Efforts during 2007 by the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers, or CSIF, to help more than 220 livestock farmers grow responsibly and successfully are having a positive impact on Iowa's communities, environment and economy, say state and county leaders. Wallaces Farmer last week talked to Aaron Putze, executive director of CSIF. He and others familiar with CSIF activities recapped the organization's efforts in 2007.
"The fact that there's an organization helping address the needs and expectations of both livestock farmers and neighbors is extremely beneficial and speaks to the need for a shared approach in helping grow one of Iowa's most important businesses," says Keith Sash, a seven-year member of the Tama County Board of Supervisors. "Given livestock's importance to Iowa, it's also critical that people understand and trust the efforts farmers are taking to be good neighbors and to protect air and water quality. The coalition is helping do just that."
Coalition has helped hundreds of farmers
During 2007, CSIF provided direct assistance to 225 farm families who raise livestock, up from 220 the previous year, 166 in 2005 and 147 in 2004. Since its launch in 2004, the non-partisan, not-for-profit CSIF has offered a helping hand to 519 hog farmers, 142 cattle-dairy farmers and 18 poultry-turkey farmers. Also, CSIF has responded to 79 requests from farmers seeking general information on ways to grow their livestock, dairy, poultry, turkey and sheep farms.
Specific services provided by CSIF include helping farmers follow rules and regulations, protect air and water quality by reducing odor transport through the use of vegetative plantings and biofilters and properly storing, transporting and using manure as fertilizer. The coalition also works with farm families to proactively communicate with neighbors prior to constructing new livestock farms and hosting open houses and ribbon cuttings upon their completion.
"The coalition's work is critical given the complexity of today's regulations governing animal agriculture, the desire of farm families to do things right and the importance of sustaining a strong livestock industry to the betterment of our economy, including Iowa's booming renewable fuels sector," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "CSIF works to keep families involved in agriculture, reinforce the public's trust in how livestock is raised and gives farmers added assistance to protect the quality of Iowa's rivers, lakes and streams."
Helps to find best location for facilities
The coalition offers direct assistance to help farm families identify good locations for new livestock farms. CSIF, working in cooperation with Iowa State University's Iowa Pork Industry Center, partners with farmers to assess the suitability of a new farm site by evaluating the lay of the land, local weather patterns and the proximity of neighbors, towns and public use areas. In 2007, the organization conducted 215 on-farm site visits, up from 143 in 2006. Since its launch, CSIF representatives have participated in 515 farm visits.
"I'm convinced that one of the best ways to grow a livestock farm is to first find the best location to build," Sash says. "The Coalition's work in this area is a win-win for Iowa. It offers farmers the kind of objective feedback they need to find good places to add more livestock. It also helps assure neighbors that the farm family is being respectful and courteous of their needs and expectations."
In 2007, the Coalition continued its tradition of providing educational resources to farmers by hosting nearly 400 farmers at a variety of workshops including its Farming Matters Forum held near Mason City and a popular series of beef feedlot tours conducted on farms near Sioux Center, Charles City and Atlantic.
CSIF helps educate Iowans about livestock
In conjunction with its farmer-led initiatives, the coalition continues to play a role in public education about farming. CSIF helps explain the importance of animal agriculture with Iowans. Last year, CSIF representatives delivered presentations about livestock's value to Iowa's economic and social well being to more than 5,700 Iowans representing 83 civic, farm and community organizations.
Northey says CSIF's commitment to helping livestock farmers implement best management practices is also becoming a model for other states wanting to restore the vibrancy of their animal agriculture industries. Since its launch, the coalition has fielded calls from farm leaders representing more than 15 states wanting to replicate CSIF's proactive work in support of livestock farmers.
"Iowans believe in the future of farming and value the work farmers do," Northey says. "They also want to know more about the families who are involved in livestock farming and that the quality of their air and water is being protected. The Coalition's work helps provide these assurances."
Farm families interested in making responsible changes to their livestock farms are encouraged to contact CSIF at 800-932-2436 or www.supportfarmers.com. There is no charge for CSIF's services.
The Coalition does not lobby, develop policy or maintain a membership base. It was created and is funded by the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association and Iowa Soybean Association.