Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Farm and Rural Organizations Send Letter to New Senate Leaders

the following is an excerpt from a letter from 15 farm, rural and environmental organizations to the Majority Leader and President of the Iowa Senate...

Dear Senators Kibbie and Gronstahl:

We, the undersigned food and agriculture organizations, would like to congratulate you on your Election Day victories. The people of Iowa, both rural and urban, have placed their trust in you. We know you are working hard to develop and implement an agenda that is good for Iowa, and will show the citizens that they elected true leaders with vision and wisdom…

…Democracy can be strengthened with more citizen participation in the process, breaking any view of special interest control.

We would like to suggest the following topics and initiatives.

1. An Ownership Society: Farm owner-operators should be the policy choice for the structure of Iowa agriculture. This goal requires open and competitive markets to minimize the excessive market power of dominant agribusinesses that raise input prices too high, and drive commodity prices too low. Strong support for new and beginning and transitioning farmers, as well as rural entrepreneurs, is needed to successfully bring young farmers into agriculture. We can also stem the loss of established farmers.

2. Environmental Stewardship: All rural and urban Iowans want clean air and clean water. They want their land values and quality of life preserved. Hog farmers want the spread of disease minimized or eliminated. We can grow the livestock economy, including reclamation of lost hog farrowing facilities, with smart environmental choices. The hog siting and manure spreading issues have gone on too long. They should be resolved. Local citizens should be empowered with land use authority, and allowed to control their own lives. Science-based state rules should set minimum standards on health and safety grounds. Urban and rural Iowans support this approach.

3. Energy Self Sufficiency: Iowa has tapped the potential of corn based ethanol. This should continue, but be supplemented by cellulosic ethanol, bio-diesel, wind and solar power. All utilities should pay retail rates to individual power generators. State investment and policy should continue supporting our withdrawal from foreign oil.

4. An Opportunity Society: Food generally travels more than 1,000 miles before consumption. Iowans import over 80% of their food, at a value of $6 billion annually. We can recapture some of this value for the state, with tremendous economic benefits. Support for direct farmer marketing to consumers and institutions should be strengthened. Organic food is a major part of this opportunity, because it is the fastest growing sector of the food production industry – growing 20% per year. Indeed, organic meat consumption is growing 50% annually. Iowa farmers can save on energy, and provide consumers safe, healthy and nutritious food.

5. Institutionalizing Change: The Iowa Food Policy Council should have a closer relationship with the legislature to promote producer and consumer progress. The
Department of Economic Development should include more rural entrepreneurship opportunities, such as developing value added marketing chains. Research and development in our public university system should be focused more on issues and problems for owner-operator agriculture promotion, rather than working with or for corporate-controlled agriculture. We wish to work with you to achieve and preserve this legacy. Iowa’s agricultural heritage is in danger of being lost, or taken over by out-of-state corporations. The urban support for agriculture and good food is tremendous. Rural Iowa economic development cannot be serious without including owner-operator agriculture.

Organization for Competitive Markets
Women’s Food and Agriculture Network
Iowa Farmers Union
Center for Rural Affairs
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
Iowa Network for Local Control
Iowa Network for Community Agriculture
Buy Fresh, Buy Local
Iowa Citizen’s Action Network
Iowa Human Needs Advocates
What Iowa Needs Done
Concerned Citizens of Clemons
Iowans for Local Control
Environment Iowa
Iowa Public Interest Research Group

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    John, I hope they listen, let us know what we can do, and thanks

  • At 11:44 PM, Blogger Center for Rural Affairs said…

    in response to the previous post, you know, i had not thought about it. but i would encourage everyone to send a similar letter, of just support the same issues by writing the governor-elect and legislative leaders and letting them know you support the same issues and include a copy of the letter if you like. The letter will be posted soon on the Iowa Farmers Union website - and until then you can e-mail me and i'll send you a copy. btw, for readers in other states, you could send a similar letter to you governor and new (or continuing) leadership. Most of these issues cut across states. thanks, john

  • At 4:00 PM, Blogger Center for Rural Affairs said…

    To assist with anyone else who would like to write a letter to newly elected leaders in their state, i asked the Iowa Farmers Union to post the entire text of the letters from 15 co-signing organizations to Iowa Senate and House leadership as well as Governor-elect Chet Culver.

    you can find the letter at the Iowa Farmers Union website (
    and find the letters specifically at

    if you need anything else, please let me know, thanks, john

    John Crabtree,

    Center for Rural Affairs (
    Values. Worth. Action.

  • At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    AMES--Iowa Farmers Union joined with other groups in sending letters to Governor-Elect Chet Culver and the state's legislators calling on them to create a forward-thinking, comprehensive food and agriculture agenda for the state beginning with the 2007 legislative session.

    "The overarching goals should...promote ownership, opportunity, prosperity, environmental stewardship, competition, health and democracy. We suggest avoiding a future Iowa farm economy that fosters serfdom, bankruptcy, pollution, low property values, and special interest control," reads the letter.

    "Iowa's food and agriculture policy should focus upon prosperity for farmer owner-operators and profitability. It should attract beginning and transitioning farmers. Competition in the agricultural markets is essential, with enhancement of producer rights when dealing with large corporate processors. Rural economic development can be achieved in the livestock sector without endangering the environment and quality of life in rural or urban areas."

    Other groups signing onto the letters included Iowa Network for Community Agriculture, Women Food and Agriculture Network, Iowa Citizen Action Network, Center for Rural Affairs, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Iowa Network for Local Control and others. The groups called on the governor and legislators to avoid the piecemeal approach to crafting legislation that has characterized Iowa food and ag policy in the past in favor of a broader approach that thematically addresses problems and solutions and allows them to progress from "merely legislating to leading."

    To read the letters or for more information about IFU's legislative agenda for 2007, visit or call 800-775-5227.

    Iowa Farmers Union is a non-profit advocacy group representing family farmers across the state. IFU also collaborates on legislative work and educational programming with Women, Food and Agriculture Network, NFO-Iowa, United Steelworkers Local 9310, and the Iowa Renewable Energy Association. IFU is a chapter of National Farmers Union, a general farm organization representing a quarter of a million family farmers and ranchers nationwide. NFU serves its membership by providing educational opportunities, supporting farmer-owned cooperative development, and presenting the organization's policies to lawmakers at the local, state and national levels.


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