Iowa agriculture, climate change, and "SWAPA"

Paul W. Johnson is a preacher’s kid, former Iowa state legislator, former chief of the USDA Soil Conservation Service/Natural Resources Conservation Service, former director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and a retired farmer. -promoted by Laura Belin

In the early 1980s there was a serious farm crisis in Iowa. Land and commodity prices were falling, so banks were calling in farm loans and foreclosing on farmers who couldn’t pay up. Maurice Dingman was bishop of the Des Moines area during those years, and he was speaking up strongly for farmers who were suffering during this time. I was impressed by his defense of family farmers.

In 1987 David Osterberg and I were serving in the Iowa legislature–he representing Mount Vernon, I representing Decorah–and working on groundwater protection. Industrial agriculture sent their lobbyists to weaken our legislation, and newspapers were carrying stories about their fierce opposition to our work.

During this time, Bishop Dingman phoned us and suggested we have lunch together. 

Continue Reading...

When is it safe to get in the water?

Angelisa Belden is director of communications for the Iowa Environmental Council. This post first appeared on the council’s website on August 21. -promoted by Laura Belin

I was born and raised in Iowa, but hailing from the far northeast corner meant more visits to Minnesota lakes or Lake Michigan than central Iowa. That’s likely more due to family in those regions, but when I settled my family in Des Moines two years ago to work at Iowa Environmental Council, many of the recreational opportunities here were new to me. That includes Clear Lake.

Continue Reading...

Ignoring Iowa’s factory farm crisis is a big mistake

Emma Schmit is an Iowa organizer for Food & Water Watch. -promoted by Laura Belin

The rise of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has shown us a lot. We’ve seen communities banding together to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We’ve seen the courage of our frontline, essential workers as they continue to provide necessary services. We’ve seen the importance of clean water in safeguarding our public health. And we’ve seen citizens and local governments standing up to guarantee water as a human right.

Unfortunately, what we haven’t seen is Governor Kim Reynolds step up to be the leader we need. With more than 2,400 employees of Iowa slaughterhouses testing positive for COVID-19, our supply chain failing, and no meaningful action taken to address either, it’s clear we need new leadership.

Continue Reading...

Big Ag’s “Too big to fail” fails us all

John Aspray: “This pandemic was not the first sign of vulnerability in our food system. It just widened the cracks that have been there all along.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Every Iowan is familiar with the catchphrase “Iowa feeds the world.” But new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food & Water Watch shows the consolidation of corporate agriculture in the Hawkeye state is causing far more harm than good.

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts a Census of Agriculture, asking every farm to provide detailed information on its operations. The 2017 Ag Census data was released last year, and tells a troubling story of consolidation in our agriculture system—a story that Iowa’s rural communities already know well. 

Continue Reading...

Comments on the governor's Invest in Iowa Act

Polk County Soil and Water Commissioner John Norwood adapted comments he sent to members of the Iowa Senate assigned to the subcommittee on Senate Study Bill 3116. That legislation incorporates Governor Kim Reynolds’ proposed tax changes, including raising the sales tax to fund some natural resources projects and programs that benefit farmers. -promoted by Laura Belin

Dear Senators,

As a Soil and Water Commissioner representing the 500,000 +/- residents of Polk County, I have been working hard over the past year to study, strategize and communicate how we can begin to make an impact in cleaning up Iowa’s Waters, conserving our precious soils and reinvigorating our rural economies.

Continue Reading...
View More...