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Secretary Naig highlights legislative session accomplishments benefiting the Iowa agriculture community

I want to thank all 150 state lawmakers for their public service and continued support of Iowa’s agriculture community. Agriculture is the backbone of our state and all Iowans benefit from a strong ag economy. I’m grateful that the Iowa Legislature continues to make smart, strategic investments to strengthen local food chains, create new markets for our producers and provide dedicated, long-term funding for soil health and water quality practices.

Working together, we secured additional funding for agriculture initiatives this legislative session and will continue to see historic investments in water quality. These funds will support a value-added agriculture program, help small meat lockers expand to add more processing capacity and create new jobs, protect our livestock and our state’s economy from a foreign animal disease outbreak, and continue scaling up soil health and water quality projects around the state.”

I also want to thank Gov. Reynolds for her bold proposal to expand access to homegrown biofuels. Our country is at a critical juncture when it comes to low carbon, renewable energy. Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel industries can be part of the solution and Iowa must continue leading those conversations. While I am disappointed that we weren’t able to see this bill cross the finish line, I am hopeful that we can continue these conversations in the interim and find a meaningful path forward next session.

Below are some of the major legislative accomplishments from the 2021 session that benefit Iowa agriculture:

10-year extension of water quality funding

2020 was a record year for conservation efforts in the state of Iowa. This session, legislators passed a 10-year extension of long-term, dedicated funding to help support the state’s water quality efforts through 2039, which will result in additional funding of more than $320 million.

Foreign animal disease preparedness and response

State lawmakers provided a $250,000 increase in funding for the department to prepare for and respond to a foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreak, which has the potential to significantly harm the state’s $13 billion livestock industry.

Value-Added Agriculture Grant Program

As a recommendation from Gov. Reynolds’ Economic Recovery Advisory Board, legislators created the Value-Added Agriculture Grant Program, to be administered by the department. This provides an appropriation of $250,000 to support programs that add value to traditional commodity crops, expand fruit and vegetable production along with other alternative crops, increase processing capacity, and offer direct-to-customer marketing opportunities for protein and produce.

Farm-to-School Program

After seeing tremendous success with the Local Produce and Protein Program last fall, legislators worked closely with the department this session to continue this initiative. As part of this year’s department bill, a new fund within the department’s existing Farm-to-School program has been established to incentivize schools to purchase locally-grown and raised foods produced by Iowa farmers.

Support for local meat lockers

Over the last year, main street meat lockers across the state have seen a significant increase in demand for locally-sourced protein, but oftentimes struggle to keep up due to a lack of processing capacity. Last fall, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship helped address this need through the Meat Processing Expansion and Development program that distributed $4 million in grants across the state. Modeled off of the department’s successful program, legislators created a program this session that will be jointly administered by the Economic Development Authority and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to provide new or existing meat lockers with low-interest/forgivable loans and grants.

Protection for agritourism

Agritourism destinations, including family farms, dairies, nurseries, orchards, and wineries, have exploded in popularity in recent years. To encourage continued growth of this industry, legislators voted to provide agritourism destinations with limited liability protections to guard against frivolous lawsuits.

Mike Naig is Iowa’s secretary of agriculture.

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