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Farmers Voice Support for Leopold Center in Face of Threats
Iowa Ag Connection - 04/14/2017

Farmers from around the state voiced their strong support for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, after the Iowa legislature moved this week to eliminate state appropriations and shut down the Leopold Center. Earlier in the week, appropriations bills were proposed in committee that would completely eliminate the Leopold Center as of July 2017, ending a 30 year history of conducting on-farm research and working with Iowa farmers to implement sustainable farming practices and improve farm profitability. The Leopold Center has long been a nationally recognized leader in innovative agricultural research.

"Now more than ever, farmers need the data and innovative farming practices that come from Leopold Center research," said Aaron Lehman, a Polk County farmer and President of the Iowa Farmers Union. "Farm income is expected to be down 50 percent this year from recent levels. Iowa farmers are being challenged to tackle water quality issues like never before. This is exactly the wrong time to turn our backs on Iowa farmers."

The current legislative proposals include an education appropriations bill that would end a $400,000 annual appropriation to the Leopold Center, and a second bill in the agriculture and natural resources appropriations subcommittee that would reassign approximately $1.5 million to $2 million in annual tax revenue from the sale of nitrogen fertilizer that has funded the Center's work. The second bill also directs the closure of the Leopold Center. In addition to state appropriations, Leopold Center projects attract approximately $5 million per year in federal and private grants for the work of the Center and its partners.

"The Leopold Center has helped fund on-farm research at Practical Farmers of Iowa for 3 decades," said Vic Madsen, a farmer from Audubon County and PFI member. "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."

"The Leopold Center has been responsible for nationally acclaimed research on soil and water conservation," said Jim Penney, who previously chaired the Leopold Center advisory board as a representative of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa. "The Center has developed numerous low cost alternatives in livestock and crop production for young farmers, especially in the area of local food production."

A review of 6 major projects recently funded and led through the Leopold Center show more 22,500 acres converted to improved conservation practices and structures that have reduced nitrate runoff and soil loss and improved water quality and wildlife habitat; more than 51,000 individuals participated in these projects, including 13,000 farmers and agricultural professionals. Since 1998, the Leopold Center has funded more than 600 competitive grants to conduct on-farm research and improve production options and marketing opportunities for Iowa farmers.

Marvin Shirley, a family livestock farmer from Dallas County and former member of the Leopold Center advisory board, stressed how Leopold Center research has always represented the cutting edge of innovation for farms like his. "Their rotational grazing research has led to some of the most profitable changes made on our family's farm."

Stephanie Enloe of the Center for Rural Affairs emphasized the Leopold Center's importance to the farmers that she works with in rural Iowa, "Iowa farmers frequently tell us about the need to expand markets and research for crops like oats, small grains, and perennial biomass. The Leopold Center is a nationally recognized leader in developing those resources, and their work is far from complete. The Leopold Center is a source of pride for all Iowans and a vital source of innovation and support for our family farmers and natural resources."

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