Leopold Center's Mission Intact but Funding Dropped
by ANN ROBINSON on Wednesday, May 17, 2017
IEC and Supporters were partners in preserving the Center and its Independent Mission
During the 2017 Session, the legislature passed a repeal and de-funding of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU. Since then, hundreds of rural and urban citizens from Iowa advocated with Governor Terry Branstad to use the power of the line-item veto to prevent the elimination of the Center. Last Friday when the Governor signed SF 510 into law, he chose to use this power to keep the Center alive.
IEC Director Ralph Rosenberg was one of the original authors of the Groundwater Protection Act, along with then fellow state representatives Paul Johnson and David Osterberg. Says Rosenberg, “We have seen an unprecedented outpouring of support for the Leopold Center from farmers, rural community leaders, business representatives and many others who represent a range of political opinion. Support also came from Iowa State University and many Leopold board members IEC appreciates and applauds all those who weighed in with the Governor and Lt. Governor on this issue. We look forward to working with Lt. Governor Reynolds and ISU to make sure the Center can continue its unique and valued independent work.”
“For 30 years, the Leopold Center has offered hope, new knowledge and significant research findings to Iowa and the nation,” said current Leopold Center Director Mark Rasmussen in an ISU statement on May 12. For Rasmussen, the survival of the Leopold Center was the most critical priority to be able to continue their work and the Governor’s action has accomplished that.
Over the past three decades, the Leopold Center sponsored more than 600 grants involving research, education and demonstration on a wide range of agricultural topics as outlined in its educational mission in the Iowa Code. More than 30 new grant projects were recently approved and their management will transfer to the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which has tentatively been charged with winding up the Center’s affairs by the end of the 2017.
The good news is that the Leopold Center and its mission have been preserved - at least for now. The bad news is that the veto does not restore the Center’s funding. Many people are not aware that about 3/4 of the Center’s funding has come from a small fee on fertilizer and pesticides sold in the state that was put in place 30 years ago. This fee was part of the landmark Iowa Groundwater Protection Act signed by Governor Branstad in 1987. It brought independent funding to the Center, which was important as a way to support agriculture-related research and outreach not otherwise funded and not directly tied to private businesses or commodity groups that often underwrite university-based research. Only 20% of the Center’s funding - $397,000 – came from the state’s General Fund.
Stay tuned for future updates on the Center from IEC. You can also find information about the Leopold Center’s status and its contributions to Iowa here.