In his address to members at the Iowa Farm Bureau annual meeting in Des Moines in mid-December, IFBF president Craig Lang challenged farmers to do more to make sure that agriculture continues to grow and prosper in Iowa.
Lang, a dairy farmer from Brooklyn, Iowa, pointed out how some groups want to stop the growth of Iowa's livestock industry by using scare tactics and half-truths.
"We must band together and find a solution," said Lang. "It is imperative for the growth of the renewable fuels industry, the next generation of farmers and an increasing need to supply a growing population with high quality protein."
Livestock opponents instill fear. They allege modern livestock production methods and facilities present enormous risks, such as water pollution, unhealthy air emissions and other health problems. "But our own Iowa Department of Natural Resources has proven otherwise," he says. "All these claims can be clearly and easily disputed. But too often the farmer is not allowed the chance."
If you don't defend farming, who will?
Lang cautioned that activist groups like the Humane Society of the United States are creating an antilivestock sentiment in other states that will eventually affect Iowa. The Humane Society recently spearheaded a million-dollar campaign to put limits on sow gestation and veal crates in Arizona.
Taking a stand isn't always easy. It can cause friction with neighbors, friends and the media, he notes. But it's important to start intelligent debate and confront the attacks on modern agriculture. "Future technology and vision can help grow Iowa's economy while feeding, clothing and energizing the world," says Lang.
"Controversy is difficult. But we can't go back to our passive ways and hope they leave us alone. These are defining issues. They will determine what farming and agriculture will look like in the future. Abandoning modern farming and going back to old-fashioned ways isn't an option either. Doing so would not meet the food demands of a growing world population," he says.
"There is nothing wrong with choosing alternative farming, if it serves your needs," adds Lang. "Farm Bureau has a long history of supporting all kinds of farmers. However, it is wrong when outside activists force agendas upon those of us who don't wish to farm and live that way."
Working on issues for 2007 Farm Bill
"Farm Bureau is already working on the issues we want to see in the new 2007 Farm Bill," says Lang. "Those include renewable fuels, livestock business growth, environmental topics and other issues."
One issue in agriculture that is growing by leaps and bounds is biofuels, in particular the ethanol industry in Iowa, he notes. What are his thoughts on biofuels? Where is ethanol going to lead us? "We're happy about the promise of that bright future because it's going to create jobs and wealth," he says. "It's going to change agriculture more dramatically than anything since the industrial revolution—when it actually changed agriculture industry."
Some cautions on biofuel boom
"This time the change is going to come back to the point where it creates value with the land and the soil," says Lang. "But there are some related issues we need to be concerned about. How is the ethanol boom going to affect taxes? How is it going to connect to a farm bill that is based on having $2.50 corn or less? How is it going to affect coproducts for pork and poultry?
"We want to make sure we don't forget those significant parts of our agriculture as we move ahead with all this euphoria around $3 and $4 corn. We want to make sure those parts of the agriculture industry stay vital too. Those are the parts of our industry that allow the next generation an opportunity. Future farmers aren't going to buy $5,000 per acre land. But they could raise cattle, they could milk cows, they could get into a contract of some sort to produce poultry or pork. That's the opportunity we need to think about for the next generation."