New Iowa local food program receives state funding

Iowa will implement a new "Local Food and Farm Initiative" as part of the agriculture and natural resources budget that Governor Terry Branstad signed into law yesterday. Democratic State Representative Chuck Isenhart announced the goals of the program and some of the potential benefits in a press release, which I have posted after the jump. Isenhart thanked Branstad for signing the bill and acknowledged the bipartisan group of legislators who helped him push for this funding: Republican House Agriculture Committee Chair Annette Sweeney, Republican House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Jack Drake, Democratic Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Joe Seng, Democratic Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget Subcommittee Chair Dennis Black, and Republican State Senator Hubert Houser, the ranking member of that subcommittee.

During the 2010 legislative session, the Iowa House and Senate instructed the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University to develop an "Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan." The center submitted that plan to the state legislature in January 2011. This pdf document summarizes its 34 recommendations, or you can download the whole Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan here (63-page pdf).

Isenhart represents House district 27, covering part of Dubuque. He championed this program in part because the city's Sustainable Dubuque initiative has a goal of providing more "healthy local food" to residents. Isenhart's news release noted that the new program will also benefit areas in Iowa covered by one of the Leopold Center's regional food system working group. After the jump I've posted a list of 16 local food networks which are part of that Leopold Center program. They span about 90 of Iowa's 99 counties.

Speaking of the Leopold Center, I haven't heard anything lately about an Iowa State agronomy professor's proposal to move the center from the supervision of the College of Agriculture to the offices of ISU's President or Vice President for Research and Economic Development. The Board of Regents will hire a new ISU president during the next year. That person should recognize and support the Leopold Center's work. However, the new head of the Board of Regents, who will be chairing the ISU hiring process, is Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. The Farm Bureau has already tried to interfere too much in the Leopold Center's work.  

From State Representative Chuck Isenhart:


Thursday, July 21, 2011


Only a fraction of the money Iowans spend on food stays in the state. That picture could begin changing under a plan championed by state Rep. Chuck Isenhart (D-Dubuque). The plan was approved Thursday by Gov. Terry Branstad as part of the compromise agriculture and natural resources budget bill passed by the Legislature in late June.

The "Local Food and Farm Initiative" signed by Branstad could help Dubuque's sustainability plan, which includes "healthy local foods" as one of its principles, Isenhart said. "Dubuque recognizes food as a component of social/cultural vibrancy, yet sustainable food systems also contribute to both environmental integrity and economic prosperity, the other pillars of Sustainable Dubuque."

Other areas of the state will also benefit, especially those covered by one of Iowa's "regional foods working groups supported by the Leopold Cenetr for Sustainable Agriculture.

The initiative authorizes and provides money for a state "local food and farm coordinator." The employee of the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will be stationed with Iowa State University's Extension Service. A six-member local food and farm council is set up to support the program. And a fund is established in the state treasurer's office to receive both public and private monies to support incentives, grants and pay other project expenses.

The goals included in the legislation include:

• Promoting the production of Iowa-grown food, including but not limited to livestock, eggs, milk, fruit, vegetables, grains, herbs, honey, and nuts;

• Supporting the processing and packaging of Iowa-grown agricultural products into food products, including canning, freezing, dehydrating and bottling;

• Aiding the distribution and marketing of fresh and processed Iowa-grown agricultural food products to markets in this state and neighboring states;

• Increasing consumer and institutional spending on Iowa-produced and marketed foods;

• Boosting the profitability of farmers and businesses engaged in enterprises related to producing, processing, distributing, and marketing local food;

• Creating new jobs in the state's farm and business economies associated with producing, processing, distributing, and marketing local food.

The recommendations came from a report developed by Leopold Center. The "Iowa Local Farm and Food Plan" was commissioned by the General Assembly in 2010. The council will review other policy ideas included in the report for possible adoption in the future.

More than 1,000 people from 95 counties contributed to the plan, directed by Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center. Information was gathered at workshops, 15 listening sessions throughout the state and two surveys. The draft recommendations were discussed with leaders of 21 state agencies, institutions and organizations.

According to the plan, the state has an opportunity to increase sales of local food, estimated to account for only 14 percent of the $8 billion each year that Iowans spend on food. The plan is designed to increase direct-to-consumer sales as well as retail and institutional sales by providing the infrastructure, research and development, and incentives to support increased local food production and marketing.

"Local food and farm plans have been developed in at least a dozen other states and regions, including Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina and the City of New York," Isenhart noted. "Being in the center of one of the world's breadbaskets, the only place on this curve Iowa can afford to be is ahead of it. We should be leading the movement, and this program, while modest to start, points us in the right direction."

Isenhart serves on the agriculture, environmental protection and economic development appropriations committees in the Iowa House.

"This initiative advanced with bi-partisan support, thanks to the assistance of Rep. Jack Drake (R-Griswold), Rep. Annette Sweeney (R-Alden), Senator Joe Seng (D-Davenport), Senator Dennis Black (D-Grinnell) and Senator Hubert Houser (R-Carson)," Isenhart said. "I thank Governor Branstad for signing it into law, and I look forward to being active in promoting its success."

Note: For information on a regional foods working group near you, contact the Leopold Center at, (515) 294-3711.

From the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture's Marketing and Food Systems Initiative:

Regional Food Systems Working Group

Local foods in Iowa  The Leopold Center leads the Regional Food Systems Working Group of the Value Chain Partnerships project. The working group is supporting local food system efforts in these areas:

Hometown Harvest of Southeast Iowa (Davis, Jefferson, Keokuk, Mahaska, Van Buren and Wapello counties), led by the Pathfinders RC&D, Fairfield

Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition (Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties), led by Iowa State University Extension, Decorah [look under Local Foods tab for Northeast Iowa Buy Fresh Buy Local]

Southwest Iowa Food and Farm Initiative (Audubon, Cass, Fremont, Guthrie, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattomie and Shelby counties), led by the Wallace Foundation for Rural Research and Development, Lewis

Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership (Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Grundy and Tama counties) led by the UNI Center for Energy and Environmental Education

Flavors of Northwest Iowa (Cherokee, Ida, Monona, Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury), led by the Floyd Boulevard Local Foods Market program in Sioux City (no web site available)

Harvest from the Hearth (COMIDA) Marshall County

Iowa Great Lakes Local Foods Network (Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, O'Brien, Osceola and Palo Alto counties)

Farm Fresh, Local Harvest Food Alliance (Adair, Adams, Clarke, Decatur, Guthrie, Ringgold, Taylor and Union counties)

South-Central Iowa Area Partnership (Appanoose, Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Madison, Monroe, Union, Warren and Wayne counties)

Dubuque Eats Well (Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson and Jones counties)

Iowa Corridor Food and Agriculture Coalition (Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Poweshiek, Tama and Washington counties)

Healthy Urban Food and Farming Group (Polk county)

Healthy Harvest of North Iowa (Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago, Worth and Wright counties)

Great River Food Alliance of Southeast Iowa, Inc. (Des Moines, Henry, Lee and Louisa counties)

Quad City Food Hub (Clinton, Muscatine and Scott counties)

Greene County Local Foods Working Group (Greene and Guthrie counties)

More about the Regional Food Systems Working Group and Value Chain Partnerships at

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