Ag Policy Blog

Leopold Center in Iowa Survives, But Loses State Funding

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is known for field days on crop rotations, cover crops and organic production.

Updated item:

In April, DTN reported that Iowa lawmakers had voted to eliminate the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. The legislation eliminated the center and moved all of its funding elsewhere.…

On Friday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad used a line-item veto to spare the Leopold Center from being eliminated, but Branstad approved provisions that take away all of the center's state funding. It appears that without an injection of foundation funding, the center will survive in name only.

"For 30 years, the Leopold Center has offered hope, new knowledge and significant research findings to Iowa and the nation," said Director Mark Rasmussen in a statement Friday. "While we appreciate that the name and the Center will remain, the loss of all state funding severely restricts operations and our ability to serve our many stakeholders."

The center, named after Iowa native conservationist Aldo Leopold, was created in legislation Branstad signed in his first stint as governor in 1987.

The center has been at the forefront of conservation practices in Iowa, particularly in areas such as developing cover crops, bioreactors and rotational grazing. The Leopold Center also was a source of information for farmers looking beyond commodity agriculture for revenue streams and alternative forms of production.

About $1.5 million in state funds, or roughly three-quarters of the center's operating budget, will be shifted to the Iowa State University Nutrient Research Center, a program recently started at the university specifically to deal with Iowa's water-quality challenges.

"The veto of these particularly specified items will preserve the existence of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture while also maintaining the sections transferring funding to ISU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to continue valuable research into environmental and water quality issues," Branstad wrote in a note explaining his veto.

No doubt the center has been controversial throughout its existence because it bucked the regular order of things. "Our job has been to identify negative aspects of agriculture and try and come up with solutions or fix those problems – nobody likes to be told what you're doing wrong," Rasmussen said in an Iowa State Daily article.

It was just at the beginning of April that the Leopold Center celebrated its 30th year in existence.……

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