Between The Lines: A Matter of Trust

October 29, 2010

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I ask my daughter to make her bed, it won’t be made. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I ask my daughter to do her laundry, it’ll pile up until it blocks her doorway. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I call her down for dinner; the only sound she responds to instantly is the ‘ding’ of an incoming cell phone text message.

Having a 13-year-old daughter offers many ‘life lessons;’ I’ve learned that it’s unwise to trust someone who has good intentions, but a bad track record. I think many parents and taxpayers have learned that trust is valuable, special, and only to be given to those who don’t over-promise and under-deliver.

According to the Pew Research Center, Americans have a lot more trust in their teenagers these days, than their government; ( It seems only 22 percent of Americans surveyed by Pew say they can trust government “almost always or most of the time”. In fact, our cynicism with elected leaders is about the worst it’s been in the 50 years that the pollsters have been asking that question!

And yet, the issue of trust in the government is the cornerstone of a proposal on your upcoming election ballot; the constitutional amendment to create a Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. The Conservation Trust Fund is like opening a bank account with no money; it only works if there is a future sales tax hike, then, it would be filled by 3/8 of every penny from the tax increase. Proponents say that amounts to about $150 million a year for conservation. Sounds good, until you realize we’re talking about trusting Iowa lawmakers to only use that pot of money for conservation and hoping they define conservation the same way you do. Simply saying ‘but it’s in the constitution’ and trusting lawmakers with a huge revenue stream during trying economic times…is like trusting a 13-year-old girl with a ‘no limit’ credit card at the mall.

The fact is, Iowans don’t have to look too far to see a time where lawmakers have ‘dipped’ into a constitutionally-protected fund which was meant for something else. The Road Use Tax Fund was a “constitutionally protected” fund created some 80+ years ago by well-intentioned Iowa lawmakers, who knew the critical need for building and repairing Iowa’s road infrastructure. But over the years, various legislatures have dipped into it for other things, which have nothing to do with roads. In fact, lawmakers attempted to raid the fund again just last session to fund State Troopers (who deserve more funding, by the way!). The attempt was defeated, but it’s a good reminder that it is possible to change direction.

There’s a better way to fund conservation programs to enhance Iowa’s soil and water.

Farm Bureau has always supported the efforts of the Soil and Water conservation Districts and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to maintain conservation funding. When flood waters hit, IFBF helped secure funding for flood damaged conservation practices and worked to maintain cost-share programs to help cover Iowa’s soil commissioner expenses. An additional $3.5-million was appropriated this year, thanks to Farm Bureau grassroots support.

A number of folks are starting to get it; Don’t think that a ‘yes’ vote will solve all our conservation funding problems now or in the future. Vote ‘no’, and start doing what Farm Bureau has done for generations; go directly to lawmakers and tell them to keep the promises they’ve already made to our state’s environment; let’s not encourage them to create another pot of money which is as tempting to raid down the road as a pot of leftover Halloween candy.

Written by Laurie Johns
Laurie Johns is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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Don’t believe the scare tactics about Iowa’s water quality

October 26, 2010

It’s almost Halloween and environmental activists are at it again: trying to scare Iowans about the quality of the water in our lakes, rivers and streams.

As they push for added regulation and more red tape for farmers, these groups play very fast and loose with the facts. They shout and scream that Iowa has some of the most polluted water in the country, and point their fingers accusingly at today’s farmers.

But like the ghosts and goblins hiding under your toddler’s bed, the activists’ statements are simply fiction; something they’ve made up to scare the public and push their agenda.

Just ask the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “It is simply not true,” Wayne Gieselman, DNR’s environmental protection chief, told the commissioners of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission last week about the activists’ statements. “We’ve really got to get away from these press-grabbing statements about our water quality,” he said.

So what are the real facts about Iowa’s water quality?

The environmental activists often cite the “high” number of waters in the state that are designated as “impaired.” But DNR records show that Iowa, with 542 so-called impaired waters, is a long, long way from the top. Pennsylvania, for example, leads with nearly 6,600 impaired waterways.

Many of the states with fewer impaired waters than Iowa have only a little working farm land, such as Wyoming or Utah. Or they are states, like Arizona and Nevada, which just don’t have a lot of water, period.

Unlike the wide-open ranges in those states, Iowa lands are some of the hardest working anywhere, raising crops and livestock that are in demand all over the world. And with world food demand growing by leaps and bounds, we’re lucky to have states like Iowa, which has both productive land and farmers dedicated to raising food production while reducing their environmental impact.

The DNR’s Gieselman also noted that simply designating that a body of water is impaired is a long way from saying it’s polluted. Many Iowa waters on the list have only minor impairments and support all kinds of recreation, like fishing, canoeing and swimming.

Here’s some other facts: Iowa farmers have made tremendous progress through voluntary programs to reduce nutrient losses. Studies show that herbicides levels have declined in Iowa waterways, there are fewer detections of nutrients in wells and soil erosion in the state—a major factor in water quality—is down 33 percent in the last 20 years.

Iowa agriculture officials recently announced a proposal to do even more to trim nutrient losses from Iowa’s rich fields and to reduce the state’s contribution to the hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Click here to find out all the things that Iowa farmers are doing to protect and improve the state’s water quality.

Then, when activists try to trick you into believing Iowa has some of the nation’s worst water quality and lay the blame of farmers, make sure to treat them with the facts.

Written by Dirck Steimel
Dirck is the news services manager for Iowa Farm Bureau.

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Learning to love school lunch

October 15, 2010

Boy, am I learning about the power of choice when it comes to food.
To catch up to my life with The Pickiest Eater in the World (my son), check out my post from Aug. 2.

The saga continues as we work to get this kid to find a vegetable that doesn’t bring him to his knees and more than bananas in the fruit department. It’s a work in progress, to say the least.

Since school has started, I pack his lunch. Every day. And, every day, I pack the same thing: peanut butter sandwiches, baked crackers, banana and a cookie. I don’t stray from the routine, although I can switch out the PB for a ham and provolone cheese sandwich. At times, I will try to be sneaky and add a fruit cup or applesauce. But, when I clean out his lunch box on those nights, my “Gotcha!” attempts quickly die when I find the unopened containers in the pack.

I simply sigh and continue my quest to combat the picky eater’s palate.

But then something happened during the first week of school. As he reviewed the contents of his “take-home” folder, my son played a “Gotcha!” on me.

He handed me the orange-colored paper and explained that it was the hot lunch menu. We haven’t even looked at these things in years as my daughter eats school lunch every day and the other kid could care less when pizza day was coming up.

But something had piqued his interest: the ability to choose what went on your plate.

“You see, we have to choose three components,” he explained to me, in his most matter-of-fact voice. “A main dish, a side and a snack.”
His blue eyes nearly bore into my very soul and I nearly fainted at his next words.

“I’m going to check out this menu and see if there are some things that I’d like to try,” he told me.

As nonchalantly as I could, I spluttered, “That sounds nice.” (In all honesty, I wanted to buy him a pony or something. This was a big deal!)

I’ve talked to quite a few other moms who have kids with different concerns, whether it’s night terrors, food issues, sound aversion and more, and it seems that the issue of control is often a common characteristic. My kid is wired to follow the rules and he’ll avoid disappointing people at all costs, but he just can’t go along with our pleas (and threats and tears and commands) to try new foods.

And, then there he was, declaring that he’d decided it was time to give it a go.

Control. Choice. Cool with me.

I will admit that the first attempt at school lunch dining did not go as well as I had hoped it would. But knowing that he’d be able to make different food choices on a different day with a different menu still appeals to my boy.

And boy, that is extremely appealing to this concerned mom.

(Note: The power to choose is just as important for those NPEs (non-picky eaters!) out there, too! You should be able to decide if you buy your pre-made hamburgers at the meat counter or purchase beef from a farmer or if you pick up vegetables at a farmers’ market or invest in Community-Supported Agriculture. To help offer your support of such choice, check out

Written by Heather Lilienthal
Heather is an Ag Commodities Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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Many people keep harvest wheels rolling

October 8, 2010

The wheels of harvest are running in top gear across Iowa. Grain carts, tractors and combines are all part of the long tradition of corn and soybean harvest.

Each year brings different hurdles for every farm, ranging from equipment breakdowns to rains that bring mud. Photographing this year’s harvest, and remembering all the harvests I’ve photographed in the past, has shown me how critical all the support systems are to finishing a successful harvest.

Spouses bring dinner to workers who are too busy to sit down at the table. Mechanics and technicians stand by, ready to rush to the field if equipment breaks down. Elevator workers hustle to get the newly-harvested crops safely into storage. They are all vital pieces in the intricate harvest puzzle.

These photos are a glimpse at the hard work and dedication of farmers and their support staff who work together to bring home the harvest that helps feed the world.


Combine in the Field

A combine harvests corn in a field in Iowa County.



Anderegg Harvest

Steve Anderegg watches the field as his father unloads corn from their combine near Mason City.




Chad Schwarte gathers tools to fix a New Holland combine at Lindeman Tractor Inc. in Atlantic.




Eric Munson watches a grain cart as he dumps corn on the go.



Soybeans in the Bin

Soybeans dump into a grain bin on a farmstead in western Iowa. On site storage is very important to the marketing of grain.



Pulling Parts

Jason Ball, an employee at Lindeman Tractor Inc. in Atlantic, pulls parts for customers. Parts departments are busy places during harvest season with farmers trying to find replacement parts for implements that occasionally break down.




A computer terminal is at the ready to look up replacement parts at Lindeman Tractor Inc. in Atlantic.



Preparing Lunch

Angie Atwood and her son, Brock, prepare a casserole at their Jefferson County home. Attwood helps the wheels of harvest rolling by preparing and delivering food to her husband and their hired help.



Lunch in the Field

Angie Atwood of Fairfield (left) shares a laugh with her husband Jeremy, right, and Travis Housholder, center, as the Atwood’s son, Brock, looks on. The harvesters were enjoying Angie’s hot food in the field, which is an Atwood family tradition.




A tractor dumps corn from a wagon into an auger and then into a grain bin for storage through the winter months.



Flowing Corn

Corn flows from a trailer into a grain storage area near Packwood.




Joe Mottet, who works for Hammes Farms, watches as corn flows from a trailer in Packwood



Two Rivers Co-op

Nick Arkema enters information into a computer as tractors pass over the scale on the way to unloading grain at Two Rivers Co-op in Pella.



Getting Started

Joel Huber climbs the ladder to his combine before starting his corn harvest for the season.



Watching the Yields

Craig Hill and Jim Hohmann watch soybeans flow into a grain cart at Hill's Milo farm.



Soybeans at Dusk

A golden crown of soybeans on the combine is accentuated by the setting sun as Lauterbach makes his way through the field.



Soybean Harvest at Night

Lance Lauterbach harvests soybeans into the night near Van Meter with the help of his wife, brother and father.


Written by Joe Murphy
Joe is a photgrapher for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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The perspective of an egg farmer

October 4, 2010

I have been disappointed by some of the perspectives some media and consumers have when it comes to egg production, salmonella, and livestock production here in Iowa. Too many want to paint modern farming with a broad and condemning brush. I would like to give folks a different perspective from someone who is actually involved with the egg farming.

I am part owner and involved in management of an egg cooperative. Our employees take great pride in the quality of work they do and the high quality of our product. They have done extra work to help the business secure markets that paid higher prices for our eggs. A number of employees have been working there since the business opened nearly 10 years ago. What we have found is that management matters and if the employees really don’t care, or don’t want to be there, quality suffers. When quality suffers, consumers suffer. That doesn’t work.

University research has shown that salmonella occurs in eggs (approximately one in every 10,000) no matter what production methods are used. In other words; it happens to large flocks raised indoors in cages or small flocks that spend their time out scratching in the dirt. It is just a fact of life.

There are several vectors that can contribute to the occurrence of salmonella. Exposure to rodents and the presence of salmonella in feed ingredients are a couple of the main ones. It is virtually impossible to eliminate the exposure of rodents to grain. As producers we can only minimize that by rodent baits and other natural methods. This would be true in organic grain sources as well, only rodent baits would not be allowed.

At our egg co-op, all of the hens are vaccinated for salmonella multiple times before laying age. We have tested the eggs and the facilities for salmonella, and every house has come up negative. If we were to get a positive, those eggs from that house would only go to breakers where they are pasteurized. We also put our eggs in coolers at 46 degrees as soon as they are collected to minimize warm temperatures that might colonize bacterial growth. That’s good management.

Bad management appears to have happened at the notorious DeCoster Farms in Wright County. If they did indeed test positive for salmonella at any of their houses, those eggs should not have been sold into the shell egg market. Rodent control in the chicken houses is a constant vigil but they allowed it to be neglected, adding to the risk of salmonella contamination. Long after the DeCosters are done testifying before Congress, they will be paying the price for bad management choices.

To paint all modern egg farmers by the DeCoster’s brush is just way off base. The overwhelming majority of Iowa egg farmers, (both large and small) follows the rules and use good management practices so their eggs are clean and safe. Iowa’s livestock growers care about their animals and the result keeps the animals in a humane, productive environment.

I always hated the saying, ‘Don’t criticize the farmer with your mouth full,’ but I think it is good advice. The Michael Pollans, The New York Times’, and the Jim Yungclas’ of the world are so affluent they can make different choices than most when it comes to what they put on their family table. But the folks standing in line at their local food pantries aren’t so lucky. I hope if you’re reading this now, you’re not among the more than 111,000 Iowans who are “food insecure” and wondering how you can afford to feed your kids a nutritious meal tonight. Mandating one style of food production isn’t going to make eggs, much less anything else, affordable for these folks.

Iowa’s farmers are truly the envy of the world. I’ve hosted farmers from other countries who think that and I’ve traveled in other countries enough to appreciate the model of food production we have. To the world, the progress of Iowa farming is celebrated, not indicted. I pray we all keep that “world perspective” in mind when you shop for eggs, meat or anything else at your local grocery store; behind your purchase a hard-working farmer is proud of the progress brought by generations of knowledge and hard work.

Written by Gary Boswell.
Boswell is a fifth generation Iowa farmer.

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