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By Jean Caspers-Simmet simmet@agrinews.com WAVERLY, Iowa -- The Iowa State Dairy Association is being recognized as the voice of dairy in Iowa, president Scott Niess told delegates at last week's annual meeting in Waverly.

"When we first adopted policy two years ago, I told you we were like a big ship starting to sail and with your guidance we'll know where to go and what information to give the Legislature to keep your business profitable at home,'' said Niess, an Osage dairy farmer. "We've come a long ways, and we're getting noticed and people are asking for our advice when it comes to dairy.''

Niess said, Erin Vagts, ISDA's executive secretary and industry relations manager, is being asked to represent dairy on many committees.

He said that when Governor Tom Vilsack vetoed the ISDA-supported bill to provide incentives for beginning farmers last spring, he wrote the group a letter explaining he couldn't support the bill because of tax relief tacked on the bill late in the session.

"He sent us a letter and said resubmit the bill again, and he'd sign it,'' Niess said. "Governor Vilsack noticed what we're doing.''

Niess said Vagts will spend a lot of time at the Legislature this session, and she'll be joined by Norm Moklestad, who has lobbied for many years for the Iowa Dairy Products Association.

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Vagts who joined ISDA in June just after graduating from Iowa State University is doing a great job, Niess said.

In the past year Niess has been working with the Western Dairy Alliance and the Northeast Iowa Community-Based Dairy Foundation. The three groups have an understanding that ISDA will support the other two with their issues in the Legislature, and they will develop programs to benefit dairy producers.

"I'm looking forward to working with the Foundation and the Alliance,'' Niess said. "We're all trying to work together for the common good of the industry.''

Vagts said her focus this legislative session will be on getting the beginning farmer legislation passed. The proposal creates tax breaks for landowners who rent to beginning farmers. She'll also emphasize producer improvement and expansion incentives, education on the economic impact of the dairy industry, making certain dairy interests are expressed in water quality and manure regulation debates, and promoting dairy programs that benefit dairy producers of all sizes.

Vagts said she continues to meet with representatives from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, the Iowa Cattlemen's Association and the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association to find a solution that will allow embryo transfer technicians to operate under the supervision of a veterinarian. Vagts has been a player in Iowa's 2.8 Percent Coalition, a group looking at ways to grow Iowa's dairy industry.

Delegates passed resolutions supporting dairy education programs at state, private and community colleges in Iowa; requiring National Dairy Check-off dollars from all imported dairy products; and encouraging high cheese standards.

The board was directed to develop positions on taxation and eminent domain so Vagts can take a position when such issues surface in the Legislature. Delegates agreed to let resolutions be introduced until noon on the day of the annual meeting.

Elected as executive board members for the coming year are Niess as president, Terry Wenthold, Fort Atkinson, vice president; Leroy Eggink, Sibley, secretary; and Dale Humpal, Ridgeway, treasurer.

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Swiss Valley Farms, Wapsie Valley Creamery, Dairy Farmers of America and Land O'Lakes will be the four processors represented on the board for 2006.

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