WEST DES MOINES — Diverse farmers from across the state gathered in Des Moines this week to celebrate the successes of 2013, while finding new ideas to keep next-generation agriculture thriving in Iowa.
“The 95th annual Iowa Farm Bureau theme, ‘Generations of Innovation,’ focused on key areas of conservation and niche farming because we know agriculture needs new ideas and creative approaches to bring the next generation of renewable energy to the world; it will bring advances in seed genetics which help us grow food despite turbulent weather, or advances in livestock, food safety and conservation. It will take innovation to keep farming ‘green and growing’ for the future,” said Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill during his address to members.
The IFBF meeting featured several educational seminars for Farm Bureau members. “Innovations in Conservation” showed farmers options to help them implement Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Jeff Pape, a farmer and chairman of the Hewitt Creek Watershed Council, says he’s seen a lot of progress in conservation in northeast Iowa and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing has encouraged success.
“Farmers have learned from each other and participation among farmers in the watershed has nearly doubled over seven years. A lot of knowledge is passed back and forth over the fencerow. When we first started this project, some people said there was nothing in it for them. Now they’re participating in it because they’ve learned there’s a measureable benefit to their land, their crops and their watershed,” said Pape.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey encouraged farmers to put one new conservation practice in place on their farms next year, and share with neighbors and non-farmers the importance of persistence.
Pape agreed. “Soil and water metrics have improved because of the nutrient reduction efforts. We have fish back in the stream. But you don’t fix a stream for a water quality issue in three years. This is a forever project. It won’t end.”