Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Losing The Iowa Nice

I have been practicing Iowa Nice this winter.  When Chipolte started releasing the exploding cow infomercials this winter, I chalked it up to corporate ignorance and desperation. I did not give the writers of this internet infomercial the satisfaction of acknowledging it - until now.  But, today I came across an article titled Breaking Bad In Iowa, written by Kamyar Enshayan, Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI).  Now, I do take offense to his writing.  As an Iowa farmer I refuse to accept being compared to a methamphetamine maker but that is what Enshayan has done. 

In his article, Enshayan starts his attack of commodity agriculture by stating that there is no need for stable communities, civic organizations, schools, churches, libraries, or rural businesses.  Not only as a corn farmer but as a mom, I completely disagree.  We need all of the above in rural America for the quality of life.  Living in a rural community, I feel more people volunteer and take part in the community because we all feel the need to support our schools, churches, libraries, and civic organizations because there are fewer of us than in urban areas.  In cities and urban area with larger populations not as many individuals need to be volunteers for multiple organizations.  It's not out of the ordinary for a rural business owner (and this includes farmers) to be a volunteer firefighter, serve on a church committee, help out at school, and be a 4H leader.  In rural America we take care of our own. 

The writer continues on how soil erosion has degraded and impaired watersheds.  Here are a couple of interesting facts.  Soil erosion has decreased by 33% from 1982 to 2007.  Conservation farming is continuously increasing.  In 2006, conservation tillage was used on 13.9 million acres in Iowa.  In 2007, 15.2 million acres of conservation tillage was practiced.  In Iowa alone 250,000 acres of wetlands have been re-established.  Can Iowa farmers improve?  Absolutely!  But, with new technology and education we are making great strides to save AND improve our natural resources.

Here is a quote from this article. "Unlike meth, commodity agriculture is legal, legitimized by the USDA and land grant colleges of agriculture, and financed by tax dollars, laundered through corn subsidies and ethanol plants (car wash in Breaking Bad)."  Wow, nothing like calling the kettle black Enshayan.  I'm pretty sure that I'm financing you, whether I like it or not, with my tax dollars.  The world has a growing population and there is a growing need for protein.  Corn is an excellent feed source for cattle, hogs, and poultry - all protein dense foods.  There are government food subsidies to ensure economical food for the US population.  Sure, we could produce our crops without a government payment but the increased food prices in the grocery stores would reflect this.  Ethanol plants have brought jobs back into rural Iowa.  Hence more consumers and volunteers in rural Iowa towns.  Plus, when I fill my family minivan with ethanol I am buying local.

Enshayan does acknowledge in the last paragraph of his article that many Iowa farmers are practicing good agronomy.  However, like so many articles showing up in print and social media , Enshayan has taken the low road and sensationalized issues that do need addressing with poor, unrealistic comparisons.  Scare tactics are not necessary to educate the US consumer. 

I try to keep a positive attitude but it's frustrating when individuals decide to cut me and my occupation down.  So, I will now return to my Iowa Nice mode.  

Hey!  Check out this opportunity at www.Iowafoodandfamily.org!  You could spend a day with an Iowa farmer and have all of your burning questions answered about the food you eat.

Win a trip to an Iowa farm

The next time you look at farms zooming by you as you travel through the state, picture yourself there: riding in a tractor, feeding cattle, harvesting soybeans. Iowa Food & Family Project and Iowa's farmers look forward to helping you feed your curiosity about agriculture and connect the dots from the farm to the food on your plate by hosting you for a real field day!
One lucky winner and family will have the opportunity to experience spring planting on an Iowa farm. The contest entry period ends March 31 with the winner announced in early April.