Supporting livestock supports us all: the industry perspective

08-26-2019 in Article

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – August 26, 2019 – The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was formed 15 years ago by Iowa’s farm and commodity groups.

Public concerns about changing livestock production methods, changing demographics that brought more people without farm backgrounds to the country, and farmers’ concerns about being able to accurately interpret a growing book of regulations called for a proactive approach.

At the heart of the matter was Iowa’s ability to continue to grow its livestock sector, and thus the ag and state economy, and Iowans’ innate inclination to do things right.

“Over the course of the Coalition’s history, we have seen the opportunity for commodity groups to provide a good strong team to help farmers do things the right way,” says Matt Deppe, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association CEO and president of CSIF’s board of directors. “ICA continues to invest in CSIF so our farmers can make decisions more clearly using fact-based information and expertise.”

Along with ICA, the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy are part of CSIF. More than 50 industry partners and sponsors provide additional funding.

With the industry participation, CSIF staff are able to provide services at no cost to farmers, regardless of whether or not they are members of any farm group.


Growing beef

Iowa’s beef industry has grown significantly over the past 15 years. According to the recently released 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, Iowa gained 172 beef feeding operations since the last census in 2012. Of those, most market 500 to 5,000 head per year.

“Iowa appears to be adding operations and growing existing operations that are large enough to be a major enterprise within a farming system,” Iowa Beef Center Director Dan Loy told Iowa Cattleman Magazine. “One in three U.S. feedlots that marketed 500 head or more is located in Iowa. Clearly the cattle feeding business is vibrant and growing in our state.”

Deppe says the growth is economically driven, but having CSIF involved in the growth process has eased the way for many farmers.

“The way we feed cattle has changed, and that engagement with farmers, the pairing up of the right parties and resources and providing a hub of experts, has increased farmers’ confidence in making a significant capital investment in their facilities, and in making sure they understand the laws so they can be good stewards,” says Deppe, who adds he expects to see continued growth in Iowa’s beef industry. “We invested in CSIF to get things done the right way and enhance our economy, our communities, and our environment.”


Pork production benefits

“CSIF has been and remains a key component in Iowa’s livestock outlook,” says Pat McGonegle, CEO of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. “It’s allowed us to not just grow, but thrive.”

Iowa leads the nation in pork production, with approximately 20 million pigs in the state at any one time. Iowans market nearly 50 million hogs per year from more than 6,000 farms, 94% of them family-owned and operated.

“Iowa’s pork industry is most definitely better because of CSIF,” says McGonegle. “Confinements have grown, as has outdoor production. We’re more focused on bio-security and disease management, as well as animal health and comfort. CSIF has helped farmers transition through changes in swine production and seek the opportunities that suit each individual farm family.”

One in five Iowa jobs is tied to agriculture; nearly one-third of those involve livestock. Pork alone accounts for 141,813 jobs, and pork exports contributed $1.1 billion to the state’s economy in 2017.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Mike Naig says, “CSIF has absolutely made a difference.”

“First, by using their hands-on approach to start farmers down the right path,” he continues. “Their assistance with siting and building, along with help interpreting rules and regulations ensures farmers’ continued freedom to operate. With that assistance we can continue to have a strong, value-added livestock sector in Iowa.”


Spreading the word

Naig also cites CSIF’s help in neighbor relations. “They help to tell the great story of the value of livestock to our economy, communities and to Iowa farm families before dirt is turned,” says Naig. “Communicating that message is a big part of success. We have to do better, and we can do better, and CSIF sets a great example.”

“They’re always there to spread the word of the great things going on in agriculture and to give producers that needed pat on the back, especially through the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award,” says Gretta Irwin, Executive Director of the Iowa Turkey Federation. “There aren’t many who stand side by side with our farmers and tell them they’re doing a good job. CSIF does. That really goes a long way.”

Iowa is 7th in the U.S. for turkey production, raising around 12 million birds per year and contributing more than $10 million annually to Iowa’s economy.

“CSIF has provided livestock and turkey farmers with proactive leadership, with programs that guide transition, and make sure farmers do things the right way,” Irwin adds. “Their emphasis on neighbor relations has definitely created a friendlier environment than it was 20-25 years ago.”

As a small office with limited staff, Irwin says the Iowa Turkey Federation considers CSIF a valuable partner, one that provides hands-on services it couldn’t provide on its own.

“They are also providing tools to blaze the trail for the next generation,” says Irwin.

“Young farmers coming into farming depend on diversity of the operation,” says Deppe. That means livestock, and the added value to grain production. Approximately 21 percent of corn grown in Iowa goes directly to livestock feed.

“Where we sit as leaders in ag production requires innovative opportunities,” says Naig. “CSIF helps continue to create strong value-added efforts through livestock, and does it in a way that strengthens our communities.”

“Livestock is so important to Iowa’s economy and we are committed to helping it flourish for generations to come,” says Brian Waddingham, CSIF Executive Director.

That’s what it is all about for Iowa’s farmers and their leadership as they look ahead to solid communities, a flourishing environment, and prosperous days to come.

“Going forward,” says Deppe, “CSIF and Iowa’s livestock industry intend to continue our mission focus – to do things right and provide a no cost resource to farm families. The industry will continue to invest in the good of the cause yesterday, today and into the future.”

(By Terri Queck-Matzie for CSIF. Queck-Matzie is a freelance writer from Greenfield).


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