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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