Give farmers first crack at DNR acres by Bobby Kaufman, State Representative · Op-Ed · February 15, 2013
As we begin our fourth week in the Capitol, major pieces of legislation are beginning to move.
I anticipate the education reform bill to come out of committee this week. The bill passed out of subcommittee after a rigorous debate. I will be calling each of the Superintendents in the district this week to solicit opinions on how it will affect our schools.
I also anticipate an allowable growth debate to come shortly thereafter. My column next week will be dedicated to education so please get in touch with me this week if you have any input. I also want to thank all of you who have been coming out to my weekend forums. Attendance has been strong, great questions are being asked, and I take all of your input with me to Des Moines.
One of my biggest responsibilities is agriculture. Representative Grassley is the Chair of the Agriculture Committee and he has an aggressive agenda. He has created the Beginning Farmer Task Force and made me chairperson. It is a bit daunting but a wonderful opportunity. This bipartisan task force is comprised of five Representatives. We have been meeting weekly, and bringing in speakers and experts from every aspect of agriculture. I expect two pieces of legislation to move out of that committee this week with much more to come.
The first piece gives tax incentives to beginning farmers, as well as strengthening the ones that are already “on the books” for landowners who rent to a beginning farmer. Currently, if an owner rents to a beginning farmer, the owner gets a 5-percent tax credit. We are moving that to 7 percent as well as a 5-percent expansion credit for the beginning farmer to expand his/or operation to include livestock, more equipment, and diversification. The intention is to give the beginning farmer a little more incentive and ability to compete with the big farmers who can pay higher rent. The 5-percent expansion is an attempt to help beginning producers who want to expand a current or retiring livestock operation. I firmly believe one of the best ways to get into farming and to build up equity is through livestock.
The second bill coming before us this week is one that I find especially intriguing. I have mentioned it briefly in other columns, but I want to give more details now. The DNR has roughly 20,000 acres that are tillable. We would like to give beginning farmers “first crack” at renting those acres. The DNR often requires a lot of labor to help take care of their ground because of conservation practices and wildlife preserves. DNR ground is often times a split of hay, pasture, preserve, and crops. I believe a mutually beneficial relationship can be formed where a beginning farmer gets a “first shot” at ground and the DNR rents to an individual dedicated to fulfilling their conservation practices.
More bills are being explored, such as rotational grazing on preserved grounds, but they are in the discussion stages. We are working with the DNR, biologists, and farming groups to explore environmentally friendly ways to expand beginning farmer’s horizons.
Iowa is one of the fortunate states because we are in good fiscal shape. A large part of that is agriculture. I look forward to continuing to work on not only beginning farmer issues, but on all issues relating to agriculture, and any helpful hand we can lend to our family farmers. The bottom line is that we want to keep our young people in this state.
Again, my column next week will be about education and beyond that we are looking forward to getting to work on crafting the budget, property tax reform, transportation issues, and continuing to look at mental health reform. This week I filed a bill that changes the open enrollment laws to allow school districts to keep some of their property tax dollars in the district. Thanks to Pat Kedley, Lowden, for his strong advocacy on this issue.
Listening Post Schedule: Feb. 16, 1 p.m. Stanwood City Hall
You may contact Rep. Kaufmann at Bobby.Kaufmann@legis.iowa.gov, 515-281-3221 or 1527 330th St. Wilton, IA, 52778