Soybeans: ISA eyes water quality
Commodity group has 30 monitoring projects statewide
ANKENY — Kirk Leeds, chief executive officer for the Iowa Soybean Association, said of all the issues ISA is focusing on in 2017, water quality is the main one.
Leeds said the organization currently has 30 ongoing projects that are specifically geared towards research of soil retention and water quality, in addition to hundreds of water monitoring sites.
“We are unique within the industry with water monitoring,” said Leeds.
In 2016, Leeds said the ISA had 420 different water monitoring sites across the state of Iowa.
Tile system monitoring made up 300 of those sites, where samples of water were gathered coming through tiles.
The other 120 water monitoring sites included streams as well as water sampling done on the backside of bioreactors to evaluate how they are functioning.
“We gather the samples and look at the data and then can see the impact of these practices,” said Leeds.
Leeds said the ISA will continue to work on the funding for continued water quality testing and monitoring.
“It’s a major and ongoing debate to find the funding necessary to expand and maintain water quality monitoring,” said Leeds.
Iowa Food and Family
The Iowa Food and Family Project was originally started by the ISA and now has more than 40 partners. This project is a “consumer-facing initiative dedicated to empowering food-minded Iowans to make fact-based decisions about their food choices,” according to the ISA.
This project continues to grow, and Leeds said, is a major item on the ISA’s focus for 2017.
“We are raising awareness of modern ag production and this is done with the help of the Iowa Food and Family Project,” said Leeds. “This creates an opportunity to engage consumers in conversation with farmers to educate them on what happens on the farm; to engage them in dialogue about that.”
The project has been successful and last year, Leeds said, when researchers tracked consumers before and after they met with producers and had the opportunity to be educated about their food and what happens on the farm, there was a 17 percent bump upward in response from consumers saying they had a more positive outlook; all thanks to that dialogue that was set in place for them to become educated.
“We need to continue to engage in open conversation, to improve and increase the consumer’s comfort level in modern ag food production,” said Leeds.
With 60 percent of the United Soybean crops exported, Leeds said the area of exports is a big part of the ISA’s 2017 agenda.
Leeds showed major concerns with the recent decisions made by President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership and to withdraw from NAFTA.
Leeds said there is always uncertainty when there is a change in existing trade agreements and what the new agreements might be. He said he is concerned about what impact that uncertainty will have on an already-struggling commodity market.
He has hopes the next agreement will bring back coordinating the acceptance of biotechnology — a feature of the recent TPP.
“As far as with the TPP and NAFTA, nobody knows, it’s a big unknown,” said Leeds. Adding that throughout the entire presidential campaign it was never successfully clarified what the motive was.
Leeds said he is confident in our state’s delegation — both Republican and Democratic leaders understand the importance of agriculture exports and they will continue to work for for Iowa.
In the meantime, Leeds said he is confident with Gov. Terry Branstad’s appointment as U.S. ambassador to China. Leeds said the governor has been on several trade trips to China with the ISA and he knows what it will take to keep soybean exports going there.
In addition, Leeds said ISA continues to actively engage in making sure their voices and the voices of Iowa’s producers are heard.