On April 19, 2017, the Iowa state legislature voted to completely defund The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Founded in 1987, the Center "helps to identify and develop new ways to farm profitably while conserving natural resources."
Bryce Oates reports in The Daily Yonder:
“Yep. It’s true. After 30 years we’re dead,” [Mark] Rasmussen [director of the Leopold Center] said. “It looks like we’re closing up shop on July 1st We just learned about the possibility a week ago. It passed the Senate, and just passed the House around midnight this morning (Wednesday).”
All that remains to make the closure final for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R) to sign the legislation into law. Rasmussen said he’s sure Branstad will sign the bill this week.
The Leopold Center is funded through the state’s Groundwater Protection Fund, created in 1987 from a fee on nitrogen fertilizer and pesticide sales. The center also maintains an annual appropriation from Iowa State University (ISU) and has a $5 million endowment. The Leopold Center uses the state funds to pay the center’s staff and to support a grants to farmers to document sustainable-agriculture research.
Rasmussen said there is no way to stop the closure. “It’s right there in the text of the bill. ‘Elimination of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.’ I guess I thought we had a little bit more pride than that in Iowa. I thought we cared a little bit more.”
Larry Koehrsen writes of this "shame" in the Boone News-Republican:
Over the past 30 years, the Leopold Center has been a leader in making over 500 competitive grants to further the cause of sustainable agriculture and resource conservation. Information and data resulting from these projects have been widely distributed to researchers, educators, the agricultural community, and the general public.
We owe much to the leadership of Leopold and the continuation of his legacy through the work of the Leopold Center. Iowa is a better place because of what has been accomplished. And yet, there is so much more to do. We continue to lose topsoil to wind and water erosion. Our rivers and lakes are impaired for recreation and water supply uses. Our agricultural model is not sustainable for the long term.
The destructive legislation was pushed through on a partisan basis with no advance notice. There was minimal opportunity for input from the general and agricultural community.
This was a shameful display of political arrogance. Shameful because so little is being done elsewhere by the legislature to cope with water quality and resource conservation. Shameful because this degrades the memory and heritage of one of the Iowa pioneers of land stewardship. Shameful because the image of Iowa conveyed to the nation and the world has been tainted. Shame on us if we let this action go unchallenged.
It appears that the legislature's action has yet to be signed by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. See one Iowan's plea HERE.
"The Loss of the Leopold Center is a Loss for All of Us" (Land Stewardship Project, 4/20/17)
"Leopold Center is honored by farmers, academics around the world" (The Des Moines Register, 4/25/17)
"Where's Aldo? Budget Kills the Leopold Center" (The Daily Iowan, 5/8/17)