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Coalition tries to help Iowa farmers grow responsibly

By Staff | May 2, 2008

When farmers are faced with more regulations now than ever before, they’re glad that they have a place they can turn to as they try to grow their operations.

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, which began May 2004, is dedicated to help farmers grow their livestock farms responsibly and successfully. To date, the Coalition has assisted 900 farmers in Iowa and will have helped 1,000 Iowa farmers this summer.

The Coalition was created and continues to receive funds from the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association, and Iowa Soybean Association.

Coalition Executive Director Aaron Putze, Coalition Field Specialist Megan Ritter, and Estherville area farmer Craig White met with the Daily News Wednesday to discuss the Coalition’s efforts to not only help Iowa farmers, but to also make the public more aware of those efforts.

Ritter said farm families call the Coalition voluntarily to get her assistance in helping mitigate livestock odor and other issues. Her recommendations might include tree planting or biofilters as well as recommendations for distance, direction, and topography. “No one site is the same as another,” Ritter said.

In one situation, a farm family consulted the Coalition about placement of a hog confinement. After careful consideration, Ritter advised the farmer to not build the confinement even though it would have been legally allowed under the Iowa Department of Natural Resources matrix. The farmer abided by Ritter’s recommendations and both husband and wife had to take off-the-farm jobs to make ends meet.

“Sometimes we do have to have those tough conversations,” Ritter said, noting that the Coalition takes very seriously the responsibility that it and its member farmers have to future generations.

“We put a real emphasis on neighbor relations,” Putze said. Neighbors might want to know who is responsible for a site, its management, and manure applications. The Coalition advises farmers to be forthright by freely offering that information to neighbors.

Ritter said 98 percent, or 48,000, of Iowa’s farms are family owned and managed. Of those, Putze said 90 percent are dedicated to producing food and fiber.

“I think the Coalition is doing a good job of helping farm families tell the story,” White said. “We’re trying to keep family operations on the farm.”

Following are some ag statistics for Emmet County provided by the Coalition:

n Percentage of residents employed by agriculture, 10.9 percent.

n Total ag employment, 642.

n Average wages per job, $27,414.

n Annual Emmet County wages generated by agriculture, $17.6 million.

n Emmet County agriculture alone generates over $115.6 million in total sales.

n Combined, Emmet County ag and ag-related industries generate over $339.8 million in total sales, support 1,272 jobs, and generate $45.5 in labor income.

For more information about the Coalition, go on-line to <www.supportfarmers.com>.