Producing Energy on Iowa Farms

  • Iowa’s investment in corn ethanol production has brought economic development to Iowa. However, the ethanol industry has been struggling to survive in today’s changing economic climate.  It is time to reassess, and consider how future investments in renewable energy can be better targeted to provide more profit for farmers, and better protect our natural resource base.
  • New technologies are emerging that will make it possible for farmers to produce biofuels on the farm. Future Iowa investments in biofuels development should target technologies that enable farmers to produce high-value fuels on the farm using sustainable cropping systems, as an alternative to shipping low-value commodity feedstocks to distant ethanol plants. However, it is important that both the ethanol tax credit (VEETC) and the biodiesel tax credit be renewed to maintain stability and protect our public investment in the existing biofuels industry.
  • Wind energy holds tremendous potential to supply Iowa’s power needs. However, most current wind-energy developments provide only marginal returns to Iowa farmers, while farmers continue to pay retail prices for on-farm electrical needs. An alternative approach─that has been largely overlooked─is for farmer-owned, mid-sized wind turbines to be erected on farms across Iowa to supply the farms’ energy needs and provide supplemental farm income. Some states, like Minnesota, have adopted policies to encourage farm-scale wind turbine construction.

Animal Agriculture

  • The siting of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) has been a source of divisiveness within rural communities in Iowa for many years. To help resolve conflicts, the Iowa Legislature should return to local governments the authority to control where CAFOs can be built within their jurisdiction.
  • The overall environmental regulation of CAFOs should remain with the DNR at the state level to ensure uniformity of environmental regulation across Iowa’s 99 counties. However, some state-wide regulations do need strengthening, including the scoring system of the Master Matrix, separation distances of CAFOs from rural residences and other sensitive sites, and lowering the number of animal units that require a CAFO construction permit and Manure Management Plan.
  • CAFOs should be required to use biofilters and other proven technology to reduce the release of toxic gases and odors into the atmosphere.
  • The Iowa Legislature should set air quality standards for ammonia and hydrogen sulfide for animal agriculture.
  • There are alternative ways of raising hogs and other livestock that are environmentally sound, profitable, and do not interfere with the quality of life of rural residents.

Producing Food for Iowans

  • About 80% of the $8 billion worth of food consumed in Iowa comes from out of state. Growing more of our food in Iowa represents a multi-billion dollar economic development opportunity. This potential economic activity could create thousands of new jobs and help revitalize rural communities in Iowa, as well as provide Iowans with fresh, nutritious food.
  • If Iowans ate the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and Iowa farmers supplied that produce for just three months of the year, production and marketing for these additional crops would add $302.4 million and 4,094 jobs to Iowa’s economy, according to analyses by ISU economist David Swenson.
  • Locally grown food can be fresher, tastier, and higher in nutritional value because it can be harvested at peak ripeness, instead of being harvested prematurely so it can withstand long-distance transport.
  • A recent study found that obesity-related medical spending in the U.S. amounts to $147 billion per year. Since Iowa has about one percent of the U.S. population, Iowa’s cost for obesity comes to $1.47 billion. To help tackle the growing obesity epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended greater consumption of locally produced foods because of the increased nutritional value of freshly-picked produce.