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Loebsack hosts ag roundtable in Prairie City page banner

Loebsack hosts ag roundtable in Prairie City

Posted on June 27, 2014 at 9:30 AM by Iowa Corn

Mike Mendenhall, News Editor with Prairie City News

On the eve of Iowa's state-wide primary elections, U.S. Congress-man Dave Loebsack attended a small round-table with three Jasper County farmers on the acreage of Gordon Wassenaar, south of Prairie City.

In one of Wassenaar's utility buildings, Loebsack listened as the group informed the congressman of issues facing Iowa farmers, including competition in the global crop and livestock markets.

Wassenaar will play host to agricultural industry representatives from China, Mexico and Canada, among other countries, while in Iowa for the World Pork Expo in Des Moines. Loebsack indicated he's aware emerging markets, such as Brazil and China, were stepping up pressure on U.S. growers and ranchers to keep up with innovation.

A portrait of Wassenaar and Iowa Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug hung on the wall as the trio of farmers discussed genetically modified food regulations. Prairie City grower Dean Taylor and cattle farmer Mark Wiggins told Loebsack new labeling requirements for GMO's were not only expensive for Iowa farmers but returning non-drought and pest-resistant crops could cause further soil contamination and erosion. GMO's allow farmers to use less pesticides and chemicals that are currently finding their way into Iowa's waterways.

With the Iowa Department of Natural Resources monitoring soil erosion, Loebsack and the local farmers talked of the importance of soil conservation and the potential solution of planting cover crop.

"Somehow we have to make this stuff work, and we need cheaper ways to get the seed there," Wassenaar said regarding cover crops. "We need to cut the cost, but there's some real merit in keeping the ground covered up year round."

"It's still in the experimental stage big time," Taylor added. "There is much to learn, but we're willing to lean it."

The farmers said struggles range from seed availability to understanding the best types of cover crop. Barley and oats are currently what is used in the U.S. Wassenaar said he keeps 15 acres of cover crop.

"Part of it's practicality," said Newton farmer, Will Cannon. "And you have to get to the intent. Is it just to prevent soil erosion or we trying to cycle nutrients? You have to figure out what will survive here, how do you plant it and get it fed without effecting your cash crop. There are a lot of practicality issues." Taylor told Loebsack that these issues needed to be solved before the government starts to regulate the expen-sive cover crop production, so U.S. farmers can still produce a profit.

The second district congressman ran uncontested in Tuesday's primary vote.

Sen. Tom Harkin also will be represented in Prairie City on June 6, as he sends aide Jule Reynolds to attend Concert on the Prairie at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge. The event is a fundraiser hosted by Friends of Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge, which is currently trying to revamp exhibits at the federally maintained natural prairie complex. The concert begins at 4 p.m. 

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