Mark Lofgren – District 48 Week 8 Update

As Week Eight played out, we saw many bills passing back and forth between the two houses of the Iowa Legislature. Bills passed out of the House were brought up for discussion in the Senate and vice versa. We will soon be coming up on our second legislative deadline of the year.

Protecting Our Valuable Resource – Land

The past two weeks has included conversations about protecting one of our most treasured resources in Iowa, our land. Since we rely so heavily on agriculture in Iowa, the best stewards of Iowa’s farmland are its farmers, and SF 2324 and SF 2204 will ensure that farmers are able to do just that.

A founding principle of this nation is the ability of Americans to buy land and improve their lot in life. This week the Senate passed Senate File 2324 to protect that opportunity for future generations. It prevents state government from bidding against farmers to purchase land. This bill does not eliminate the ability of landowners to sell land to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) if they wish. However, it does prevent state government from bidding on land in an auction and using farmers’ tax dollars to compete against them to purchase land.

Last week, the Senate unanimously passed Senate File 2204, making Iowa’s land protection laws even stronger and ensuring we know who is buying land in our state. The House passed the bill this week, and it is one of the first pieces of legislation this session to be sent to the governor’s desk for her signature. Amid the international uncertainty and the security threats we are constantly experiencing, this bill is one way Iowa can protect our greatest resource from bad actors.

Helping our Farmers Ensure that “Meat” Means Meat

I remember my wife at the dinner table coaxing our young kids to eat their “chicken”, even though we both knew it was really a pork chop or a small piece of steak cut into bite-sized pieces. Small children sometimes have to be encouraged with what is familiar to them. I never dreamed there would come a day when we in the Senate would have to discuss and pass legislation to define and protect what is meant by “meat”. This week the Senate unanimously passed a bill to protect Iowa’s hardworking livestock farmers and support our state’s agriculture industry. Senate File 2391 ensures food products that come from a cell-cultivated, plant, or insect protein cannot be labeled as beef, chicken, goat, pork, lamb, sheep, or turkey. This does not apply to products labeled as imitation or substitutes according to federal law. A cell-cultivated, insect, or plant protein product is permitted to use an identifiable meat term such as “drumstick” or “sausage” if the label includes a clear qualifying term such as “meatless”, “lab-grown”, or “plant-based.”

Iowa is the number one pork, corn, and egg producer in the country, and the second top producer of soybeans. In 2023, we had over 86,000 farms in Iowa, totaling 30 million acres. Our farmers work hard, day and night, to provide quality food products for our country and for the world. While providing for us, they have been dealing with high land prices and high costs for the things they need, like seed, feed, and equipment.

This legislation helps support Iowa farmers and ensures their work is not undermined by food products made in a lab. As a relatively new product, there is a lack of research on cell-cultivated protein, which has raised questions about the safety of these products. This bill requires products with these new types of proteins to market with integrity and make sure they cannot be confused with the quality meat farmers across the state are raising.

Appropriation of Opiod Settlement Funds

SF 2395 annually appropriates 75% of the moneys in the Opiod Settlement Fund to the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services and 25% to the Office of the Attorney General in accordance with any settlement agreement. The bill appropriates $18,825,000 to HHS and $6,275,000 to the AF’s Office upon enactment. Future contributions to the fund are nearly $8 million annually for the next fifteen years.

Unemployment Rules Prove Worthy and Become Law

In 2021, the Iowa Legislature reformed Iowa’s unemployment insurance program in an effort to get Iowans who lost their jobs back to work faster. Part of the implementation of that reform, as with many state policies, has been the adoption of rules at the agency level. This week the Senate passed Senate File 2106 to put those rules into law.

Data released last fall show this reform has been extraordinarily successful. The number of Iowans filing for unemployment fell almost in half, as did the time people spent on unemployment. Getting Iowans back to work faster helps address the workforce shortage and improves the lives of Iowans who lost their job.

Since fewer people are receiving assistance for a shorter amount of time, the unemployment trust fund has grown. Unemployment taxes paid by small businesses to fill the fund can now be reduced to their lowest level possible. Lower business taxes mean Iowa employers all across the state have more money to reward the work of their employees and expand their businesses, creating more career opportunities for all Iowans.