Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit Brings Hundreds of Farmers to Ames
WEST DES MOINES, IOWA -- July 24, 2013 -- Impacts of the wild weather, market and commodity swings led expert panel discussions during the Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit this week in Ames. Nearly 300 Iowa farmers and agribusiness industry leaders came to Scheman Auditorium July 22-23 for perspectives from national experts in market, fiscal policy, commodity marketing, land use trends and climate change.
Many panelists at the IFBF-sponsored event agreed the agricultural sector can expect changes in the months to come and only good planning will protect their sustainability.
"The consistent message was make long-term plans, and make sure you're grounded in reality," said IFBF Director of Research and Commodity Services David Miller. "The reality is there are no guarantees what our yields will be until we're in the fields for harvest."
The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy Plan was also on the docket, leading to lively discussion. One of the presenters, Dean Lemke, a Natural Resources Engineer for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), said media reports critical of the Nutrient Strategy's voluntary implementation have been premature. "Thirteen of 22 nonpoint source action items are underway now through the Water Resources Coordinating Council (WRCC) and various agencies to begin implementation efforts to support the Nutrient Strategy conservation practices. Some of the early steps we're doing looks at nine high-priority watersheds; we're holding field days to educate and encourage adoptions of these new science-based practices, so everyone can see how implementation can impact water quality." Lemke said Iowa farmers aren't going to solve all the problems in those watersheds overnight, but the progress being made is measureable over the last 30 years and must be encouraged to continue.
Other presentations that encouraged much discussion came from state climatologist Elwynn Taylor. Despite last year's drought and this year's wet, flooded spring, Taylor told Iowa farmers they can expect continued wild swings in the weather, thanks to La Nina and El Nino effects.
Farmers also took interest in results of an intensive Multi-State Land Use study, which examined two USDA databases which report on land use. According to the USDA Crop Reporting database which relies on on-farm visits, land-use grid surveys and farmer surveys, Iowa had a net conversion of 3,500 acres of grassy habitat to cropland from 2007 through 2012. Acres planted to corn in Iowa were the same in 2012 as in 2007; soybeans gained 800,000 acres, but alfalfa acres declined by 440,000 acres and oat acres declined by 80,000 acres, highlighting that much of the shift in land use is among crops, rather than a shift in land use. The study, conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions, showed farmers in 40 of Iowa's counties developed new wildlife habitat with more land being converted to grassy habitat from cropland than grassy habitat conversions to corn and soybeans.
Select presentations from the 2013 Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit can soon be accessed online at www.iowafarmbureau.com.