The Story County Cattlemen’s Association’s 2014 annual banquet featured three speakers, one of whom is leader of the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
Chuck Gipp, director of the DNR, spoke for a few minutes, focusing on the importance of everyone working together to improve the environment that we all enjoy.
Gipp, who spent 18 years in the Iowa Legislature and spent his early career as a dairy farmer near Decorah, said he got involved in politics due to his concerns about how the dumping of industrial waste was contaminating the environment where he was farming. That discovery (of the dumping), he said, “changed my life.”
Gipp assured the cattle producers and other ag professionals in the room that the DNR isn’t trying to put anybody out of business. “We want to help you stay in business,” he said, noting that the old days when the DNR followed the philosophy of “find and fine” are over. Now, he said, “We want to let people know what the rules are and what they’re not,” and help people in agriculture to follow those rules.
A lot of focus lately, Gipp said, has been put on the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The dead zone is an area in the Gulf that isn’t able to support marine life, and threatens the livelihood of those who depend on that marine life for their living.
According to the website for Microbial Life Educational Resources, the Gulf’s dead zone is one of the largest in the world. “The dead zone is caused by nutrient enrichment from the Mississippi River, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus. Watersheds within the Mississippi River Basin drain much of the United States, from Montana to Pennsylvania and extending southward along the Mississippi River. Most of the nitrogen input comes from major farming states in the Mississippi River Valley, including Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.”
Gipp said as Iowa works with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to figure out how to improve its impact on the Gulf dead zone, the rest of the nation will be watching. He commended the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association for taking the lead on this matter and building relationships with the EPA.
It all goes along with the idea, he said, that “what you do on your property has an impact off your property. Finger-pointing has to change — we all have to work together.”
Clean water going to
be a touchy issue
Other speakers for the evening were Dal Grooms, a representative of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, and Keith Morgan, director of the Story County Emergency Management Agency.
Grooms encouraged the Story County Cattlemen’s Association to work on increasing membership. She also spoke passionately about the recent swipes that their profession has been taking when it comes to clean water.
“(Clean water) is going to be a touchy issue,” Grooms said, and she encouraged those involved in the livestock industry to talk to the media and get the story out about what they are doing to support the environment.
“I do know it (the debate over clean water) will not be pretty. It’s time for us to step up and start pushing back,” she said. In saying that, Grooms asked of all those present in at the banquet, “Who here is ashamed of your operation?” She saw no hands go up. And she said if any cattle producer is questioning anything about their operation, they should call on the ICA for help.
“There’s a sucker born every minute, and an anti-ag crowd is selling fear. But we can sell pride and we can sell hope,” she said. “Let’s get people out there and show them what’s happening down that gravel lane.”
Morgan spoke about what he does at Story County Emergency Management to mitigate risk in emergency situations. He said his agency becomes active during a tragedy within the county, to help with response efforts and coordination of resources. He said it also tries to help communities recover.
One of the agency’s plans deals with agricultural disasters. “We want to call on you to help us out to make Story County Emergency Management as effective as possible,” he said. He used the example of a cattle trailer crash last winter, when the department had to call on two cattle farmers, Bill Couser and Steve Moser, to help round up cattle and get them to safety during a blizzard. He also mentioned, as an example, what farmers could do to help if Ames were hit by a natural disaster, like a tornado, and there was a need to shelter people’s pets.
Morgan asked those present to speak to him about what resources they might have to offer as a way of helping out in a time of tragedy. And he asked each farmer in the room to think about the fact that the disaster could strike them. “If you help us out, we’ll be able to help out all of you in the end,” he said.