Leopold Center gets a reprieve

Its future will depend on developing new funding sources

During the recently ended legislative session, Iowa lawmakers faced the need to find ways the state government could spend less money so it could achieve a balanced budget. Unfortunately, Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture became one of the targets of that necessary belt-tightening exercise.

The budget measure adopted by the Legislature anticipated that the Leopold Center would close and the funding for some of its programs transfer to ISU’s Nutrient Research Center. What was overlooked, however, is that the Leopold Center has a vital multifaceted program. In the three decades since it was established, the center has become a hugely important research and educational resource for the agricultural community not only in the Hawkeye State but all across the Midwest. It has developed a national reputation for cutting-edge research and effective educational programs to disseminate its findings.

Gov. Terry Branstad recognized that putting the Leopold Center out of business would be a mistake. Consequently, he vetoed the section of the Legislature’s budget bill that called for that outcome. His action does not, of course, restore to the center the monies the Iowa House and Senate denied it. The governor’s action will, however, allow the center to survive.

The Leopold Center must now develop a creative game plan for the future that does not rely on a state appropriations for funding – at least for now. Over the years, it has not relied solely on state funds. Some of its activities have received private sector grant funding in the past. Increasing that support will now be the key to its long-term viability.

The Messenger applauds the governor’s decision to allow the Leopold Center a chance to survive and flourish. In so doing, he has recognized that it would be foolish to discard so abruptly the 30-year investment Iowa taxpayers have made in this impressive organization. Charting a revised course for the Leopold Center won’t be easy. However, given the talent it has mobilized and the widespread support it has in the agricultural community finding a way forward should be possible.

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