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On Tuesday, February 9, 2021, the House Agriculture Committee passed three bills.  The first bill was House Study Bill 153 which establishes an E-15 or Higher Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Fund & Program to support expanded use of E15 plus gasoline.  The legislation allocates $1 million each fiscal year for ten years from the existing Renewable Fuels Infrastructure fund beginning with the fiscal year that starts on July 1, 2021 and ends on June 30, 2031 to the E15 Plus Gasoline Qualified Infrastructure fund.

The new E15 Plus program provides financial incentives to support new E-15 plus gasoline infrastructure at both existing motor fuel terminal locations that blend and store E15 plus gasoline and retail motor fuel locations that enables E-15 motor fuel storage and dispensing (but does not include pumps, blender pumps or tank wagons).  The awards shall be on a cost-share basis in a form of a grant.  The cost-share agreement shall be for five-years.  The measure establishes the amount of a five-year cost-share E-15 program award at no higher than 50% or $600,000 whichever is less.  A person shall be awarded no more than $1 million of E-15 infrastructure grants during any twelve-month period.  If the equipment is used to dispense fuels other than E-15 and if a waiver was not granted to do so by the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board (RFIB), the grant must be immediately repaid to the E-15 fund with 25% penalty.  A violation of the agreement is subject to a penalty of not more than $1,000 per day, and recaptured funds, monetary penalties and any interest accruing on E-15 fund moneys stay with the fund, but civil penalties shall be deposited into the General Fund of the State. The bill provides that the new program and fund that are separate from, but administered in a similar process and regulation to the existing Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program/Fund that support expanded use of E-85 and Biodiesel motor fuels.

The second bill was House Study Bill 95 which is the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) Code clean-up measure.  Much of the legislation is similar to legislative language from the 2020 session that got left behind because of COVID-19 truncation of that session.  One new aspect of HSB 95 is the establishment and authorization of a ‘Local Farm Produce Program’ that is a new subchapter to an IDALS Code Chapter that already houses the ‘Farm-to-School program’.  This initiative empowers a local farm produce a program to assist schools and school districts in purchasing fresh farm produce directly from Iowa farmers or distributors of fresh farm produce.   IDALS would have the ability to reimburse a school or school district for expenditures on such products to the extent moneys are available to support the program.  Available moneys are then allocated during the school year on a matching basis, subject to a $1,000 cap.  The provision measure also creates a local farm produce fund to support the program that may accept public or private funds, but the department is not seeking a state appropriation.

The third and final bill passed was House Study Bill 167 which proposes adjustments to the Beginning Farmer Ag Asset Transfer Tac credit program.  This bill seeks to make several changes to the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit program that was reauthorized and changed in the 2019 session (House File 768).  The notable and significant changes to this program proposed by HSB 167 are as follows—

  • Lifts the cap on the number of times an agreement to transfer agricultural assets can be renewed from once to unlimited; and lifts the cumulative lengths of agreements may be from no more than 10-years to no more than 15-years.
  • Removes the cap on the number of years an eligible taxpayer can participate in the program which is currently10-years and limits the number of tax credit certificates for the program to ten.  This would allow a taxpayer to receive tax credit certificate for up to 15-years and with multiple agreements with different parties.
  • Removes the annual $50,000 cumulative cap of tax credit payment anyone participating eligible taxpayer can receive and instead limits any one agreement to not to exceed $50,000 in any year.

This week, the House passed multiple bipartisan bills to bring flexibility and convenience to Iowans needing commercial driver’s licenses.  These bills will decrease wait times for Iowans seeking any appointment through the Iowa DOT and are efficiencies realized throughout the COVID public health emergency. House File 280 allows for electronic renewal of CDLs and House File 389 gets rid of unnecessary chauffeur’s licenses when the operator also has a CDL.

Additionally, the House passed House File 380, which will add instruction concerning distracted driving to driver’s education courses. This bill builds on the work of House File 392, which passed the House Transportation Committee last week to fine drivers who fail to use their cell phones in hands-free mode while driving. The most common issue with driver focus is the distraction caused by cell phones and other technology in the car.

Author: Jon Thorup