Leopold Center Survives - But State Funding Pulled

Gov. Branstad Vetoes Closure, But Diverts Funds Elsewhere

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Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 9:33 am

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed a bill that would have shuttered the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, but left intact provisions of the legislation that will eliminate all state funding for the 30-year-old center at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

Without that funding, the future of the center is uncertain.

"While we appreciate that the name and the center will remain, the loss of all state funding severely restricts operations and our ability to serve our many stakeholders," said Leopold Center Director Mark Rasmussen in a statement released May 12. An endowment will generate about $200,000 per year, which might keep the center open at least part time, but won't be enough to fund much, if any, research.

"More than 30 new grant projects were approved to begin in February and their management will transfer to the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which has been charged with winding up the center’s affairs by the end of 2017, according to the center's official statement. Over the past three decades, the Leopold Center sponsored more than 600 grants involving research, education and demonstration on a wide range of agricultural topics as outlined in its educational mission in the Iowa Code," the statement pointed out.

"Researchers investigated many of the practices years before being enshrined in Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, including: buffer strips, bioreactors, prairie strips, cover crops, payments for ecosystems services, integrated pest management, early spring nitrate tests, crop rotations, and rotational grazing. Local foods systems were just getting started in Iowa as the Leopold Center promoted farmers markets, grape production for wineries, food hubs, and immigrant garden projects. Thousands of investigators, graduate students, farmers, community members, agency staff and interested Iowans have participated in Leopold Center research and outreach," the statement said.

In an article published Monday, the Des Moines Register quoted Branstad as suggesting that the Leopold Center could find other funding.

"They have already received significant bequests and other sources of funding, so they do have some other sources of funding," Branstad told reporters at his weekly press conference. "But the Legislature had to make some tough decisions this year."

In his veto message, Branstad wrote: "The veto of these particularly specified items will preserve the existence of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture while also maintaining the sections transferring funding to Iowa State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to continue valuable research into environmental and water quality issues." That research will be administered by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center at the college.

The Leopold Center’s advisory board is scheduled to meet June 8 to discuss future options.

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