Note: The following piece is by Mark Peterson, a farmer near Stanton, Iowa, who testified in favor of funding the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at a public hearing this morning on Iowa's 2018 budget. The budget proposal cuts funding to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and would force the organization to close its doors after 30 years. Center for Rural Affairs staff members Stephanie Enloe and Anna Johnson, pictured with Mark Peterson, were also at the public hearing this morning.
My wife Melanie and I farm in southwest Iowa close to Stanton. Currently, I serve as a supervisor in Montgomery County and also I am the board president for Practical Farmers of Iowa. Practical Farmers was founded in 1985 in the middle of the farm crisis. We are proud to say that we are a “big tent” organization in that our members come from all political persuasions. The glue that binds our organization together is the sharing of on farm research by our members. By working together for a common goal we are able to improve our farms. We have in the past stayed out of politics. Today for what I believe is the first time that changes. As a conservative republican I am disappointed with what I hear happening. We ask you to continue funding the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
My understanding is that the funding for the Leopold Center would be diverted to strictly nutrient research. While nutrient reduction is important, it is not the total answer to improve water quality. On our farm, we are in our third year of testing for nitrates. With what we have learned from Practical Farmers and the Leopold Center only once has one of our sites been over the 10 ppm nitrate standard. While proper fertilizer placement, timing and amount are part of equation so are expanded crop rotation strategies and the use of cover crops.
Here are thoughts from some of our members:
“The Leopold Center has helped fund on-farm research at Practical Farmers of Iowa for three decades, Through that research, I have learned and adopted practices that I didn't know I could use on my farm. The Leopold Center's support is extremely important to farm organizations like PFI and to farmers like me who want to know how to make Iowa agriculture more sustainable." -Vic Madsen, Audubon County farmer
“As a farmland owner I have seen first-hand how the Leopold Center has been the moral compass for the agriculture web of reciprocity, that of giving back more than it takes from its soil, water and the environment. Through the research accomplished at the Leopold Center farmers have gleaned information for increased profitability for their crop-livestock enterprises. In this cyclical timing of lower grain, oilseed and livestock prices farmers have and continue to look at organizations like the Leopold Center for well researched employable ideas for Iowa’s food, feed and livestock systems.” -Gail Hickenbottom, of Polk County. Gail also serves on the Leopold Center advisory board.
The Leopold Center was founded in tough ag economic times. Through their research and funding of everything from waterways to wineries, life in rural Iowa has improved both economically and also environmentally. We are in tough times again. The work of the Leopold Center is nowhere near done.
Please continue to fund the Leopold Center. It’s the right thing to do. Thank You.