Brian Waddingham at a cattle lot

CSIF Executive Director Brian Waddingham says calls for assistance have set records in 2021.

Coalition support for farmers constant despite 2020 turbulence

June 17, 2021 | Bethany Baratta

The 2020 derecho and global pandemic didn’t stop the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers from assisting Iowa’s farmers. In fact, partnerships with the associations and organizations that support the work of the Coalition and its Green Farmstead Partner Program — including the Iowa Soybean Association — strengthened to provide greater support for farmers.

The Aug. 10 derecho created additional hurdles for Iowa farmers who saw their windbreaks fall to the hurricane-force winds.

The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and other commodity organizations fielded calls from companies who wanted to provide financial assistance to farmers related to agricultural losses. But there wasn’t a central location to put this money toward.

That’s when ISA past president Tim Bardole thought of the Coalition and the Green Farmstead Partner (GFP) program, which provides free planning and design assistance to help farmers design windbreaks for existing or new livestock sites.

“There was definitely a need for assistance to farmers. Insurance does a lot to help make repairs to buildings and homes, but not for windbreaks,” Bardole said.

Bardole worked through the Coalition’s GFP program to install a windbreak around his hog confinement.

“Planting trees around livestock buildings is part of being a good neighbor,” Bardole said. “It’s good for buildings because it provides some snow control in the winter, and it’s good for odor mitigation.” The aesthetics of a windbreak was also a factor in installing the farm’s windbreak.

Thinking about the benefits of the windbreak and how it also enhances community relations, the CSIF Derecho Windbreak Grant Program was born. Grants were awarded to 40 applicants raising cattle, hog, sheep, dairy, and multiple species.

Since the derecho, interest in planting windbreaks has grown, says Brian Waddingham, executive director of the Coalition.

“We received a lot of inquiries from farmers who lost windbreaks they wanted to replace, but I think even more interesting was the phone calls from livestock farmers who didn’t have windbreaks but saw the protection windbreaks provided to their neighbor’s house and machine shed,” Waddingham said. “We started getting a lot of calls from farmers who wanted to plant a windbreak for the first time.”

To date, more than 77,000 trees have been planted since the Green Farmstead Partner program began.

Cattle calls top the list

Recently, there has been great interest in raising calves and cattle under roof. Waddingham says raising cattle under roof takes some of the weather risk out of cattle feeding, helps capture more of the value of the cattle manure, and provides better monitoring of feed intake.

Farmers continue to be proactive in their approach to adding livestock to their farms, Waddingham said. He’s hearing from farmers earlier in the building process, asking CSIF staff to evaluate a site before clearing dirt to add a barn or feedlot.

“Farmers want to make sure they’re doing things right,” Waddingham said. “They don’t want to be surprised by an inspection and find they’re doing something wrong, so they want a second set of eyes to look at things and reassure them everything they’re doing is good.”

The CSIF team is fielding fewer calls related to hog barns as construction costs have risen—by more than 50% in some cases—since pre-pandemic price quotes.

Interest in raising fish and shrimp in Iowa has risen as demand grows.

“There are some real exciting opportunities that are going to become available to farmers interested in raising fish or shrimp in the next 12 months,” Waddingham says. “We know that consumer demand for fish and shrimp is up. Consumers want a safe, healthy, wholesome product, and if it can be raised here, in Iowa, it can be a viable option for both farmers and consumers.”

Learn more about how aquaculture benefits soybean farmers.

Tim Bardole and son Schyler Bardole at the family's hog barn open house. The Coalition assisted the family in interpreting the rules and regulations associated with livestock production.

Record calls for assistance

The uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic caused some Iowa farmers to hit the pause button on building new livestock facilities or expanding their farms in 2020. However, some site visits occurred either virtually or in person respecting social distancing and proper Covid-19 protocols.

Calls for assistance in 2021 have rebounded, setting records.

The Coalition team conducted 31 farm visits in February. April was a record-setting month as the Coalition fielded 102 phone calls from farmers for assistance in navigating the rules and regulations that apply the livestock farming. Since 2004, the Coalition has been a free, confidential service to Iowa farmers.  The Iowa Soybean Association, a founding member of the Coalition, continues to support the work and the mission of the Coalition.

“CSIF is a fantastic resource, especially for producers like us,” Bardole said.

He says the rules and regulations that apply to livestock farms are different than they were 30 to 40 years ago, when the family first had a hog confinement.

A call to the Coalition was essential when Bardole’s son, Schyler, wanted to return to the family’s farm.

“It’s a one-stop-shop for information to get started,” Bardole said. “They’ve been doing it for years and they understand the rules and regulations that apply to livestock farming today. There’s nothing like it around.”