How Did Agriculture Fare During the 2017 Iowa Legislative Session?

April 28, 2017 | Kristine A. Tidgren

The Iowa Legislature’s 2017 session drew to a close on April 22, 2017. For agriculture, the session was largely marked by the state’s revenue shortfall, which left tax cuts important to farmers on the table. It also meant the session adjourned for another year without a long-term water quality funding mechanism.

Nonetheless, the legislators passed a number of bills impacting agriculture or rural landowners this session. Following are highlights.

Signed by the Governor

Classifying Palmer Amaranth as a Primary Noxious Weed and an Invasive Plant

Palmer Amaranth is an invasive plant that presents a grave danger to Iowa’s corn and soybeans. It has begun to invade Iowa from the south and is now found in up to 82 counties. HF 410 places palmer amaranth on the primary noxious weed list. It also classifies the weed as an invasive plant that is prohibited for import, sale, or distribution in Iowa. Violation of the prohibition is punishable by fines.

The new law authorizes county commissioners to keep roadways clear of palmer amaranth and to destroy the weed on the property of landowners or tenants who fail to remove it. The law contains an exception for land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. The weed commissioner may not destroy any palmer amaranth on such property if the destruction would violate the terms of the CRP contract. County supervisors and weed commissioners are required to work with the USDA’s FSA offices in making such determinations.

This bill was signed by the Governor on April 21 and will become effective July 1, 2017.

Tagging a Deer Carcass

Current law requires that deer hunters tag the deer carcass “before the carcass is moved.” HF 254 is a common sense modification that allows a deer hunter to move the deer carcass before tagging where the safety of the hunter or third party might otherwise be compromised. Specifically, the law provides that the carcass may be moved away from an obstacle, entanglement, waterway, roadway or other area that might be a safety hazard. This bill was signed by the Governor on April 12, 2017. It will be effective July 1, 2017.

ATV Crossings

HF 464 allows ATVs to make a direct crossing of a state highway if the crossing is made on a street, roadway, or highway designated as an all-terrain vehicle trail by a state agency, county, or city. The bill removed the requirement that the DOT issue a permit before such crossings may be made. To comply with the law, a driver must:

  • Cross at a 90 degree angle at an unobstructed location
  • Come to a complete stop before crossing
  • Yield the right of way to all oncoming traffic
  • If crossing a divided highway, cross only at an intersection with another street or highway.

The new law should help some farmers access fields and feedlots in a more direct way. The bill was signed by the Governor on April 7 and will become effective July 1, 2017.

No Electrician Required for Farm Properties

SF 357 eliminates the requirement under Iowa law that electrical work on a farm always be completed by an electrician licensed by the State. To comply with this law, however, the person who completes the electrical work on the farm must have a business interest in the farm, be related to the farm owner, or be an operator or manager of the farm.

The bill was signed by the Governor on March 23 and will become effective July 1, 2017.

Liability Protection for State and County Fairs

SF 362 exempts the state fair and county fairs from liability to spectators or participants for injuries arising from a pathogen transmitted from a location at a fair where an animal is kept for more than three hours. To receive this protection, the fair must post a conspicuous sign notifying participants and spectators that they must use necessary sanitary precautions during and after their visit.  

The bill was signed by the Governor on April 20 and will be effective July 1, 2017.

Permit Exemption for Motor Vehicles Carrying Farm Implements

SF 406 exempts motor vehicles carrying farm equipment from obtaining special permits. The farmers must still comply with height, weight, and width restrictions.

The bill was signed by the Governor on April 20 and will be effective July 1, 2017.

Limitation on Damages in Agricultural Nuisance Cases

As we’ve written about in more detail in prior posts, the legislature passed SF 447 to limit damages available to plaintiffs in agricultural nuisance cases filed against responsible producers. For more information, click here.

The bill was signed by the Governor on March 29, 2017, and the law went into effect that same day.

Not Yet Signed by the Governor

Legalization of Fireworks

Update: This legislation was signed on May 9, 2017, and was effective on that day.

SF 489 would legalize the sale and use of consumer fireworks. Sales would be allowed from June 1 or June 13 (depending upon the type of fireworks sold) through July 8. The sales could resume from December 10 through January 3 of each year. The bill was sent to the Governor April 19, 2017. He has not signed the bill into law as of April 28.

Elimination of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Update: On May 12, 2017, the Governor vetoed the portion of this bill eliminating the Leopold Center. While this allows the Leopold Center to continue, the Governor did sign the portion of the bill diverting funds from the Leopold Center to the Iowa nutrient research fund.

SF 510 is a bill making appropriations to various agricultural endeavors. Embedded in the bill is a provision calling for the elimination of Iowa State University’s 30-year-old Leopold Center. The money that had been allotted to the Center from the groundwater protection fund would be reallocated to the Iowa nutrient research fund. Iowa State would be directed to wrap up the work of the Center beginning July 1, 2017.

This bill passed both houses and has been sent to the Governor. As of April 28, the Governor has not acted on the bill.

No Legislation Passed

Water Quality Funding

At the beginning of the year, it appeared that the legislature was serious about enacting a long-term water quality funding bill.  The session closed, however, with no agreement on such a plan. For more information on legislative proposals that were left pending, read this post.

Coupling with Federal Tax Provisions

Faced with lower than projected state revenues, the legislature turned from precedent and chose not to couple with key federal tax provisions in 2016 or beyond.  "No coupling" means that Iowa references to the Internal Revenue Code are to the Internal Revenue Code in effect on January 1, 2015. Consequently, federal income tax changes made by Congress in 2015 and 2016 are not part of Iowa tax law. Of particular concern to farmers is that Iowa Section 179 is now back to a $25,000 deduction with a $200,000 threshold. This is in contrast to the federal Section 179, which in 2017 allows an immediate $510,000 deduction with a $2,030,000 threshold.

Also awaiting the Governor's signature is HF 608, a technical corrections bill that ensured that the Iowa research credit survived in light of uncoupling.

For more information about the impact of non-coupling, read this post.

Beginning Farmer Tax Credit

The Iowa Legislature did not pass any legislation relating to the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit program in 2017. Consequently, the program will look very different in 2018. Specifically, the Custom Farming Contract Tax Credit will expire at the end of 2017, and the credits for the Agricultural Assets Transfer Tax Credit will return to pre-2013 levels. The 2018 AATC will return to 5% of the value of a cash rent lease (as opposed to 7% in 2017) and 15% of the value of a crop share lease (as opposed to 17% in 2017). There will also be a $ 6 million cap on allowable credits, as opposed to an $ 8 million cap for the AATC in 2017. Finally, there will not be a 1% bonus for leasing to a veteran.  For more information about these changes, read this post.