Director: Leopold Center's Work Critical Now for Agriculture

October 22nd, 2002

DES MOINES, Iowa — The work of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture may be more critical now than in 1987 when legislators created the research center, its director told supporters Monday night in Des Moines.

"All of us understand that the work we have been mandated to do by the Iowa legislature and the work we have been trying to do certainly is not done," said Fred Kirschenmann in remarks to a group of 180 persons attending a dinner to celebrate the work of the Leopold Center. "The question we all need to ask ourselves is if not us, who, and if not now, when?"

Kirschenmann said serious problems in the current system of agriculture include low profitability for farmers and environmental impacts of agricultural practices on water and other natural resources. He outlined the Leopold Center's plans to address these problems in its next decade of work by focusing on programs to develop new markets for farmers, research to better understand local ecosystems and public policy.

"I believe that we are approaching a time when the kind of agriculture we're talking will receive a lot of support," Kirschenmann said. "For one thing, our current system, which is fossil-fuel dependent, may become very expensive in the next 5 to 10 years, certainly in the next 20 years. People in the environmental and conservation communities also are recognizing that agriculture is their issue, too."

Last spring, state budget cuts resulted in a $1 million transfer from the center's primary source of revenue. Plans for a fundraising effort for the center, to be conducted by the Iowa State University Foundation, were announced at the dinner.

The Leopold Center was established at Iowa State University as part of the 1987 Iowa Groundwater Protection Act. Its purpose is to identify negative impacts of agriculture, contribute to the development of profitable farming systems that conserve natural resources and inform the public of new research findings. Most of the center's operations have been funded by a portion of state fees charged on fertilizer and pesticide sales in Iowa.

The dinner was organized by the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and other organizations with interests in the environment and agriculture. During the dinner, Kirschenmann and the center were presented with an award to recognize leadership in sustainable agriculture research and on developing models for food self-sufficiency.


Fred Kirschenmann, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, (515) 294-3711
Laura Miller, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, (515) 294-5272