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|IOWA FARM BUREAU LAUDS 2013 LEGISLATURE’S PROGRESS IN WATER QUALITY, SOIL CONSERVATION AND PROPERTY TAX RELIEF|
|News Releases - Business & Economy|
|Written by Andrew Wheeler|
|Friday, 24 May 2013 12:21|
WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – May 23, 2013 – Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), Iowa’s largest grassroots farm organization, says priority issues approved by this year’s legislature, including new funding for water quality and soil conservation, landowner liability protections, property taxes, and bioscience research will benefit many sectors of the state for years to come.
The legislature made a commitment to soil conservation and water quality through the Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget appropriations. Included for next year is $2.4 million funding for the implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy plan and an additional one-time $10 million which will focus on priority watershed efforts over the next several years. The legislature also agreed to allocate an additional $7 million to go towards the conservation cost-share backlog.
“Farmers know a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work when it comes to conservation measures, but they do know what works best on their land,” said IFBF President Craig Hill. “Conservation measures such as buffer strips, terracing and other soil protection and water quality measures have helped Iowa farmers reduce erosion by more than 30 percent since 1982, but requests for cost-share dollars to implement them have been grossly underfunded.”
While only 4 percent of Iowans farm today, many Iowans and out-of-state visitors seek farm tours to learn more about the many ways Iowa farmers lead the nation in food production; that’s why the bi-partisan passage of HF649 was welcomed by Farm Bureau members and many other Iowans. Lawmakers restored the Recreational Use Liability Protection to protect farmers and landowners who allow visitors onto their farm for recreational purposes such as fishing, hunting, and field trips. The measure resulted from an Iowa Supreme Court ruling in February and opened farmers and private landowners up to liability if someone were injured while on their land for recreational purposes. “This is a big win for Iowa farmers and all Iowans who want to experience and learn more about life on the farm,” said Hill. “By restoring this liability protection that farmers have had for four decades, the Legislature took a common sense approach that will be good for all Iowans.”
Several measures passed in this legislative session which provided property tax relief, without shifting the burden from one class of property to another. By reducing the statewide taxable valuation growth for agricultural and residential classes of property from 4 percent to 3 percent a year, taxable valuations across the state will grow slower yet still provide growth to local governments to afford needed infrastructure and public safety services.
An increase of $31 million for property tax credits also gives Iowans needed property tax relief. The legislature also approved a measure that will reduce the impact of future property tax increases within the school aid funding formula. Moving forward, any increase in the school aid funding formula will be covered by the state, avoiding the reliance on additional property taxes.
The legislature did not increase the state’s fuel tax, which means the state still has an annual shortfall of approximately $215 million to meet the critical needs of our deteriorating roads and bridges. The result is more local governments turning to bonding to pay for their roads and bridges, leaving taxpayers with the burden of paying it back. “While many long-term investments in our state were made during this legislative session, the much needed improvement of roads and bridges remains unresolved. Our aging infrastructure is important to Iowa’s economy, and we will continue to work next year to increase the constitutionally- protected fuel tax as the most equitable means to meet those needs,” said Hill.
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