New Iowa Laws Impact Agricultural Producers and Rural Landowners

July 31, 2020 | Kristine A. Tidgren

Despite the recess for COVID-19, the Iowa Legislature passed many laws this term, many of them effective July 1, 2020. Below is summary of the new Iowa laws impacting agricultural producers and rural landowners.

HF 599 - Hunting by Nonresidents under the Age of 16

This law allows non-resident (in addition to resident) children under the age of 16 to hunt game without a license as long as they are accompanied by an adult who has a hunting license. The minor must have a deer hunting license to hunt deer and a wild turkey hunting license to hunt wild turkey. The license must correspond to the minor’s residency status.

Effective July 1, 2020

HF 716 – Updated Firearms Requirements for Hunting Deer

This law ensures that Department of Natural Resources rules categorize firearms in a manner consistent with federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 921 and 27 C.F.R. § 478. It states that the following are legal for hunting deer during the pistol or revolver seasons:

Any pistol or revolver firing a magnum three hundred fifty-seven thousandths of one-inch caliber or larger, centerfire, straight wall ammunition propelling an expanding-type bullet with a barrel length of at least four inches and firing straight wall or other centerfire ammunition propelling an expanding-type bullet with a maximum diameter of no less than three hundred fifty thousandths of one inch and no larger than five hundred thousandths of one inch and with a published or calculated muzzle energy of five hundred foot pounds or higher.

The law requires DNR to adopt rules to allow black powder pistols or revolvers for hunting deer. The rules may limit the types of projectiles. Finally, the law provides that a person 20 or younger can use a pistol or revolver to hunt if they are accompanied by a person 21 or over who has a hunting license.

Effective July 1, 2020

HF 737 – Enhancement of Animal Mistreatment Laws

This law expands Iowa law with respect to crimes involving the mistreatment of animals, excluding livestock and certain wild animals. It redefines animal abuse as provided in Iowa Code § 717B.2, animal neglect as provided in § 717B.3, animal torture as provided in § 717B.3A, abandonment of a cat or dog as provided in § 717B.8, or injury to or interference with a police service dog as provided in § 717B.9.

The law states that animal abuse occurs when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly acts to inflict injury, serious injury, or death on an animal by force, violence, or poisoning. Prior law restricted animal abuse to intentionally injuring, maiming, disfiguring, poisoning or destroying an animal owned by another person. Animal neglect is defined as failing to reasonably provide sufficient food, water, sanitary conditions, ventilated shelter, grooming, or veterinary care to an animal in a person’s custody. Animal torture is intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly inflicting upon an animal severe and prolonged or repeated pain that results in the animal’s suffering and serious injury or death.

The crimes range from a serious misdemeanor for injuries that are not serious and do not result in death to a Class D felony for repeat offenses. The minimum penalty for crimes under prior law was a simple misdemeanor. The law allows a court to order a person who commits animal mistreatment to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and specifies the conditions under which an evaluation is required.

Effective July 1, 2020

HF 2310 – Modified Wide Load Requirements for the Transport of Feedstuffs

This law eliminates the yearly wide-load permit requirement for vehicles transporting hay, straw, stover, or bagged livestock bedding, as long as the width does not exceed 12 feet, five inches. The prior limit was eight feet, six inches. This bill was passed because current law was burdening many who were transporting feedstuffs into the state.

Effective July 1, 2020

HF 2372 – Chauffer License Exemption for Farmers and their Workers

This law specifies that a farmer or the farmer’s hired help (eighteen years of age or older) is not a chauffeur when operating a special truck owned by the farmer and used exclusively to transport the farmer’s own products or property to a destination no more than one hundred miles from farmland owned or rented by the farmer. The law also includes a new provision allowing those with autism spectrum disorder to elect to voluntarily place a notation designating the diagnosis on their drivers’ license.

Effective July 1, 2020

HF 2410 -  Senior Antlerless Deer Only Crossbow Hunting License Change

This law lowers the age of eligibility for a special senior statewide antlerless deer only crossbow deer hunting license from 70 years of age to 65 years of age.

Effective July 1, 2020

HF 2455 – Allowing Leashed Dog Retrieval of Wounded Deer

This law allows a hunter to use a trained, leashed dog to retrieve a wounded deer. The leash must be no more than 50 feet in length.

Effective July 1, 2020

HF 2477 – Prohibiting Permit Requirements for Agricultural Experiences

This law prohibits counties from requiring a permit for agricultural producers offering “agricultural experiences.” An agricultural experience is defined as “any agriculture-related activity, as a secondary use in conjunction with agricultural production, on a farm which activity is open to the public with the intended purpose of promoting or educating the public about agriculture, agricultural practices, agricultural activities, or agricultural products.”

This law would prevent a county from requiring a farmer from obtaining a permit to host a harvest dinner or a groups of students on his or her farm. The scope of agricultural experiences covered by the law, however, is unclear. During debate, legislators stated that weddings or rock concerts would not be covered. The law specifically prevents the imposition of special exceptions, variances, conditional use permits, or special use permits, but it is unclear whether a county could impose other requirements upon these producers.

Effective July 1, 2020

HF 2512 – Preventing County Zoning Regulation of Agricultural-Exempt Property

Counties generally have the authority to develop zoning regulations for their rural areas. But farms have been exempt from this reach. This means that an exempt farmer can build an ag building or a grain bin on his or her property without getting a permit from the county.

Iowa law has long exempted from county zoning regulations all land, farm houses, farm barns, farm outbuildings or other buildings or structures which are primarily adapted, by reason of nature and area, for use for agricultural purposes, while so used. Iowa Code § 335.2.

The new law adds that a county shall not require an application, an approval, or the payment of a fee in order for an ordinance to be deemed inapplicable to land, farm barns, farm outbuildings, or other buildings or structures that are primarily adapted for use for agricultural purposes. Land, farm houses, farm barns, farm outbuildings, or other buildings or structures may qualify under this section independently or in combination with other agricultural uses. Land enrolled in a soil or water conservation program qualifies for the agricultural exemption.

The intent of this provision is to prevent counties from imposing additional zoning burdens on otherwise-exempt agricultural activities. It was written specifically in response to a county’s unified development ordinance, which would have required an application and a hearing for any farm of less than 40 acres to build a new building, such as a confined animal feeding operation.

Critics of the law point out that the definition of whether property is adapted for agricultural purposes is sometimes unclear and that a hearing might be helpful to a property owner seeking confirmation that the property is exempt. It is not clear under the new law whether voluntary hearings or applications for determining exempt status would be allowed or whether all enforcement would occur after the building is built.

The law also specifies that the board of adjustment will consist of five members who are eligible electors and who reside within the area regulated by the county zoning ordinance. Prior law required a majority of them to reside within the county but outside the corporate limits of any city. Finally, the law requires county boards of supervisors to follow the same procedures to adopt an amendment to a comprehensive plan as it would to adopt the comprehensive plan. These procedures include submitting a final report and holding a public hearing.

Effective 06/01/2020, applicable 07/01/2020

HF 2581 – Updated Hemp Law

This new law amends the Iowa Hemp Act, which was passed last year to facilitate the legal production of hemp in Iowa. The Iowa plan was approved by the USDA on March 20, 2020.  The new law allows the manufacture, sale, and consumption of “consumable hemp products” by humans if all of the following conditions apply:

  • The consumable hemp product was manufactured in Iowa in compliance with Iowa Code chapter 204.
  • The hemp contained in the consumable hemp product was produced exclusively in Iowa in compliance with Iowa Code chapter 204.
  • The consumable hemp product complies with certain packaging and labeling requirements.

The law defines “consumable hemp product” as a hemp product that includes a substance that is metabolized or is otherwise subject to a biotransformative process when introduced into the human body.  The law allows the importation of consumable hemp if the jurisdiction from which the product being imported has a USDA-approved state or tribal plan and has testing requirements substantially similar to those in Iowa. Manufacturers and retailers must register with the Department of Inspection and Appeals.

The law specifically prohibits the possession, use, manufacture, marketing, transport, delivery, or distribution of hemp if the intended use of the hemp is inhalation.

Iowa agencies are currently working on drafting rules to implement the new law. Questions remain regarding the interaction between federal regulations (which in many cases still ban the consumption of hemp products) and the new Iowa law. We will stay tuned for regulatory updates.

In addition to the above, the new law modifies the rules for disposing of a crop that does not qualify as hemp, adapts testing requirements to conform with federal rules, and assesses the penalties for violating the inhalation prohibition.

Contingent Effective Dates

HF 2641 – New Iowa Tax Provisions

Called the 2020 Omnibus Bill, this law makes a number of changes to Iowa tax law. Signed into law by the Governor on June 29, 2020, the primary intent of the bill was to streamline the administration of Iowa’s tax laws and coordinate their interaction with federal law. The provisions generally went into effect immediately, and many changes were retroactive. Highlights from the new law are summarized here.

The law also modifies the newly enacted food operations trespass law (SF 2413 summarized below) to specifically exclude food establishments and farmers’ markets from the definition of a “food operation.”

Multiple Effective Dates

SF 458 – Mechanic’s Liens and the Homestead Exemption

This law expands the protection provided to a mechanic’s lien holder under Iowa Code chapter 572. Prior law stated that the homestead could be sold to satisfy debts incurred for work done or material furnished exclusively for the improvement of the homestead. The law broadens the language by stating that the homestead may be sold for principal, interest, attorney fees and costs, and other debts incurred for work done or materials furnished exclusively for the improvement of the homestead.

Effective June 25, 2020

SF 537 – Coyote Hunting Using Infrared Light

This law makes it legal to hunt coyotes in Iowa using an infrared light source, except during muzzleloader, bow, or shotgun deer hunting season.

Effective July 1, 2020

SF 583 – Billing of Private Generation Customers

This new law establishes acceptable billing methods and standards that electric utility companies can employ when working with “private generation customers.” These are customers who generate their own electricity and use that generation facility to offset a portion or all of the customer’s electricity bill. Excess electricity is purchased from the customer by the electric utility company.

Effective July 1, 2020

SF 2137 – Ancient Mortgage Extensions

This law makes it easier to extend a mortgage beyond its original term, meaning that a debtor may borrow additional funds secured by the original mortgage without the burden of fees and additional paperwork. Specifically, the law provides that a lender may file a 10-year extension on behalf of the borrower without additional acknowledgment. Current law requires a formal mortgage execution for such an extension.

Effective July 1, 2020

SF 2232 – Iowa Trust Code Changes

This law significantly modified the Iowa Trust Code to provide statutory authority for trust decanting, expanded directed trust provisions, and delegation of notices to beneficiaries under 25. This law will allow Iowans, like those from about 25 other states, to, in some cases, amend irrevocable trust provisions outside of a formal court supervised proceeding. This would allow, for example, trustees to correct errors, modify trust provisions to better fit newly-passed laws, or adapt trusts to changing conditions, such as a beneficiary who becomes disabled or one who would benefit from extra protection from creditors.

Effective July 1, 2020

SF 2300 – Transfer of Property

This law narrows an exemption within the real estate disclosure law under Iowa Code § 558A.2. Under the new law, fiduciaries of estates, trusts, guardianships, or conservatorships must provide a disclosure statement to a potential homebuyer if that fiduciary has lived in the home at any time within the 12-month period prior to the date of transfer.

Effective July 1, 2020

SF 2338 – COVID-19 Premises Liability Protection

Called the COVID-19 Response and Back-to-Business Limited Liability Act, this law limits the liability of premises owners and occupiers for damages sustained by an individual’s exposure to COVID-19. To receive this protection, the person in possession or control of the premises must not recklessly disregard a substantial and unnecessary risk that the individual would be exposed to COVID-19, act with malice toward the individual, or intentionally expose the individual to COVID-19. The law provides a safe harbor where the owner or occupier has substantially complied with federal or state laws, regulations, or public health guidance applicable at the time of the exposure.

Effective July 1, 2020, applicable retroactively to January 1, 2020

SF 2398 – Rural Veterinary Loan Repayment Program

This law establishes a rural veterinarian loan repayment program in the college student aid commission to provide loan repayments for veterinarians who agree to practice in rural service commitment areas or in veterinary shortage areas in Iowa for at least four years. The law also establishes in the state treasury a rural veterinary care trust fund under the control of the commission. The trust would be funded by private dollars. No state dollars are designated to the fund.

Effective July 1, 2020

SF 2400 – Broadband Service and Funding – Rural and Underserved Areas

This law changes the “Connecting Iowa Farms, Schools, and Communities Broadband Grant Fund” to the “Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Fund.” The purpose of the fund is to provide better internet services to rural communities. The law will allow for a more accurate map of underserved areas and will award grants to communications service providers on a competitive basis, with the goal to bring internet service with adequate upload and download speeds to these underserved areas. The law also allows grants to be made from federal money obtained from public health disaster emergency funds. Finally, the law provides technical grant application assistance to providers.

Effective June 25, 2020, applicable July 1, 2020

SF 2403 -  Biofuels Excise Tax

This law extended and modified biofuel tax differentials by imposing an excise tax of thirty cents on each gallon of motor fuel other than ethanol blended gasoline classified as E-15 or higher. Ethanol blended fuel will be taxed between 24 and 30 cents, depending upon the market share of E-15 gasoline. Prior law set the rates at 29 cents per gallon for all ethanol blends and 30.5 cents for unblended gasoline. The law also extended differentials for biodiesel, extending the excise tax range for biodiesel from 29.5 cents per gallon for B11+ diesel to 32.5 cents per gallon for unblended diesel and blends up to 10 percent. Based upon market share, the current tax for B11+ diesel is 30.1 cents per gallon.

Effective July 1, 2020, applicable January 1, 2021

SF 2413 – Food Operation Trespass

This bill creates new Iowa Code § 716.7A to prohibit “food operation trespass” in Iowa:

A person commits food operation trespass by entering or remaining on the property of a food operation without the consent of a person who has real or apparent authority to allow the person to enter or remain on the property.

A person who commits a first offense of food operation trespass is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor. A second and subsequent offense is a Class "D" Felony. The purpose of this new law is to protect biosecurity and the safety of the food supply chain.

This is the Iowa Legislature’s third attempt in a decade to enact legislation to impose penalties on people trespassing on agricultural production facilities. In 2012, the Iowa Legislature passed Iowa Code § 717A.3A, which prohibited agricultural production facility fraud. This law prohibited persons from obtaining access to animal production facilities under “false pretenses.” It also prohibited making false statements to get a job with an animal production facility with the “intent to commit unauthorized acts” on the premises. On January 9, 2019, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa declared this law unconstitutional in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Reynolds, No.4:17-cv-00362 (S.D. Iowa 2019). Specifically, the court ruled that the speech implicated in the law—false statements and misrepresentations—was protected by the First Amendment. Acknowledging that this finding may be “disquieting,” the court stated that “one of the costs of the First Amendment is that it protects the speech we detest as well as the speech we embrace.” This case remains on appeal. In response, the Iowa Legislature passed a new agricultural production facility trespass law, SF 519, which went into effect March 14, 2019. This law criminalizes the use of deception to (1) gain access to or (2) obtain employment with an agricultural production facility “with the intent to cause physical or economic harm or other injury.” In other words, the State must prove a specific intent to cause actual harm or injury to obtain a conviction under the 2019 law. Five advocacy groups filed a lawsuit challenging the law in April, and on December 2, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa issued a preliminary injunction preventing Iowa from enforcing the new Iowa Code § 717.3B, pending a ruling on the merits. The parties have filed motions for summary judgment, and the case remains pending.

After the new food operation law was enacted June 10, 2020, the legislature modified the definition of “food operation” to specifically exclude food establishments and farmers’ markets. This amendment was placed into the tax omnibus bill, HF 2641, detailed above. The language was modified in response to concerns that the new law would apply to someone unintentionally trespassing into a restaurant kitchen or cafeteria or certain areas of a famers’ market.

Effective June 10, 2020