The following editorial was published in the Fort Dodge Messenger on May 15:

Agriculture long has been at the heart of our state’s economic well-being. The state’s farms and those industries related to agriculture remain absolutely vital to the Hawkeye State’s continued prosperity.

Whenever the Legislature convenes issues pertinent to agriculture get especially careful consideration. The 2019 session was no exception. Much that will position the farm economy to thrive in the years ahead was accomplished.

Shortly after the Legislature adjourned, Mike Naig, who heads the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, expressed satisfaction with the work the lawmakers had completed this year.

“I’m proud to have worked with the Legislature to pass several bills that create new opportunities and provide additional protections for agriculture,” the Iowa secretary of agriculture said.

Here are some of the highlights of the Legislature’s record this year as it pertains to agriculture:

  • The governor’s request that the Iowa Water Quality Initiative be given priority attention was heeded. This crucial program received more than $10.5 million in funding. This support will make possible accelerated implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
  • The infrastructure for renewable fuels got a boost. Cost-share grants were funded to help stimulate the installation of E85 dispensers, blender pumps, biodiesel dispensers and biodiesel storage facilities. Making it easier for consumers to access biofuels is vital to the continued growth of the renewable fuels industries.
  • Protecting Iowa’s livestock and farm animals from disease is crucial. Lawmakers enhanced the department’s ability to provide safeguards by funding preparations to address outbreaks of disease. Additionally, more money was provided to strengthen the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
  • Making it possible for Iowans to become farmers is important to the future of agriculture in our state. The Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program created by the Legislature will make it possible for more people to consider becoming farmers.

Looking to a possible new crop for future development, the Legislature passed and the governor signed the Iowa Hemp Act. It gives IDALS regulatory authority regarding hemp to the extent that growing hemp is permitted by federal law. Upon signing this law, the governor issued an important cautionary statement:

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“But Iowans should be aware that this bill does not legalize the sale or manufacturing of all hemp-derived products . And Iowans should be aware that nearly all of the provisions of this bill will not go into effect until the federal government approves our state hemp plan. . As federal regulatory bodies approve additional hemp-derived products and the hemp industry evolves, it is imperative that our state agencies and the Iowa Legislature remain vigilant in evaluating the effects of this legislation and the need for additional changes to ensure that our laws protect the health and safety of all Iowans.”

This cautious approach makes sense.

The Messenger welcomes that progress lawmakers have made this year in helping position agriculture in our state for continued success.

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