The Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers in May 2008 celebrated its fourth birthday, and CSIF is as committed as ever to helping livestock farmers grow responsibly, says Aaron Putze, the organization's executive director.
It was May 11, 2004 and the shoreline of Saylorville Lake near Des Moines was the perfect place for a news conference announcing the creation of a new organization dedicated to helping Iowa livestock farmers be financially successful and yet conform to environmental regulations. Nearly 100 ag leaders and stakeholders, including Iowa's secretary of agriculture, attended that day. And one by one, many of them took to the podium to highlight the importance of keeping livestock farmers on the land and active in their communities.
"It's critical," said one speaker, "for livestock farmers to receive the assistance they need in making responsible changes to their farms. We've heard their call for support and stand ready to assist them in all phases of their farm business. Our goal is to help Iowa's communities grow one farmer and one neighbor at a time."
CSIF marks fourth birthday this May
The name given that day to a first-of-its-kind initiative--a solutions-oriented effort involving six Iowa farm and commodity organizations--was the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers. The nonpartisan, not-for-profit CSIF in 2008 marks four years of action and accomplishment in support of the families involved in one of Iowa's most important value-added businesses.
What makes the coalition unique is that it doesn't lobby or develop policy. In fact, you can't even be a member. So no one is going to hit you up for any money. Instead, the organization focuses on working directly with farm families to help them implement best-management practices on their farms, says Putze. And it provides this service for free.
To date, 893 dairy, beef cattle, poultry, hog and turkey farmers have called on CSIF for insight and information about following all the rules and regulations and identifying good locations for constructing new livestock barns, feedlots and dairy parlors. They've also obtained advice for enhancing relations with neighbors and improving environmental quality on and around their livestock farms.
Requests for help continue to increase
Also unique is that the coalition's services are tailored to the individual needs of the family farmers who call. Since its launch, CSIF has conducted more than 700 on-farm visits.
Many of these visits include discussions that take place at the kitchen table, farm gate or planned construction site and focus on specific questions or areas of support. And they occur on small farms, large farms, those where livestock is raised under roof and those where livestock is raised outdoors or for niche markets.
As CSIF embarks on its fifth year of service, requests for assistance continue to grow. Since November 2007, over 131 livestock farmers have called on the coalition, up from 95 during the same six-month period a year ago.
CSIF has also conducted 143 farm visits (up from 78) and provided ongoing support to 122 farm families (compared to 105 last year). The organization also continues to network with ISU's Iowa Pork Industry Center in modeling potential farm sites--as 40 have been conducted so far this year, up from 25 in 2007.
Helping livestock farmers grow responsibly
"It's an understatement to say that the coalition's first four years have been rewarding. Iowa needs farmers and there's no greater satisfaction than helping them achieve their goals so they can feed the world," says Putze.
Perhaps the best testimonial comes from Stuart Swanson, a Wright County crop and livestock farmer who sought and received help and advice from CSIF.
"No one had the information that CSIF did; in terms of knowing the livestock issues, who the experts are and where to go for such things as financing, facility design and construction," says the ISU graduate and father of four who markets around 1,100 hogs annually on the family farm near Galt. "But more than that, CSIF has helped even out the temperament of people regarding livestock so that farmers like me have the confidence we need to forge a future in raising hogs."
"That's what CSIF's all about," says Putze. "We look forward to four more great years of working for the good of Iowa and another 893 farm families served."
Don't hesitate to contact CSIF
For information you can contact the non-partisan, not-for-profit CSIF at www.supportfarmers.com or call 800-932-2436.
The organization's mission is to help livestock farmers grow responsibly and successfully. Since its launch in May 2004, CSIF has offered a helping hand to more than 900 farm families in following rules and regulations, finding good locations for new livestock farms, enhancing relationships with neighbors and safeguarding environmental quality.
CSIF does not lobby, develop policy or maintain a membership base. Six farm and commodity groups founded and fund the organization: the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association and the Iowa Soybean Association.