Since our last Iowa News, we have had to manage our way through some very cold weather, and I suspect many of you would agree with me that we’ve had enough of it for now! I am not terribly unhappy to see the snow melt, even if it means the beginning of “mud season” on the farm.
The legislative session has been a whirlwind of activity, and the results have not been what we were hoping for thus far (see a detailed legislative update below). Still, we continue to listen to the voices of Iowa farmers and rural people as they share some of their concerns and dreams for the future of agriculture in the state. Even as we hope for some last-minute legislative success, we remain committed to building a vision for the future that supports people on the land.
Personally, I continue to be concerned that we do not place enough value on the food we eat. We need to remind ourselves daily that how we raise our food is very nearly as important as working to ensure that we have enough food. If you would like to explore that topic further, please visit our Ground Truth blog and read “We need to consider the real value of our food.”
I continue to have faith that there are many individuals in our state who truly want to raise good food, and they want to do it in ways that work with nature. I also believe there are many others who would like to join those ranks, and we need to find ways to support their entry into a diversified and healthy food and agriculture system.
Part of the solution is to remove barriers such as damage caused by pesticides that drift. I was honored to participate in a discussion with Melinda Hemmelgarn of Food Sleuth radio about the topics of healthy foods and the threat of dicamba. Clearly, the landscape has to change regarding the careless overuse of chemicals if we want to provide opportunities for young and beginning farmers in the state.
On a somber note, we mourn the loss of Paul Johnson (Feb 15). Paul’s vision for the Iowa Land Ethic has always spoken to me and I hope his words will continue to motivate us to strive to be better stewards of our state’s greatest resource.
If you find value in our Iowa News, please share with someone you know and encourage them to sign up here with the Pesticide Action Network.
State legislative updates
Online Drift Reporting
There have been numerous phone calls, texts, emails, and other contacts between our state organizer, Carmen Black, and various legislators regarding the proposed Online Drift Reporting bill over the past several weeks. In lieu of legislation, one option was that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) could voluntarily submit the online drift reporting tool as a line item in the Pesticide Bureau’s budget. Failing that, several legislators from both political parties expressed interest in co-sponsoring a bill that would require development of this tool. Unfortunately, the priorities of the members in this current session appear to have squeezed this bill from consideration. If this changes, we are prepared to contact you and ask for your support to get the bill passed.
Pesticide Bureau Funding
SF 601 will move funds collected for pesticide applicator licenses from the General Fund to the Pesticide Bureau. Securing this funding could provide more stability for the Pesticide Bureau staff, who are often overwhelmed with chemical drift reports. It appears that this bill will move forward with a unanimous vote to approve on the committee level. We will continue to monitor this bill and consider it to be a potentially useful step in providing resources for the enforcement of pesticide use labels in the state.
Upcoming Events and Opportunities
There are numerous opportunities to expand your knowledge and interact with others in farming during the coming weeks:
Rodale and the Organic Farmers Association are offering micro-grants for small-scale farms run by individuals who are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color (BIPOC). The deadline for application is March 31.
Farmers can take advantage of opportunities to interact with their peers. Practical Farmers of Iowa is hosting virtual meet-ups for field crop farmers on Thursday evenings through April and similar events for horticultural crop farmers on Friday evenings.
You can also take advantage of a “shared learning call” hosted by PFI’s Stefan Gailens on March 5 at 12:15pm. The topic will be “Estimating N-Credit from Legume Cover Crops.”
Ron Rossman will present a webinar sponsored by the Iowa Organic Association on March 16 at noon. If you are interested, you can register to attend “Organic Farming and the 2020 Western Iowa Drought.”
The Iowa Farmers Union continues their Lunch and Learn series every Thursday at 12:30pm. The list of upcoming half-hour programs features a diverse set of topics and presenters. The March 11 topic will be “Black farmers, their history and challenges,” and will be followed by “The state of rural health care” on March 18.
If you prefer farminars on habitat and pollinators, you will find two opportunities offered by PFI in the near future:
“Using EQUIP to Improve Wildlife Habitat on Private Lands” on March 9 with Kelsey Fleming or “Pollinators & Climate Change: Making a Difference on the Farm” featuring Xerces Society’s Angela Laws and Sarah Nizzi. You can register for both here.
Iowa Learning Farms is also continuing to offer mid-day webinars starting at noon on Wednesdays. The March 10 edition features Iowa State’s Matt Liebman as he discusses “Crop System Diversification as a Step to Greater Sustainability.”