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An Iowa cattle hall of famer

By Staff | Feb 12, 2014

DAVE PETTY, of rural Eldora, was recently inducted into the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Hall of Fame and has worked hard on environmental concerns not only on his own land but at the state and national levels as well.

ELDORA – During the December 2013 Iowa Cattle Association convention, Dave Petty, of Eldora, was named the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association 2013 Hall of Fame recipient.

“It’s a pretty neat group of people to be among,” said Petty. “I have looked up to a lot of the people in the Hall of Fame. It’s a big honor.”

Petty is known in the Iowa cattle industry for his work at both the state and federal levels dealing with regulators on environmental concerns and other efforts.

He has also received the 2001 national winner of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program, sponsored by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; a 2002 Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator’s Award for Environmental Excellence, and the 2003 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture given by ISU’s Leopold Center.

Petty, along with his wife, Diane Petty, own and operate a diversified crop and livestock operation in west central Hardin County.

The Pettys’ operation is made up of a corn and soybean rotation, pasture, hay ground; a cow-calf operation, which includes finishing calves in a feed lot.

Petty said he’s been able to achieve raising and harvesting an excellent product because they are control of all aspects of the beef-raising process.

“Over the years, we’ve been able to benefit from high quality beef by finishing them out ourselves,” he said. “We make a decision on a breeding program with a goal of producing high quality nutritious beef for purchase.”

Grid marketer

Petty said he takes advantage of grid marketing when selling his beef.

Grid marketing, Petty said, is dependent on the grade and quality of beef. A producer is paid extra over the base average market price for that week. The beef is graded at the plants at time of slaughter.

Petty said he strives to achieve a “high choice certified Angus beef” or “prime” grade each time.

“By raising my own product and keeping individual carcass information over the last 15 years, I truly know what my animal is going to go for,” he said.

Besides striving for a high-quality beef product, Petty said he logs in numerous hours and money into ensuring his farm is environmentally and economically sound.

Building up his farmland with terraces, putting in waterways, headlands and buffer strips as well as practicing minimum tillage are all ways Petty said he’s worked to protect his land and the Iowa River that his farm runs alongside.

Petty chooses to opt out of any fall tillage, which not only helps to protect his land, but allows his cattle to graze off of those acres as well.

His headlands, waterways and buffer strips, he said, not only help to reduce erosion, his cattle operation also benefits from those acres as a feed source.

“Our land follows the river,” Petty said, “with streams that lead to the river. Our topography leads us to conservation, we truly need to be that way. If you take care of the land, it will take care of you.”

Scratch cattleman

Petty is a first-generation farmer, beginning his operation on his own from scratch.

He said he had been renting land in southern Iowa back in the 1980s for his cow-calf operation and had considered moving there when the opportunity arose for him to buy land near his home town of Eldora.

When it comes to making any decision on his farm, Petty said he looks to three factors: Is it environmentally friendly, economically feasible and socially the right thing?

“If you run those three questions by anything you do,” he said, “and if you can answer yes to all three, it is feasible. But if you lack on any of the three, it just won’t work.”

Petty has also taken that mindset to numerous cattle industry and agricultural associated committees and boards at the county, state and national level he has been a large part of over the years.

He has also been president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association for two years and served on various beef committees.

Petty has served on the board at the National Cattlemen Beef Association and was chairman of the ag and food policy committee.

He served for eight years on the Environmental Protection Commission of Iowa, completing his second term last month.

Works with EPA

Petty has been the Rural Farm and Ranch Agricultural Committee Advisory to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Petty said he has been the deputy chair of that advisory group and has worked diligently at building trust between producers and the EPA.

Trust is needed between the producers and the EPA, he said. One way he has attempted to make this happen is hosting EPA regulators to his farm.

“I have spent a lot of time with regulators,” Petty said, “face to face and getting them out here is the key, showing them every single operation is different.

“They are making an effort to get out to the country more and trying to build trust, which will take a while.”

Petty said there have been too many years where both sides (EPA and producers) have worked against each other.

“The only way to solve an issue is to work with both sides, teach each other and together come up with a solution,” he said.

To accomplish this, he said, producers must work with the EPA and follow regulations. However, Petty believes in volunteerism versus setting mandatory regulations.

“If you have a bunch of volunteers moving forward, it will be positive,” Petty said. “It will work toward our goal of improving water quality versus strict rules and regulations no one participates in.”

Petty has taken two trips to Washington, D.C., in 2014 working with the EPA, a prime example of how producers and regulators are working

He has served on the state technical committee of the Natural Resources and Conservation Service and the Environmental Protection Committee, he said has been some of his biggest work.

Giving so much of his time at the state and national level throughout the industry, Petty said, he is thankful to have the help of friends and family, which makes it all possible.

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