For many years Wallaces Farmer has sponsored the annual communications awards presented by the Iowa Agricultural Extension Association. The recognition goes to IAEA members who submit entries of their work in various categories which are judged. The state winners receive a cash award and their entries are then advanced to the regional competition sponsored by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.
“The applications submitted each year demonstrate that Iowa State University Extension and Outreach staff members are doing great work,” says Nathan Crane, communications committee chair for IAEA. Crane is the ISU regional Extension education director at Newton. At the recent IAEA annual meeting in Ames, he congratulated the 2016 winners for their efforts in “effectively delivering objective, research-based information from university sources to the people of Iowa.”
This year’s state winners are Rich Wrage in the team newsletter category, David Baker for video recordings, Paul Kassel for website and online content, and Kapil Arora for feature articles. Wrage is the ISU Extension regional education director at Boone. David Baker is a farm transition specialist with ISU’s Beginning Farmer program based in Urbandale. Kassel is the ISU Extension field agronomist at Spencer in northwest Iowa. Arora is the ISU Extension ag engineer at Nevada in central Iowa.
What’s new at ISU College of Agriculture?
At this year’s meeting two top leaders of the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, John Lawrence and Wendy Wintersteen, were on hand and congratulated the troops. Wintersteen and Lawrence also gave a presentation on what’s happening in the ISU ag college, along with an update on ISU Extension programs and staffing changes. Then they answered questions. Lawrence is director of Ag and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach and associate dean of ISU’s College of Agriculture. Wintersteen is dean of the ISU College of Agriculture.
Lawrence, a professor of economics, was asked about the current downturn in the ag economy due to low commodity prices and its effect on rural Iowa. He noted that USDA is projecting U.S. farm income this year to be only half of what it was in 2013. There have been some cases where lenders refused to finance a few farmers this year, and there have been some bankruptcies, although the farm financial situation isn’t as bad—not yet anyway—as it was in the farm financial crisis of the mid-1980s. It’s kind of like a train wreck getting ready to happen in slow motion. A lot depends on weather in 2016 and when crop and livestock prices recover. That may take several years.
ISU Extension is monitoring Iowa’s farm financial situation
Livestock producers and crop producers will have a hard time making any money in 2016 due to low prices. Everyone is looking at where they can reduce their cost of production. There were quite a few cases of cash rents being re-negotiated this spring prior to planting, Lawrence noted. Lenders told farmers to go back to their landlords and get them to lower the cash rent, to try to improve the odds of making cash flows work to repay crop production loans for 2016.
Lawrence said ISU has several committees planning ISU’s exhibits and participation in the Farm Progress Show set for August 30, 31 and September 1 at Boone. Displays and presentations will include information on digital agriculture, soil health, preserving pollinators, cover crops and other water quality protection practices, such as bioreactors and saturated buffers, recruiting future students to attend the ag college, and more.
ISU ag and forestry programs are ranked among top in world
How is ISU’s College of Agriculture doing in recruiting students, considering the slump in the ag economy? Student enrollment is holding up well, says Wintersteen, and companies are still strongly recruiting the graduating students for jobs. “The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is doing well,” she says. “We’ve just been named in the list of the top 10 Colleges of Agriculture in the world, thanks for our faculty and staff’s commitment to research, teaching and extension.”
For the fourth straight year, Iowa State is ranked in the top 10 programs in agriculture and forestry by the QS World University Rankings. QS ranks ISU 10th worldwide and seventh nationally. In the past four years, ISU has ranked as high as fifth worldwide. The current ranking is online at topuniversities.com/university-rankings/university-subject-rankings/2016/agriculture-forestry.
ISU College of Agriculture & Life Sciences has record enrollment
Last fall, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at ISU set its fourth consecutive annual enrollment record with 5,375 undergraduate students, making it the third largest of its kind in the country. The college and its 15 departments offer more than $3 million in scholarships to students each year. The college has had a placement rate of 97% or better for 18 straight years. Nearly 72% of graduates begin their careers in Iowa. The college’s career fair is the largest of its kind in the nation. Last fall’s career day attracted a record 277 employers and 2,650 students, including students from 19 other schools. The college offers 27 undergraduate majors preparing students for careers spanning the study of food, environment, energy, climate, nutrition and science and technology. Each year the college provides a global perspective to more than 400 students through study abroad programs. Next year, the college’s travel courses will take students to all seven continents.
The Agriculture Experiment Station, administered by the college, is Iowa’s only public ag research program and has served the state for more than 125 years. Ag scientists at ISU generate innovations, technologies and solutions to immediate needs in food security, human health, economic development and environmental stewardship. Science-based information reaches every county in Iowa through ISU Extension and Outreach and research and demonstration farms guided by local stakeholders. Technologies developed by college research generated more than $10 million dollars in royalties the past five years.
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach last year helped farmers and agribusiness professionals make informed decisions in their operations through more than 180,000 contacts. Extension and the Egg Industry Center helped the state and nation’s poultry industry respond to last year’s avian flu crisis.