Many New Iowa Laws Are Now in Effect

July 6, 2018 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Many laws passed during the 2018 Iowa Legislative Session impact agricultural producers and landowners. A number of these laws went into effect July 1, 2018. Following is a summary of the highlights.

Agriculture-Specific Law

Fence Law Revisions (HF 2340). This law requires fence viewers to disclose potential conflicts of interest and provides for disqualification based upon an actual conflict. If a fence viewer is disqualified, the law provides that the remaining township trustees will appoint a substitute. If the parties to a dispute sign a waiver, the fence viewer with the conflict may participate in the dispute resolution process. The new law also allows fence viewers to determine, after a site evaluation, that a partition fence is “unfeasible.” This determination may be based upon any of the following considerations:
  1. Topography
  2. Terrain
  3. Terraces
  4. Land slope
  5. Unstable ground
  6. The presence of surface water, drainage systems, sinkholes, or water wells
  7. Easements
  8. Utilities
  9. Available area

Once the fence viewers determine that it is unfeasible to build a portion of a partition fence, they will seek to have the parties agree to an alternative. If this does not occur within 60 days, the viewers will order the erection of the fence at the most “feasible location on the property of the owner who initiated the controversy that is closest to the adjoining owner’s property boundary."

This law was effective July 1, 2018.

Prohibiting Discharge of Pesticides into Lake (HF 2407). This law prohibits a person from intentionally discharging a pesticide, off-label, into any lake connected to a water source. Violators will face a civil penalty of $1,000. The law does not apply to certified applicators. This law was effective July 1, 2018.

Changes to Noxious Weed Law (HF 2422). This law grants the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) the authority to declare new noxious weeds through rule rather than waiting for legislative action. This will allow for quicker responses to emerging threats. The law also allows the Secretary of Agriculture to name a state weed commissioner, instead of act as the state weed commissioner. The law directs that IDALS may establish a list of priority noxious weeds and methods of control for state and local authorities, including the Department of Transportation. The law authorizes county boards of supervisors to adopt programs of weed control and directs the boards and the DOT to control or eradicate noxious weeds growing on roads within their jurisdictions. The program also includes issuing permits for the burning, mowing, and spraying of roadsides by private individuals. Such activity must be consistent with adopted integrated roadside vegetation management plans. The law eliminates the state botanist and increases the ability of county supervisors and the DOT to spray for the control and eradication of noxious weeds. Prior law allowed for spraying only where it was not practical to mow or otherwise control the weeds.

This law was effective July 1, 2018.

New Law for Installation of Cattle Guards (SF 449).  Allows a landowner to install a cattle guard in certain cases where a fence is frequently impaired by flooding. The landowner will be liable for any injury to a person or vehicle caused by the cattle guard. The landowner must demonstrate proof of liability coverage each year. The cattle guards may be placed on Level B or C level roads and speed in those areas will be limited to 15 miles per hour road.  The cattle guard is allowed only where:

  • The street or highway terminates in a dead end, is completely or partially located in a flood plain,
  • Serves no residence, and exits to a secondary road,
  • The landowner owns the property on both sides of the street or highway that terminates in a dead end,
  • The effective purpose of restraining livestock using a fence along the street or highway is continually impaired by flooding or other natural forces, and
  • Flooding or other natural forces have and will, with a reasonable probability, continue to create liability for the landowner and risk of injury to the public from livestock straying on to the secondary road.

The new law was effective beginning April 17, 2018. An amendment, HF 2502, passed May 5, 2018, provides that any cattle guard installed on or before April 25, 2018, that meets the requirements of the SF 449 cannot be ordered uninstalled or found noncompliant through any action taken after April 25, 2018.

Modifying Confinement Feeding Operation Law Related to Fish (HF 2281). This new law allows fish to be bred in the same facility as where they are raised. This law was effective April 4, 2018.

Property Law

New Partition Law for “Heirs Property” (SF 2175). This new law reorganizes and replaces Iowa Code chapter 651 and integrates many provisions from the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure (Division XII), which governed partition actions in Iowa. Notably, SF 2175 creates a new partition procedure for “heirs property.” It also authorizes the equitable remedy of “owelty,” a payment of money allowed to equalize the value of property received in a partition in kind action. The new Iowa Code chapter 651 means that a tenant in common not wanting to sell the family farm will likely not be forced to do so. For many of these properties, a buyout or a partition in kind will now be the favored disposition if another cotenant seeks a partition by sale. For more information on this new law, click here.  This new law was effective July 1, 2018.

Natural Resources Law

IDNR Given Authority to Set Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping Fees (HF 631).  This new law grants the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) the authority to set hunting, fishing, and fur harvesting license fees by rule. These fees will be periodically reviewed at least once every three years. Any fee increase would be subject to a one-year delay (with possible legislative review) and an individual license fee will not be increased in any calendar year by more than 5 percent. Increases in wildlife fee habitat revenues could be used for fish habitat or game bird habitat purposes, but not land acquisition. The law also added a nonresident, five-day hunting license. This bill was signed into law by the Governor on May 17, 2018.

Restrictions on Seizure of Game (HF 2342). This law allows the IDNR to seize with or without warrant any fish, furs, birds, animals, mussels, clams, or frogs that were illegally caught, taken, killed, possessed, controlled, offered for shipment, or transported into the state. If, however, the person from whom the game was seized is not convicted of the violation for which the property was seized, the property must be returned, unless it is fish or wildlife that is illegal to possess. This law was effective July 1, 2018.

Water Quality Funding (SF 512). This new law provides $282 million over 12 years to fund edge-of-field and in-field infrastructure projects designed to meet Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals, as well as to fund projects to improve the quality of Iowa’s surface water, ground water, and drinking water. For more information on this law, which was passed January 23, 2018, and signed by the Governor on January 31, 2018, click here.  On May 4, 2018, several technical corrections were made to the law through HF 2440.

Authorizing IDNR to Establish Fees at State Parks and Recreation Areas (SF 2389). The new law authorizes IDNR to authorize camping fees and rental fees at state parks and recreation areas. This law changes prior law which authorized the Natural Resources Commission to set the fees, which have not changed for 18 years. The law was effective July 1, 2018.

Probate Law

Increasing the Size of Estates that May be Distributed by Affidavit (HF 2125). This new law allows for the distribution of a decedent’s property by affidavit, as long as the estate is not larger than $50,000. Prior law set the limit at $25,000. This new law applies to those dying July 1, 2018, or later.

Expanding the Definition of Small Estates (SF 2099). The new law expands the definition of estates to include those as large as $200,000. Current law defines such estates, which are entitled to use simplified procedures, to include those up to $100,000. This portion of the new law is not effective until July 1, 2020.

Mechanics' Lien Law

Mechanics’ Lien Fix (SF 2229). Prior law prevented the acquisition of a mechanics’ lien if either at the time of making a contract or during progress of the work on a contract for furnishing material or performing labor, the provider obtained collateral. The new law repeals this law, which was enacted in 1855 and served no modern purpose. This change was effective July 1, 2018.

Health Care Law

Expanding Health Care Options for Individuals (SF 2349). This law is designed to address the mounting difficulties faced by many Iowans seeking to purchase health insurance on the individual market. Specifically, the law provides two new healthcare benefit options for small employers and sole proprietors. For more detailed information on this law, click here. The law was effective July 1, 2018.

Tax-Related Law

New Iowa Tax Law (SF 2417). This law represents a significant overhaul of the Iowa tax code, with many provisions not becoming effective until future dates. Federal tax reform implemented by the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act set the stage for this legislation. Some changes are effective for the 2018 tax year, but others are far off and contingent. For more detailed information, click here.

Expanding Security Allowed for Deferred Inheritance Tax Payments (SF 2303). This law expands the security that may be used to qualify for a deferment of inheritance taxes in certain cases, to include a bank or securities account with an irrevocable pay on death or transfer on death provision naming the department of revenue as beneficiary, or an escrow agreement with the department of revenue under which a private attorney will act as escrow agent and hold the escrow funds in the attorney’s trust account. The law was effective July 1, 2018.