Lemke adds, "Some of the early steps we're doing looks at nine high-priority watersheds; we're holding field days to educate and encourage adoption of these new science-based crop nutrient management practices, so everyone can see how implementation of these practices can impact water quality." Lemke says Iowa farmers aren't going to solve all the problems in those watersheds overnight, but the progress being made is measureable and there have been improvements over the last 30 years and that progress must be encouraged to continue."
Farmers can expect to see continued wild swings in the weather in future years
Other presentations that encouraged much discussion came from state climatologist Elwynn Taylor. Despite last year's drought and this year's wet, flooded spring, Taylor told Iowa farmers at the conference that they can expect continued wild swings in the weather, thanks to La Nina and El Nino effects.
Farmers also heard about results of an intensive Multi-State Land Use study, which examined two USDA databases which report on land use. According to the USDA Crop Reporting database which relies on on-farm visits, land-use grid surveys and farmer surveys, Iowa had a net conversion of 3,500 acres of grassy habitat to cropland from 2007 through 2012. Acres planted to corn in Iowa were the same in 2012 as in 2007; soybeans gained 800,000 acres, but alfalfa acres declined by 440,000 acres and oat acres declined by 80,000 acres, highlighting that much of the shift in land use is among crops, rather than a shift in land use. The study, conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions, showed farmers in 40 of Iowa's counties developed new wildlife habitat with more land being converted to grassy habitat from cropland than grassy habitat conversions to corn and soybeans. Selected presentations from the 2013 Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit can soon be accessed online.