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Beginning farmer opportunities, renewable energy top Iowans' farm bill priorities

Iowa farmers rank enhancing opportunities for small and beginning farmers and renewable energy as top goals for the next farm bill.

These goals are closely followed by increased competitiveness, protecting natural resources, and enhancing rural economies according to a survey of 736 Iowa farm operators coordinated by the Community Vitality Center at Iowa State University (ISU) as part of a National Agricultural Food and Public Policy Preference Survey project.

The national effort was conducted in 27 states by Farm Foundation and the National Public Policy Education Committee. The Iowa results, according to an ISU report, were released late last week.

Bioenergy production incentives, followed closely by food safety programs, head the list of programs producers would target for new or reallocated funding.

"This is one area where Iowa farmer preferences mirror those at the national level," says Mark Edelman, director of the Community Vitality Center at ISU which coordinated the survey of Iowa farmers.

When asked to rank existing programs that should continue to receive funding, Iowa farmers put disaster assistance at the top of the list, followed closely by other safety net programs such as commodity loans and Loan Deficiency Payments (LDPs), working lands programs, land retirement programs, counter-cyclical payments and insurance programs.

"It is interesting to note that the preferences do vary some by farm size," Edelman says. "Iowa's large and medium farm operators place higher preferences on commodity loans, LDPs, countercyclical payments and insurance programs, while Iowa's small farms place higher preferences on disaster assistance, land retirement and working lands programs," he said.

Including labor, environment and food safety issues in trade negotiations received the greatest level of agreement among six agricultural trade policy strategies from both Iowa farm operators and those in the national survey.

Regarding conservation and environmental policy, the survey asked farmers to indicate their preferences on a number of conservation and environmental policy goals. In order of priority, Iowa farmers and farmers nationally indicated highest support for technical and financial assistance to achieve goals related to:

  1. soil erosion
  2. water quality
  3. air quality
  4. wildlife habitat
  5. animal waste management

Iowa's small farmers indicated a higher level of plurality support for air quality and wildlife habitat assistance than did larger farmers.

On risk management program strategies, Iowa farmers and those nationally indicated the highest level of preference for tax-deferred savings accounts. However, Iowa's large and medium size farm operators indicated a higher preference for increased coverage levels and subsidies for crop production and revenue insurance than did Iowa small farmers.

Regarding rural development strategies, Iowa farmers and those in the national survey indicated the highest level of agreement for business education and training assistance, grants for business development and job creation, and access to capital, respectively.

The survey results show that while farm program payment limits are supported by the weighted sample of farm operators nationally, Iowa farm operators see lower program payment limits as being more important than farmers nationally.

Iowa farmers rank enhancing opportunities for small and beginning farmers and renewable energy as top goals for the next farm bill.

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