WEST DES MOINES —
A diverse crowd of farmers, community and business leaders filled the newly-remodeled Vet’s Auditorium this week to discuss animal welfare, water quality, changing markets and future trends at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s 94th annual meeting held last week in Des Moines.
IFBF President Craig Hill told members that “Iowa farmers met many challenges in 2012 and thanks to their innovation, were able to overcome drought and market risks." The future-forward direction of the grassroots organization and Iowa’s diverse farmers also brought several key leaders to the Annual Meeting. Gov. Terry Branstad spoke to farmers about the fiscal cliff, regulations, and the newly-unveiled Iowa Nutrient Strategy Plan, which the Governor fully supports.
An in-depth discussion forum on the 2012 Nutrient Management Strategy drew capacity crowds at the IFBF meeting. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Dean Lemke and Iowa State University scientist Matt Helmers led the discussion and answered many questions from farmers. The water quality plan provided several scenarios for conservation measures that would impact nutrient run-off in Iowa, and farther down the Gulf.
Secretary Northey said a science-based voluntary approach to conservation works best with all farmers. “I do believe now is the time for farmers to find these practices that work in our own operation, to figure out how we each can do a better job; this is voluntary, science-based, but it does not work if we don’t put them on our farms. We want to tell the story that we are making progress. It’s a better alternative than one size fits all regulation that limits choices,” said Northey. Farmers were encouraged to familiarize themselves with the water quality plan and participate in the online public comment period by going to: www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu.
The 94th Annual Farm Bureau meeting also drew capacity crowds to hear keynote speakers Temple Grandin and Lowell Cattlett. Grandin, one of the nation’s most-renown animal welfare and livestock handling facility designer, talked about the changing face of farming and consumer expectations of animal welfare. Her lively, off-the-cuff talk encouraged farmers to travel and ‘see how the world sees you’ when it comes to animal handling practices on the farm. She says today’s farmers have “made great strides” in how they care for their animals compared to the 70s and 80s when she first started working with farmers and slaughterhouses.
Economic “futurist” Lowell Cattlett also energized the Farm Bureau crowd by talking about innovation in technology and health care, and how farmers are ideally positioned to “blow the doors off” of expectations because of their knack for finding better ways to raise animals, grow crops or feed the world. He says one day, farmers may be using specially-equipped cell phones to analyze cattle and crop health.
The IFBF meeting brought education opportunities for farmers, celebrated innovation and also covered the business of the day, including leadership elections. For more information about IFBF’s 94th annual meeting, including a detailed list of award winners, photos and IFBF President Craig Hill’s annual meeting address, visit www.iowafarmbureau.com.