Like Des Moines Water Works, I’m prematurely giving up on my two-year-old

August 27, 2015

Zach's daughterIt’s time to radically alter the course of my daughter’s education.

Yes, she’s meeting and exceeding many milestones people associate with two-year-olds, she’s a good big sister to her five-month-old brother, and our family physician is happy with her development.

But I need to see some real results right now!

Identifying letters and colors isn’t going to get her into college (much less a full-ride scholarship), kisses for the baby aren’t going to win points in job interviews, and no one’s going to hire an aerospace engineer who can’t consistently make it to the potty on time.

Instead, I’m in favor of the mentality Des Moines Water Works is taking toward another two-year-old, Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

The strategy, first funded by the Iowa legislature in 2013, is a science- and technology-based plan to conserve Iowa’s soils and protect water quality. It was developed by Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and scientists at Iowa State University. It’s being hailed by many local, state and national leaders (including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) as a plan that’s making great progress in protecting water quality, and it’s helping forge many rural/urban conservation partnerships around the state, like a partnership between the city of Cedar Rapids (Iowa’s second-largest city) and area farmers and landowners.

And yet, Iowa still faces water quality challenges.

It’s clear proof, according to Des Moines Water Works, that the Nutrient Reduction Strategy hasn’t cleaned up Iowa’s water and never will.

Instead, Water Works advocates for strict farming rules and regulations.

That sounds like a sensible approach to me. There must be some way to force my daughter to learn – to mandate a schedule and specific activities that will carve out her superfluous exploration and put her on a straight and accelerated path to learning and achievement excellence.

I mean, mandates are working well for the farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, right?

Please tell me the Chesapeake Bay regulatory approach is showing significant, linear improvements in water quality! Those guys have been on a “pollution diet” for five whole years. I really hope my daughter has cured at least one terminal disease by then.

Or maybe, I’m not giving my daughter (and Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy) a fair shake. Maybe it’s okay to admit that learning and improving water quality is hard work, and it takes time and cooperation.

Perhaps it’s okay to work together – to take into account science, weather, and different topography and soil types, and other variables to find the right water quality solutions for different situations – as opposed to mandating the same practice, permit or regulation in every instance.

I suppose I don’t need to defy doctors, teachers, scientists, and national, state, and local leaders.

Yeah. I think I’ll stop pooh-poohing solutions that don’t result in a desired long-term effect immediately and start laying the groundwork for future success.

By Zach Bader. Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager.

Harvest safety tips for farmers and city folks alike

August 26, 2015

safety1It’s that time of year when students are back in the classroom and Iowa farmers are gearing up to harvest a record-large corn crop this fall.

Yet in the rush to get the kids to football games and marching band practice, and to get the crops out of the fields and into the bins, the fall is also a dangerous time on Iowa roads.

Recently, I attended a farm safety workshop for the media hosted by Iowa’s Center for Agriculture Safety (I-CASH), based at the University of Iowa. Farm safety experts, a county sheriff and an emergency-room physician at the workshop gave tips that they wanted journalists to share when writing stories about farm safety.

A few of the biggest farm-safety takeaways, for both farmers and their fellow drivers, include the following:

  • Always wear your seat belt. Especially in rural areas, and on county roads, many Iowans don’t buckle up when they’re either a driver or passenger in a vehicle. And the same advice goes for farmers too. Wear seat belts in your tractor or combine. Today’s farm equipment is safer today, but it’s also designed to protect you when wearing a seat belt. If you’re not wearing a seat belt, you could get thrown from or pinned under a vehicle, or you could hit your head inside the tractor compartment.
  • Drive without distractions. We hear it all the time: Don’t text or check your smartphone while driving. But distracted driving continues to be a leading cause of vehicular accidents. Please take the time to watch this heart-wrenching video ( from the Minnesota DOT about how distracted driving not only cost the life of a farm mom, but also ruined the life of the driver.
  • Taking a new medication? Know that medications can make you drowsy or slow down your response time on the road. Also, farmers should remember to take frequent breaks to eat. Many medications are only effective when taken with food.
  • Don’t let children under 6 near farm equipment. No exceptions. While overall farm accidents involving children are on the decline, the number of farm-related fatalities among children under the age of 6 is going up, the farm safety experts said. Yes, it may be fun to get that Facebook photo of baby on his or her first tractor ride. But it’s safer to keep young children away from farm equipment and teach them at an early age that tractors and combines aren’t toys to play on.
  • ATVs aren’t made for two riders. Again, resist the urge to give kids a ride on ATVs. Even though ATVs have larger seats, the ATV-Safety1vehicles aren’t designed to distribute the weight of two riders. If kids are riding a child-size ATV, make sure they wear helmets. And if you’re riding or driving a side-by-side UTV, make sure to wear your seatbelt.

For more farm safety tips, visit I-CASH’s website ( or check out the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health Safety (

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is a senior features writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

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