Iowa Farm Bureau sets 2013 legislative priorities
Iowa Farm Bureau Federation members take on property tax reform, water quality and infrastructure improvements in the 2013 legislative session.
Farm Bureau members say Iowa's unprecedented property tax growth affects all Iowans. "Property taxes have increased by over $2 billion since the year 2000, an increase of over 75 percent," said Craig Hill, IFBF president. "Farm Bureau members believe the primary objective of property tax reform should be to reduce the property tax burden on all classes of property. As lawmakers address issues such as commercial property tax reform, Iowans need to be assured that any reform affecting one class of property would not bring a shift to other classes of property. In addition, reasonable property tax growth limitations are needed so property tax collections do not continue to outpace the economy and family wages," Hill said.
Controlling growth of property taxes is just one of several priorities named by IFBF. Members also support using the state's one-time ending fund balance, which will total hundreds of millions of dollars on one-time expenditures such as property tax relief or infrastructure, as opposed to being used for ongoing expenses.
"We're at the point where more and more local governments are turning to bonding as an alternative source of revenue to pay for deteriorating rural roads. Last year alone, rural property owners paid over $140 million in property taxes to their local roads and bridges," said Hill. IFBF policy calls for an increase in the fuel tax to bring additional revenue for road improvements. "Iowa's fuel tax hasn't been increased since 1989 and would insure that users of the roads, including out-of-state motorists, are paying directly for the infrastructure repairs. A user fee is definitely the most equitable and fair method of funding," he added.
Another ongoing priority for IFBF is conservation and water quality. The recently unveiled Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science-based plan that helps farmers and watershed stakeholders reduce or better control nutrient runoff and pollution. Developed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University researchers, the plan offers many options to improve targeted, voluntary watershed improvements. Under the plan, IDALS will work with farmers to maintain agricultural productivity, protect natural resources and reduce nutrient losses, and the IDNR would work with major cities and industries to reduce nutrient discharges into Iowa's waters. "This technology-based, solutions approach will be more effective than a one-size-fits-all type of program that would result from regulations," said Hill. Farm Bureau members will also work to secure adequate funding to meet the demand of conservation programs.
Farm Bureau will advocate for the Iowa Legislature to continue its long-term commitment for agriculture research at ISU, Hill added. "We support a proposed $7.5 million appropriation for bioscience research and development at ISU, which will leverage federal and private research investments and create more collaborative opportunities involving university researchers, private companies and local farmers and businesses."
Regulatory reform is also a continued IFBF legislative priority, since unwarranted or excessive regulations add unnecessary costs to farming, which impact food costs for all. IFBF policy calls for limiting the rule-making authority of state agencies, appointed boards and commissions.
The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is a grassroots, statewide organization dedicated to helping farm families prosper and improve their quality of life. For more information about Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit the online media center at www.iowafarmbureau.com.