Deadline to veto legislation looms for Leopold Center
By Kristin Danley-Greiner
Gov. Terry Branstad has 30 days to either approve or veto legislation that removes state funding for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture after the state legislators approved the measure.
If Branstad signs off on the legislation, supporters say it would ultimately shutter the doors on the center, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.
The center was created during the 1980s as a way to educate farmers about sustainable agriculture, alternative crops, livestock practices and conservation. It’s known for the research projects scientists and agronomists publish and share with the public and is named after Iowa native and renowned ecologist Aldo Leopold.
Supporters of the Leopold Center packed the State Capitol last Monday to testify in favor of keeping the state’s revenue stream flowing to the center. But after the hearing, the Iowa Senate voted to eliminate approximately $1.5 million in funding to the center. The Iowa House of Representatives also approved the legislation the following day.
Some lawmakers say the center has outlived its mission, while supporters say there’s much work left to be done. Proponents of the legislation argue that the consequences of losing the center aren’t that big of a deal; supporters say it’s placed Iowa on the map and farmers will lose footing if it closes.
Legislators voted to cut funding to the center just days before the 69th anniversary of Leopold’s death.
Mark Peterson, who farms near Stanton, testified in favor of funding the Leopold Center at the public hearing. He said he had learned and adopted farming practices he never would’ve learned about if it weren’t for the center.
Mark Rasmussen, executive director of the Leopold Center, has said he’s tenured faculty and isn’t worried about himself, but is concerned about the fate of his staff, farmers and sustainable agriculture in the state if Branstad approves the legislation.
“We’re sitting and waiting. We don’t know what will happen,” Rasmussen said. “The governor has a lot of things on his plate and it’s now down to him to decide what to do. We’ve had a lot of stakeholders speak to and call him, but it’s awfully late in the game.”
Rasmussen said he was incredibly grateful and humbled by the amount of support that’s been shown to the center.
“Especially on such short notice,” he said. “Regardless of the outcome, I’m going to throw a big summer party in Ames to celebrate the supporters.”
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