# Agriculture



Book review: The Land Remains

Larry Stone reviews Neil Hamilton’s new book The Land Remains: A Midwestern Perspective on our Past and Future.

Many of us baby boomer farm kids recall growing up in the 1950s and 60s walkin’ beans, baling hay, quail in the fencerows, and “the back 40.” But you don’t need a time machine to recapture that era, or to ponder the future of Iowa agriculture. Just read The Land Remains, by Neil D. Hamilton.

Raised on an Adams County farm, Hamilton earned forestry and law degrees before becoming director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University in Des Moines. He recently retired after 36 years. His memoir traces his growing awareness of how our agricultural policies have shaped not only the land but also the very fabric of our society.

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The system is rigged for corporate farms over family farmers

Chris Peterson is a family farmer who lives near Clear Lake (Cerro Gordo County).

When most people think of small businesses, they imagine a brick and mortar store on Main Street that offers retail or restaurant services. Most would not think of the work worn hands of a person caring for Berkshire hogs on a small farm. But that’s exactly what family farms are: a small business. 

Farming is the only thing I’ve ever known – it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m a third generation American farmer and I had my first pigs when I was a sophomore in high school.

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Iowa Democrats won't speak truth to ethanol power

The biofuels industry got a big win in the Iowa legislature this week, as the state House and Senate approved a bill requiring most gas stations in the state to dispense a higher ethanol blend known as E15 from at least half of their pumps.

All but a handful of Democratic legislators voted for the bill, and no Democrat spoke against the proposal during Senate or House floor debate.

It was the latest example of how Iowa Democratic politicians have embraced biofuels industry talking points and avoided challenging any policies seen as supporting ethanol.

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Iowa grain and the war in Ukraine

Dan Piller: A prolonged war that disrupts Ukraine’s grain production could reverse Iowa’s decline in world export markets.

“Nobody is qualified to become a statesman who is entirely ignorant of the problem of wheat” –Socrates

The longstanding boast of Iowa farmers that they “feed the world” has been made increasingly hollow in recent years as emerging grain export powers Brazil, Russia, and Ukraine have grabbed significant shares of the world’s markets from the long-dominant United States.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the attacks on Black Sea ports of Kherson, Mariupol, and eventually, Odessa will likely shut off Ukraine from its sea shipping lifeline. A lengthy war would bring into question the ability of Ukrainian farmers to prepare their fields and plant the spring crop.

The possible elimination of Ukraine as a major corn and wheat producer and exporter, even for a short period, could reverse Iowa farmers’ decline in world export markets.

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Interview: John Norwood outlines his vision for Iowa agriculture

Polk County Soil and Water Commissioner John Norwood announced on February 7 that he will run for Iowa secretary of agriculture as a Democrat. In a news release enclosed at the end of this post, Norwood promised to “protect urban and rural consumers, expand economic opportunities around diversified food and agricultural production, and advocate for the needs of ALL food, grain, and livestock producers.”

He added that he wants to create a “a modern vision for Iowa for its highly productive but “unbalanced” agricultural system,” in order to provide “healthy soil, clean air, swimmable/fishable waters and safe drinking water for everyone.”

Norwood expanded on his vision in a recent telephone interview with Bleeding Heartland. (Disclosure: I have known the candidate since before this website existed and consider him a friend.)

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