A Helping Hand: CSIF celebrates 15 years of serving Iowa farm families05/13/2019 | Livestock, Soybean News, Economics
This article was originally published in the Spring issue of the Iowa Soybean Review.
By Lauren Houska, ISA communications specialist
Being proactive means being reactive — ahead of time.
That’s why farmers from Iowa’s agriculture commodity groups joined 15 years ago to create the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF).
“In the early 2000s, the industry saw immense changes, and there was real concern that modern Iowa agriculture was under significant attack,” Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) CEO Kirk Leeds says. As founding chairman, Leeds has served on the CSIF board of directors since the organization’s inception.
“When farmers sought to expand their livestock operations, they saw substantial division and pushback not just near urban or suburban areas, but in rural farming communities, as well,” he recalls.
Misinformation spread by extreme activist groups took a toll on Iowa’s livestock industry. As livestock farmers hurt, Iowa soybean farmers felt the pain, too.
“As we like to say at ISA, our customers are real pigs,” Leeds says. “Livestock production has a significant impact on the continued profitability of Iowa soybean growers.”
Funded by ISA, third-party research revealed that Iowans’ attitudes about agriculture in the state were less than supportive. This solidified the desire of the commodity organizations to form CSIF in 2004 to actively combat misinformation.
As a confidential, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, CSIF helps farmers navigate livestock facility siting, complex rules and regulations, and neighbor and community relations. The organization has provided support to more than 4,500 Iowa farmers — at no cost.
“One of the first questions farmers ask us is: ‘How are you funded?’” says Brian Waddingham, executive director for CSIF. “We’re proud to tell them their checkoff dollars or memberhip dues pay for our services through the support of Iowa’s commodity organizations.”
In his nine years with CSIF, Waddingham can count on one hand the number of times a board member from the commodity associations has missed a meeting.
“It shows they care about and believe in our mission,” he says. “That continued support helps give the organization credibility with farmers.”
Waddingham says the main reason farmers call remains the same as 15 years ago.
“They want help understanding and complying with the hundreds of typed, single-spaced pages of local, state and federal rules and regulations applicable to families who raise livestock,” he explains.
But complying with rules and regulations is just one part of the equation. Neighbor and community relations are vital.
“Farmers have become increasingly proactive rather than reactive,” Waddingham says. “They want to minimize environmental impact and have positive relationships with their neighbors.”
“While the agriculture industry still has its critics, there’s no doubt we have made significant progress here in Iowa,” Leeds says. “CSIF’s work has played a critical role in helping the livestock sector, particularly pork, continue to grow in Iowa while some other regions have seen slow or stagnant growth.”
Animal agriculture holds steady as the largest consumer of soybean meal in Iowa. The state is the nation’s leader in soybean meal usage at 2.9 million tons in 2017 — 75 percent of which was fed to Iowa’s 50 million hogs, according to the United Soybean Board’s annual soybean meal demand assessment.
With evolving production practices, new technology and a population increasingly interested in where their food comes from, Iowa’s livestock farmers have seen many changes in the last 15 years — and they’ll likely see many more in the next 15.
“As the agriculture industry in Iowa evolves, there are many growth opportunities to help diversify operations and bring young people back to the farm,” Waddingham says. “The Coalition will continue to evolve our programs and resources to help Iowa’s farm families raise livestock successfully and responsibly.”
Farm families wanting a helping hand can contact the Coalition at (800) 932-2436.
Contact Lauren Houska at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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