Lawmakers pass new ag laws

With each “Legal Issues” column, we try to update readers on issues affecting agriculture, including changes to state and federal laws and important court cases. On Jan. 9, state lawmakers banged the gavel in Des Moines, beginning the second half of Iowa’s 84th General Assembly. Although not as lengthy as the 2011 session, lawmakers passed some new laws and amended some existing ones. Here’s an update on several items passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad in 2012 that will impact agriculture in Iowa.

Agricultural production facility fraud (HF 589). We mentioned this bill in the last issue. After much debate, the bill was signed by Branstad on March 2 and went into effect on the same day. It makes a person guilty of ag production facility fraud if a person gains access to an animal facility, or crop operation by false pretenses or makes false statements in an employment application or agreement, or if that person intends to commit an act not authorized by the owner.

Farmers markets (HF 2092). The bill eliminated a requirement that a license for a farmers market be seasonal and authorized year-round operation of Iowa farmers markets. The bill also defined a “farmers market” as a marketplace that seasonally operates as a common market for Iowa-produced farm products on a retail basis.

Driving speed (HF 2228). The new law requires that the operator of a vehicle reduce their speed to a reasonable and proper rate when approaching and passing an animal being led, driven or ridden on a public roadway and when approaching and passing a slow-moving vehicle with a reflective device, including tractors. The bill establishes fines and penalties for violations of the law that result in bodily injury, and requires the Iowa Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety to create a program to raise awareness of the law.

Swine breeding (SF 2172). The Legislature voted to change how animal units are calculated to determine if a swine farrowing or gestating operation meets the animal unit limitations before aerobic treatment of manure is required. The bill’s intent is to protect and improve the biosecurity of farrowing and gestating operations.

Wastewater application (SF 2269). This Senate file amended a provision enacted in 2011, which authorizes DNR to adopt rule standards for the disposal of wastewater from on-farm processing operations such as dairies, creameries, wineries, distilleries, canneries, bakeries, or meat and poultry production. The bill also eliminated the requirement that wastewater be land-applied by a person licensed by the DNR to dispose of sewage.

ATV/off-road utility vehicle (SF 2282). The Legislature revised the definition of “all-terrain vehicle” and “off-road utility vehicle” in Iowa. Now, an ATV is defined as having three to six non-highway tires, a width of no more than 50 inches, engine displacement of less than 1,000 cc, and a dry weight of less than 1,200 pounds. An off-road vehicle is defined as a vehicle having four to eight non-highway tires, a width of not more than 65 inches, an engine displacement of less than 1,500 cc, and a dry weight of less than 2,000 pounds. The bill strikes current seat requirements for both vehicle categories.

Iowa auctioneers (SF 2294). An auctioneer who is not licensed as a real estate broker in Iowa is prohibited from contacting the public with the purpose of securing the sale of the real estate; independently showing the property; making representations regarding title, financing or closing; discussing or explaining contracts, lease agreements or other real estate documents to secure the sale; and collecting or holding any money other than commissions or fees for conducting the auction. If an auctioneer violates these prohibitions, he or she is subject to a fine of $1,000 for a first offense.

What didn’t pass muster? There were a few bills that generated a lot of debate on the floor, but didn’t make it to the governor’s desk. The most widely discussed was probably the proposal to amend Iowa’s fence laws (SF 2102). The bill provided that if one landowner keeps livestock on an adjoining tract of land, that landowner is solely responsible for construction or maintenance of a partition fence upon written demand of the other owner.

Under the bill, respective owners would both be responsible for the fence for as long as they both keep livestock. If either owner no longer keeps livestock on that owner’s land for five years, that owner may terminate participation in building or maintaining fence by delivering written notice to other owner. The bill was an attempt to change fence laws that have been in existence since the original Iowa code was enacted in 1851.

Herbold-Swalwell is an attorney with Beving, Swanson & Forrest in Des Moines. Reach her at

The latest

At presstime, the 2012 Iowa Legislative Session had not yet adjourned. If major bills affecting agriculture passed, we will update you in the June issue of Wallaces Farmer.

This article published in the May, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.