to increase Iowa’s commitment to agricultural research and development; it’s about investing in the future and progress is always a wise investment for Iowa,” says Hill.