A meeting of the leaders of Iowa livestock organizations that are concerned about grazing and government officials dealing with grassland issues will be held January 11 in Des Moines. "This is a follow-up meeting from an original grazing summit held at Corning, Iowa, last February," says John Klein, who is an active member of the Southern Iowa Forage and Livestock Committee, or SIFLC, based in Corning. The January 11, 2008 meeting is being coordinated by SIFLC.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is sponsoring the meeting. "We have invited the local presidents of 23 southern Iowa county chapters of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association as well as representatives of goat and sheep producers associations in Iowa," says Klein.
Also invited are representatives from southern Iowa's three congressional districts and Iowa's two U.S. Senators, members of the Iowa Legislature's ag committees, officials from USDA and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and major farm organizations in Iowa.
Pastureland disappearing in Iowa
The purpose of the conference is to express and identify major concerns affecting the Iowa grazing industry and to collectively seek solutions for grassland agriculture's pressing problems.
"We will share grazing issues, and make suggestions for solutions collectively. If we want grassland agriculture in Iowa to be preserved, we must be proactive now," says Ed Johnston, a southern Iowa farmer who is the president of SIFLC.
"Iowans want clean water, reasonable meat prices, and reduction of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere. Grasslands filter the surface water, hold and build the soil, and trap atmospheric CO2. Iowa grassland graziers support agricultural economies that keep businesses open in Iowa's small towns. Those businesses include veterinarians, farm supply stores, feed companies, truck drivers and ethanol by-product handlers who sell the distillers grains."
Grassland agriculture needs help
Issues to be discussed include the age of existing livestock producers, obstacles to families entering the forage-based livestock business, land uses that are competing with forage and grazing acres, government programs, etc.
"We need to match new producers to retiring producers," says Klein. "We also need loans for beginning farmers, and we need to put profit in the grazing business. Corn for ethanol, soybeans for biodiesel and the newly-developing cellulosic energy industry is demanding more of our marginal acres in this state. Recreational use, urban encroachment and tax law or 1031 exchanges are also matters that need to be discussed. We need to look for ways that our forage based livestock industry can compete in a global economy."
Invitations to the summit have been sent to 23 Cattlemen's Association county presidents in southern Iowa. "We are hoping for diverse input from graziers, in age, geography and economics. We ask local cattle, goat, and sheep producers to contact their organizations and encourage them to send someone to represent their county," says Johnston.
The Grazing Summit will be held at the Airport Holiday Inn in Des Moines in conjunction with the Practical Farmers of Iowa two-day conference. The summit will run from 4:30 to 8:00pm. Attendees of the summit are also invited to attend the PFI afternoon workshop with noted grassland specialist Jim Gerrish of Idaho. Gerrish taught grazing management to Iowa and Missouri livestock farmers for 20 years when he was a forage agronomist at the University of Missouri demonstration farm at Linnaeus, Mo.