U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announces new conservation program during his keynote address to Farm Bureau members

Members of the state’s largest grassroots farm organization gathered in Des Moines, 1,000 strong, to celebrate the many ways agriculture helps Iowans “Believe, Lead and Achieve” a path of success in rural Iowa. The 98th Iowa Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, held December 6- 7, not only showcases the many accomplishments of farmers through the generations, but highlights young leaders who lead a bold, new path of innovation.

Craig Hill, IFBF president and longtime Milo, Iowa, grain and livestock farmer, says, “IFBF members know achieving sustained excellence in agriculture does not happen by chance. It is purposeful, thoughtful and strategic, which is why nationally we will seek to identify our needs in the next comprehensive farm bill, always striving to achieve your policy objectives. Members have many achievements, those won by the present and past generations of agriculturalists. The challenges facing humanity are significant. The world population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, which means we must grow 70 percent more food, and do so on less land, with less water, less fertilizer and less energy. As innovators, we can do that,” says Hill. 

Helping Iowa farmers invest in conservation innovations is one of the highlights brought out by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, during his keynote address. “Iowa farmers have invested more than $2.6 billion in conservation during my tenure with the USDA. We are committed to water quality, so we’ve added an additional $33 million to our national water quality effort, and this is going to help about 600,000 acres of land that we are investing in to improve the quality of our small tributaries and those small rivers that lead into larger rivers and streams and major waterways. We’re also announcing additional acres in our Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) of about 700,000 acres for wildlife habitat, and 100,000 acres for pollinators,” says Vilsack. The U.S. Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor also chose the IFBF meeting to announce a new program which brings into focus the measurable progress of collaborative efforts between urban and rural watersheds; the launch of the Clean Lakes Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR) program. “This program will assist landowners with the cost of building bioreactors and saturated buffers and under this program, we’ll provide a 90 percent Cost Share and the only qualification is that the land be adjacent to water,” says Vilsack.

As in previous years, educational seminars which focused on furthering conservation knowledge, brought big crowds. Doug Adams, a farmer from Humboldt County who has 510 acres out of his total 660 acres seeded to cover crops, told fellow Farm Bureau farmers that success in improving water quality is not an option, but a necessity. “Managing nutrients on our farms is a complicated issue and I’ve learned it’s important to begin with good measurement to know where you’re starting, so you can plan your approach with multiple conservation options; look at your nutrient timing and rates; look at different cover crop seedlings and methods; do some soil leaf, stalk and tissue testing and consider that sometimes, weather will trump your plan. But, it doesn’t mean you can stop; we all must keep trying because we all need to work to make our Nutrient Reduction Strategy work. The time is now,” says Adams.

Other popular education seminars helped Farm Bureau farmers assess market risk. Dale Durchholz, senior commodity analyst at AgriVisor, brought a sense of hope to farmers who have been struggling through three consecutive years of volatile prices for corn, soybean, hogs and cattle. “We are one significant weather problem away from a big move, because we’ve had three years of really good crops, the odds are saying there is going to be a big hiccup somewhere in the world. Then, we can be in for a really big change as strong demand begins to chip away at large supplies.”

Watch video of Vilsack’s and Hill’s addresses and see other highlights from the 98th annual Iowa Farm Bureau meeting here.