Letter to the editor: Lawmakers strike blow against sustainable farming

Big Ag rules OK

To the editor:

Last week we received news about the Iowa Legislature’s intentions to defund and dismantle the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.

For the past 30 years, the Leopold Center has supported farmers and researchers investigating innovative practices to improve water quality, soil health and profitability. Leopold Center support has been instrumental in the startup and continuation of Practical Farmers’ farmer-led on-farm research program.

The Leopold Center’s work has not only impacted Practical Farmers and its members but also thousands of farmers and all Iowans.

The education appropriations bill (HF 642) eliminates $397,417 in annual appropriations from the state’s general fund to the Leopold Center. The agriculture and natural resources appropriations bill (SF 510) reassigns revenue from a tax on sales of nitrogen fertilizer, moving it from the Leopold Center to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Fund. This bill also mandates the closure of the Leopold Center effective July 2017.

Many members and partner organizations testified at a public hearing Monday, including Practical Farmers of Iowa. Many have called legislators and the governor and sent written comments to their representatives and the media.

Despite concerted efforts, both the Iowa House and the Senate approved the budget bill that will end the Leopold Center. The bill is in front of Gov. Terry Branstad to sign, but he has not signed it yet. If you have not yet called the governor, you can still call him and urge him to line-item veto defunding of the Leopold Center: (515) 281-5211.

Practical Farmers, its members and many more are saddened by this action to cut the Leopold Center from the state of Iowa’s budget and troubled by what it means for efforts to create an Iowa with diverse farms, healthy food and vibrant communities.

Mark Peterson, board president
Practical Farmers of Iowa


  1. Face it, folks, if you own fewer than 10,000 hogs or your acreage isn’t half the size of Dallas County, then you don’t count. You’re just a “hobby farmer” to the big boys. The latter adhere to the Ayn Rand school of agriculture: Make your money, and to heck with everyone and everything else.


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