The Iowa Farm Bureau teamed up with the University of Iowa, the Johnson County Crisis Center and the Iowa Food Bank Association to bring the first-ever ‘America Needs Farmers (ANF) Food Drive’ to Kinnick Stadium during the April 14 Spring Scrimmage game. The generosity of Iowa Hawkeye fans and Iowa farmers helped bring in critical cash and can donations for local and state-wide food banks.
Pioneer Hi-Bred set up a very interesting and informative backdrop recently when dedicated its sparkling new $40 million plant genetics research facility in central Iowa. On a stairway next to where company officials and state leaders cut the ceremonial opening ribbon (green, of course) stood dozens of researchers all dressed in white lab coats and safety glasses.
The event in Johnston was a great illustration of all of the science and high technology in farming today. But the long line of well-educated researchers was an even better illustration of how agriculture remains a driving engine behind Iowa’s economy.
The numbers bear that out. Propelled by strong gains in the farm sector, Iowa’s personal income growth in 2011 was the second strongest in the United States and well above the national average. Iowa’s personal income growth was up 6.8 percent in 2011 and was behind only one state, North Dakota. And as Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad pointed out at the Pioneer event, North Dakota’s gains are based mostly on oil drilling.
For years Iowa’s government officials and lawmakers have lamented the state’s so-called brain drain, worried that educated young people were fleeing the state in droves. To stem the brain drain, many consultants urged the state to look in new directions, like high-tech, manufacturing or even movie making.
Those sectors might be pieces of the puzzle. But the old mainstay—agriculture—remains the primary brain-magnet for Iowa.
You can see it all over the state. Seed genetics companies like Pioneer and many others are drawing talented people from all over the country and the world to work in the state. They are taking advantage of the close proximity to the world-class research at Iowa State University and many of the country’s best farmers.
And the economic growth magnet goes way beyond seed genetics.
For example, an agricultural tire manufacturer based in the Czech Republic will soon hold the grand opening of its new plant in Charles City. The tire maker is investing $52 million in the northeast Iowa plant and will employ more than 150 people.
To the west at Fort Dodge, agribusiness giant Cargill continues to build its Fort Dodge corn wet milling plant. Other companies have already started to locate near the Cargill plant to take advantage of the synergies.
The new Valley of the Moon turkey hatchery is sending birds around the country and the world. And a Dutch company Lely is beginning to build robotic milking machines in Pella, adjacent to another leading Iowa agriculture equipment manufacturer, Vermeer. (Yes, robotic milkers. Our ancestors would never believe it!)
The bottom line is that when you see economic development in Iowa these days, there’s a pretty good chance it’s connected to agriculture.
Ag’s contribution to Iowa’s economy is not lost on the state’s leaders, like Branstad.
“Agriculture and agribusiness are really the strength of the Iowa economy right now,” he said at the Pioneer ribbon cutting. “It wasn’t that way when I was first governor back in the 1980s and I have to tell you, it’s a lot more fun now.”
Written by Dirck Steimel
Dirck is the news services manager for Iowa Farm Bureau.
Whether you’re an old-school hard-cover book reader like me or a full-fledged e-reader convert, reading is so important. And the next best thing to reading books, is talking about books. Book discussions are hotter than ever. This weekend, the Cedar Rapids Library is hosting discussion as part of their ongoing Linn Area Reads project that encourages Linn County residents to read and discuss the same book.
This year, the book is “Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms,” written by Nicolette Hahn Niman. Niman is married to the founder of Niman Ranch, a collection of farms raising livestock and eggs. Niman describes the book as “the tale of my journey through the meat system and from East Coast vegetarian lawyer to West Coast rancher.”
The library is hosting a discussion at the Marion Library at 2 p.m. featuring a panel of farmers and a food planner.
One of the panelists is Jason Russell, a young farmer who was interviewed for a story in this week’s Cedar Rapids Gazette (http://thegazette.com/2012/04/09/linn-area-reads-focuses-on-factory-farms/). This is where things get interesting: Russell and Niman have very different perspectives on hog production and food. But they do share common ground when it comes to making choices that fit your family, your food and your farm.
Disclaimer: I work for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and we are an equal-opportunity farm supporter. We have all kinds of farmer members who raise all types of things, from organic crops to grass-fed beef to modern hog barns to hooping it up in hoop buildings.
Why not check it out if you’re in the area? (And if you’re not a reader, I’m pretty sure that you’re an eater. There’s something there for you!) You can’t go wrong with farmers and books, especially during National Library Week! You can take along your opinions and see if you can add a nugget or two of information to your information arsenal. To learn more about Linn County Reads and this year’s selection, visit http://metrolibrarynetwork.org/linnareareads/.
Written by Heather Lilienthal
Heather is a communications specialist with the Iowa Farm Bureau.