WASHINGTON, D.C. | Twenty-three Farm Bureau members, representing Iowa Farm Bureau’s Ag Leaders Institute, visited Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11-14, to share concerns with all four of Iowa’s U.S. congressmen, Senator Charles Grassley, Senator Joni Ernst, trade officials and representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

They discussed issues pertinent to Iowa farmers, including trade, but many topics centered around challenges for beginning farmers.

In farming, land is one of the most expensive starting costs with the majority of the loan payment being interest. Not allowing for interest expense deduction will increase the effective tax rates, said Quentin Stortenbecker, of Hancock County. As the Trump administration begins work on tax reform, Stortenbecker relayed to lawmakers production agriculture is a “capital-intensive industry that requires debt financing” and farmers will be “unable to restructure their balance sheets as their main capital funding source are traditional banks.”

When it comes to farming ground through a cash rent agreement, farmers feel they are competing with the government for use of highly productive land, said Beth Rachut of Mitchell County. In Rachut’s area, the average cash rent per Iowa State University is $215 an acre, but she has known farmers who have lost land because their landlords are being offered $300 per acre to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). She and other farmers urged lawmakers to make sure CRP payments more closely mirror cash rent in the county.

“It’s important to put conservation on the ground,” Rachut said. “But CRP is meant for sensitive areas. That’s what should be enrolled in it. As a relatively young farmer, at $300 an acre, we just can’t compete with that.”

Since its inception in 1998, the Ag Leaders Institute has prepared nearly 450 agricultural leaders in Iowa. It is a year-long program offered to Farm Bureau members who have been nominated by their county, applied and have been selected as one of 25 members to participate in the Institute which works to develop individual leadership skills and provide cutting-edge information about agricultural issues. The Institute culminates with a trip to Washington, D.C., and graduation at the Iowa Farm Bureau annual meeting on Dec. 5-6 in Des Moines.