Exciting. Pioneering. Interconnected. But also challenged. Conflicted. And in transition.
These were a few of the words that participants at The Gazette's Iowa Ideas symposium used to describe the current state of agriculture and energy & environment across two sessions in Sioux City.
Iowa Ideas is hosting events around the state, designed to connect Iowans who care about key issues, share knowledge and explore possible solutions for the future.
Read on for more of the ideas discussed:
By Orlan Love
Farm sector representatives and environmentalists from western Iowa shared their perspectives at the Iowa Ideas Agriculture Symposium on April 11 at the Stoney Creek Convention Center in Sioux City.
The range of participants’ concerns was evident in the following one-word descriptions of agriculture they provided at the meeting’s outset: challenged, interconnected, transition, opportunities, changing, possibility, responsibility, promotion and evolving.
The morning’s discussion centered on efforts to reduce nutrient pollution from farm fields and to increase understanding between farmers and consumers.
Andrew Lauver, a fifth-generation farmer from Rockwell City who also provides agronomy consulting services, traced the history of family farming in Iowa and outlined changes required to maintain the quality of rural life as farms continue to get larger. Issues ranging from health care to broadband access were discussed as being critical to the future of rural Iowa.
Adam Kiel, coordinator of environmental programs and services for the Iowa Soybean Association, explained the most common conservation practices applied by farmers to reduce nutrient pollution and provided insights into the scope of the effort required to accomplish nutrient reduction goals.
Following the presentations, participants formed small groups to discuss conservation solutions and bringing farmers and consumers together.
The group discussing conservation solutions concluded that a substantial increase in state cost-share funding would be required to encourage farmers operating in an era of low profit margins to implement more practices. Priority funding should be provided to watershed management authorities with detailed plans for its use, they concluded.
In the other group, participants concluded that advocacy and education are required to help farmers and consumers understand that they have much in common. Working together would help them accomplish common conservation and economic development goals, they said.
Energy & Environment
By Mitchell Schmidt
Participants of the Gazette’s Iowa Idea’s energy and environment symposium Tuesday received a first-hand look at two much-talked about topics regarding Iowa’s water – nutrient reduction and flood mitigation.
Martin Gross, CEO of Gross-Wen Technologies and researcher at Iowa State University, shared an overview of a new process he co-founded that uses algae to remove nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous from water.
The process doesn’t just remove nutrients, but it recycles them into algae pellets, which can be used as a slow-releasing fertilizer.
Gross-Wen Technologies has a pilot program at Chicago’s second-largest water treatment plant and is adding one in Iowa’s Dallas Center community.
Gross said the application of such technology could spell out millions in savings for Iowa communities that need to meet new water quality regulations.
“These are a huge cost to these small communities and all the communities in Iowa are being faced with challenges,” Gross said.
Meanwhile, Jim Patrick, city administrator for Storm Lake, shared the progress made in his community on storm water management in recent years.
While past heavy rain events often caused significant flooding in the northwest Iowa community, Patrick said the creation of such wetland additions like bio swales and water basins to mitigate flood events. In addition, those efforts work to naturally filter contaminants from the water, Patrick said.
In addition, Patrick discussed the potential cost savings in water quality trading, which sees communities partnering with upstream groups to reduce nutrient pollution closer to the source, where it’s cheaper.
Trading takes partnerships, but Patrick said it’s worth the effort.
“It’s our water . . . we’re all Iowans, we’re in this together and it’s ours,” he said.