Twenty-seven Iowa Farm Bureau leaders spent a few days away from their farms to visit Capitol Hill and meet with Iowa’s Congressional delegation during the annual Ag Leaders Institute policy trip September 10-13 to discuss key farm issues impacting communities across Iowa.

The Farm Bureau members urged Iowa’s elected officials to approve of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and end the abuse of waivers allowing refiners to sidestep ethanol blend requirements, sharing how critical those two issues are for Iowa agriculture.

During a meeting with Rep. Dave Loebsack, Paul Belzer of Monroe County shared how the downturned ag economy has impacted his farm and his farm equipment dealership. “We see the impact of trade policy across the board,” Belzer said. “Our customers are holding off on purchases, and we’re used to seeing a cycle where we have a sales slump every five years or so, but we’re still down, and things aren’t looking up anytime soon.”

Darren Stein of Benton County shared the connection between biofuels and livestock farmers with Rep. Abby Finkenauer, expressing concerns for the sustainability of his family farm. “I want to continue this family operation, expand it, and some day bring my kids into it,” Stein said. “If we don’t have the ethanol byproducts, like distiller’s dried grains (DDGs), because the plants are closing up, I can’t afford to keep feeding out cattle.”

The Iowa Farm Bureau members used the meeting opportunities with their lawmakers to share how key issues affect their farms and asked them to stand behind Iowa’s farm families and communities that rely on agriculture, something Sen. Joni Ernst appreciates. “I’d like to thank you for visiting,” Ernst said. “You are the ones providing us with the stories and the message we can take to the President.”

Those participating on the trip from southwestern Iowa included Susannah Miller of Osceola; Alicia Humphrey of Audubon; Jason McManis of Corning; Nicole Wenstrand of Essex; and Jennifer Sellner of Avoca.

“Our members brought very real concerns to their lawmakers in Washington, sharing personal examples of the impact of ag policy back home and asked for a commitment to support important issues like trade and renewable fuels that impact Iowa farm families and communities,” said Daniel Heady, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) national policy advisor. “Our county Farm Bureau leaders demonstrated their knowledge of diverse policy issues and engaged Iowa’s Congressional delegation in conversations regarding the importance of approving USMCA and protecting the RFS from devastating abuse.”

The Ag Leaders Institute is a year-long program offered to select Farm Bureau members around the state. The program provides cutting-edge information about agricultural issues while developing individual leadership skills and working to create a network of leaders across Iowa. The Institute culminates with a trip to Washington, D.C., and graduation at the Iowa Farm Bureau annual meeting, December 3-4 in Des Moines. The Institute has prepared more than 500 leaders since 1998.

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