WEST DES MOINES — Forty-one Iowa Farm Bureau leaders visited Capitol Hill March 13-17 to discuss key farm issues with their elected officials including tax reform, trade, crop insurance and other farm safety nets in the farm bill during the annual IFBF national policy trip.


Members emphasized the need for a more fair and equitable tax system as Congress prepares for a major tax reform effort in 2017, urging lawmakers to permanently eliminate the estate tax and to lower tax rates across the board. Members also shared personal examples with their elected officials to show how tax policies impact their family farm operations.


Rick Weymiller, a member of the Allamakee County Farm Bureau, noted that getting rid of the estate tax, often called the death tax, should be a tax reform priority. “It’s really unfair because it penalizes those people who do a good job building their farms,” Weymiller said. “It hurts the stability of our communities and does not promote conservation and taking care of the land.”


In addition to pushing for tax reform and increased opportunities for young farmers, members also stressed the need for strong export markets and trade agreements.


Shane DeBord, a leader with the Cass County Farm Bureau, told lawmakers that it’s critical to support agricultural trade, especially given the current political climate. “With the production capabilities we have now, we certainly want to protect the trade we have and build on that,” DeBord said. “This is no time to burn our bridges on trade.”


Additionally, members had the opportunity to visit the Mexican Embassy to discuss vital issues with Iowa’s second largest export market. The group of Iowa farmers and Mexican Embassy representatives discussed the similarities and differences in agriculture between the two nations and shared how tariff-free trade and increased trade opportunities between the nations is essential for Iowa agriculture.


Trade between the U.S. and Mexico has steadily increased since the passage of NAFTA in 1994, and for the past two years, Mexico has been the number one export market for U.S. corn, representing over 25 percent of total corn exports. The value of agricultural exports to Mexico in 2016 was more than 13 percent of total U.S. ag exports, with the potential for increased trade.


Those participating in the trip included, from left, Craig Hill of Ackworth and Kara Christensen of Woodward.


“Face-to-face meetings with our elected officials are important,” said Kevin Kuhle, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) national policy advisor. “We appreciate farmers taking the time away from their operations to tell their story on Capitol Hill. Our farmers understand how policies affect their farms, and it’s important that our senators and congressmen hear from their constituents first-hand about the on-farm impact of policies.”


The Iowa delegation met with Congressmen Rod Blum, Steve King, David Young, and Dave Loebsack, and with Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst.


The Iowa Farm Bureau national policy trip takes place twice annually for select county leaders. Each year, one-half of Iowa’s 100 county Farm Bureaus have the opportunity to send a representative to speak on behalf of agriculture and rural Iowa. To learn more about the spring or summer national policy trip and other opportunities for Iowa Farm Bureau members, go to www.iowafarmbureau.com.