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Re-Thinking "Bigger is Best" for Iowa's Farm Economy

June 20, 2007

Des Moines, IA - Getting the most out of crops in Iowa maybe shouldn't only mean big crop yields. Jeri Neal is a researcher with the Green Lands, Blue Waters consortium who says the long-term success of Iowa's agricultural economy depends on whether it's sustainable environmentally which will mean intertwining environmental benefits with diverse crops, including energy crops.

"It would be better if we were maximizing crop yields that were in diverse systems, because we could also take advantage of the ecological benefits that would come along with it and we would be kind of having our cake and eating it too."

Neal says agricultural subsidies in 2005 exceeded $24 billion and shifting some of that into a modest sustainable research investment would have a profitable pay-out.

"We can achieve better water quality, we can achieve increased wildlife abundance, we can provide biomass, we can capture carbon."

Neal addes that a U.S. agricultural policy that encourages multiple benefits from agriculture will lead to a more secure future for Iowa agriculture and in the long term a more resilient environment.

Dick Layman/Mandy Walker, Public News Service - IA