… three weeks ago, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University was celebrating its 30th anniversary… last week at the Iowa statehouse, lawmakers voted to eliminate the sustainable agriculture research center by zeroing out the Leopold Center’s entire funding stream…
Iowa Lawmakers Push to Dismantle Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
BY DTN/Progressive Farmer
via KTIC (NE) - April 20, 2017
OMAHA (DTN) — Just three weeks ago, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University was celebrating its 30th anniversary with guest lecturers, including some of the former state legislators who helped create the center.
But in a surprise move last week at the Iowa statehouse, lawmakers voted to eliminate the sustainable agriculture research center by zeroing out the Leopold Center’s entire funding stream.
Iowa officials started the center, which is named after Iowa native and famed ecologist Aldo Leopold, during the 1980s farm crisis as a way to help educate farmers on alternative crops, livestock practices and conservation. Its programs focus heavily on organics, cover crops and water quality issues within the state. In recent years, the center has also worked on long-term climate research, local foods, soil health and biodiversity. The center also funds small grants to farmers and local projects.
Supporters note that Leopold Center’s cutting-edge work may not have an immediate effect, but it eventually has a greater influence on farmers down the line. The Leopold Center, for instance, was championing the benefits of cover crops long before cover crops became cool.
Despite a strong showing of support at a hearing Monday morning, the Iowa Senate voted later that day on an appropriations bill that would eliminate roughly $1.5 million that goes to the Leopold Center and shift its funding to the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, which was created by the state Legislature in 2013. The Iowa House of Representatives followed suit on Tuesday.
In a debate, some lawmakers argued the center had fulfilled its mission, or that there is so much other research taking place that the consequences of losing the Leopold Center wouldn’t be that dire. Others argued that not every farmer in Iowa has thousands of acres of land. The center has helped those who farm with fewer acres and organic farmers. Furthermore, the conservation research coming out of the Leopold Center has helped farmers statewide.
The votes to terminate the sustainability center came just days before the 69th anniversary of Leopold’s death. The legislation now goes to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who actually signed the original law in 1987, creating the Leopold Center.
“We were blindsided by this,” Mark Rasmussen, director of the Leopold Center, told DTN. “We don’t know where this came from.”
The center survives on a tax set on fertilizer, which generates roughly $1.5 million...