Take an Ethical Stance in Support of The Leopold Center

posted on Thursday, April 13, 2017

Members of the agricultural community, legislators, environmental groups and the public were surprised and angered earlier this week upon receiving news that the proposed legislative budget for 2018 would eliminate The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Originally established to research and develop new ways for row crop and livestock farmers to profit from their land and conserve natural resources, the Leopold Center has flourished. Thirty years later, the Center has won awards for its work in the areas of policy, marketing and food systems, ecology and interdisciplinary research and education. Its contributions range from educating farmers to improving Iowa’s outdoor recreation and tourism. Given the Center’s past successes and innovations yet to come, it is hard to comprehend why some at the Statehouse would see its work as completed.

For every dollar the Leopold Center spent on their projects, an additional $4.60 was leveraged to complement or expand the work. These projects represent approximately 22 percent of Center grant funding over 10 years. Project examples include: Hoop Barns for Alternative Hog Production Systems; Regional Food Systems Working Group; and the Bear Creek Riparian Buffer Project. Additionally, 22,500 acres were shifted to more efficient conservation practices and structures such as riparian buffers to reduce nitrate runoff and soil erosion and to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.

 “The elimination of the important work of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the Center itself are so shortsighted that it is hard to conceive,” says Ann Robinson, IEC Agriculture Policy Specialist. “The Center’s efforts benefit Iowa and especially rural Iowa in so many ways. Despite a small budget, they have improved farmers’ bottom lines through: research; support of ongoing learning about effective and practical conservation technologies; and encouragement of rural economic development that enhances quality of life and health of citizens statewide.”

The Leopold Center’s research and information has also supported farmers interested in growing their businesses to cater to consumer interest in local food. Many existing farmers have diversified, while other Iowans have begun farming to meet the demand. At least 171 new Iowa jobs have been created, one-third of which are full-time due to the growing trend. In fact, the marketing food systems section of the Leopold Center’s website is full of free, practical information for farmers on such topics as evaluating the profitability of production choices, meeting food safety rules, market planning and more.

As Iowa water quality continues to be a serious concern, the Center’s ongoing research is crucial to Iowans in both rural and urban communities. Iowa is an ag state, but it is also where parents come to raise their families, and it’s a top spot for entrepreneurs and new business. If this is to continue, we owe it to everyone who lives in and visits Iowa to continue to support innovation in sustainable farming that balances the diverse interests of Iowans.

“By eliminating the Center, the legislature is turning its back on helping Iowa farmers,” says Ralph Rosenberg, IEC Executive Director. “The legislature proposes to retreat, not build upon more than 30 years of investment in agricultural research and practices to improve water quality, while helping farmers to profitably manage nutrients in cropping and livestock systems. As a former legislator who successfully worked in a bipartisan way to create The Leopold Center, I am asking Iowans to contact their legislators and strongly encourage them to continue funding the Center. ”

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