Leopold Center's effects felt globally

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As we prepare to send our governor to become our next ambassador to China I ask you to reflect not only on his legacy here, but the image of Iowa that will projected in Beijing. Destroying the world-renowned Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture would be a terrible reflection on the state of Iowa’s commitment to agriculture and jobs. It is not too late to save this remarkable institution.

I am an International Agricultural Development specialist with an M.S. from the University of California, Davis. I am now a Ph.D. student in Sustainable Agriculture at ISU. I have witnessed the value of the Leopold Center’s work in both my agricultural role, and as a U.S. Army officer, including in the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As a Fulbright Fellow in Egypt I can confirm that the Leopold Center is honored not only by academics, but also farmers of all economic levels. When I served El Salvador with Farmer-to-Farmer, the Leopold Center was known and studied for local adoption. When I taught at the University of Edinburgh Royal Veterinary College (Easter Bush Centre) I saw Leopold Center publications were being used. The same was true in Costa Rica, Libya, Kenya, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, and Sri Lanka. When you speak to fellow agriculturalists from China you will find many who will speak highly of the Leopold Center. Do you want their first question to be “Why did you kill the Leopold Center?”

I am a beginning farmer having graduated from the Practical Farmers of Iowa Savings Incentive Program in 2016. I have taken leases on organic farm land and will begin commercial operations this season. I depend on the Leopold Center for research. Their insight improves my farming, and makes me profitable. They guide me as I fulfill my obligations to the stewardship of Iowa’s natural resources. As a voter (in all elections since 1974) and a taxpayer, I want to see the Leopold Center continue and thrive. I am willing to pay additional taxes to insure its support.

I am writing to ask that you reverse the shutting down the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. This institution is Iowa’s gift to America and the world. Our state trained great agricultural scientists and humanitarians such as George Washington Carver and Henry Wallace. The Leopold Center is helping to train the next generation of leaders.

The Leopold Center sponsors research and extension education on key issues in agriculture for Iowa and the nation. The center serves as the catalyst to research that eventually makes its way into everyday practice — by farmers, businesses, and communities.

Over the past 30 years, the center has earned a national reputation for exploring innovative, profitable approaches to farming that conserve natural resources and stimulate local economies. Given these difficult times of low commodity prices, funding for the Leopold Center is crucial to the economic health of the state.

The Leopold Center has sponsored the work of Iowans concerned about their natural resources through more than 600 research projects on topics spanning water quality, nutrient management, soil health, livestock grazing, cover crops, and local food systems development. The proposed shut down of the Leopold Center will remove the center’s ability to fund research in these fields.

If you look at just six of the major projects the Center funded, for every dollar the Leopold Center spent on these projects, an additional $4.60 was leveraged to complement or expand the work.

Additionally, grants funded by the center in the last four years brought in nearly $20 million in added support (leveraging) for Iowa researchers and educators. The center’s programs have been an economically beneficial arrangement for the state and its educational institutions. Eliminating the Leopold Center would mean a loss of roughly $5 million a year to agricultural research initiatives.

The entire state would be impacted by the cuts as the Leopold Center provides demonstrations and field research in all 99 Iowa counties — epitomizing Iowa State’s land-grant mission.

I urge you to restore funding for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Organic farmers vote, and they will remember their friends. Thank you for your strong support of Iowa State University!

• Eve Iversen is a disabled veteran and beginning farmer applying the lessons she learned from the Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and the Leopold Center to her farm in Story City.

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