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Environmental Trust Fund for Iowa?

Environmental Trust Fund for Iowa?

The state of Iowa is considering setting up a 150 million dollar per year environmental trust fund to help with environmental situations like water quality, soil erosion, and wildlife habitat. It would also be used to fund parks and trails. The money for the trust would come from a sales tax increase of less than one percent.

A major focus for the trust could be wetlands restoration, which have been in decline. Wetlands help divert rainwater from flooding rivers and streams. Flooding has caused much damage, including removing precious topsoil from agricultural fields. A trust fund with money accumulated over a number of years could help focus long-term efforts on flood reduction through wetlands restoration, a process which requires years of effort, not merely a fix or two annually. Iowa is the top corn producing state in the U.S., even outproducing some countries.

The reason for its very high productivity is very fertile soil. Environmental activists are encouraging the public to vote for the trust. Shannon Ramsey, president of Trees Forever said, “Of all states, we’re 47th in conservation funding and 49th in amount of public lands. Half of waters are rated as ‘poor’ and we lose soil to erosion every year.” (Source: Thonline.com)

The Iowa Farm Bureau is against the measure saying it could hurt the economy. Charlie Winterwood from the Audubon Society said, “There will be millions going for soil conservation, an important issue for farmers, so I’m amazed that Farm Bureau is against this. When 90 percent of Iowa’s legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, voted twice in favor of this, what can they base their opposition on?” (Source: Thonline.com)

A Democratic candidate for Agriculture Secretary in Iowa, and a farmer, says he wants to become Secretary to help the state rebuild its topsoil. Doing so is not merely a detail of farming practice, it is sound economics as protecting the land means it can continue providing quality crop yields and incomes for communities. Francis Thicke said, “Since we started farming in Iowa, we’ve lost about half our top soil to erosion and we’ve lost half of that black carbon organic matter to oxidation from crop production, so you might say we’ve depleted our ecological capital by our farming methods.” (Source: radioiowa.com)

Image Credit: Tim Kiser

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17 comments

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9:19AM PDT on Oct 24, 2010

What many of us do not realize is that we have lost fertile soils in America's breadbasket at a rate higher than in almost any other areas in the world. Apparently, big agriculture in Iowa proceeds on the assumption that, with a rich soil profile, it is all right to destroy much of it. Which is to say that an environmental fund sounds like an excellent idea. Iowans should certainly not pin their hopes and dreams on agri-business which, like other corporate-driven endeavors, prefers profit to taking responsibility.

6:11AM PDT on Oct 24, 2010

This does not make sense. Farmers depend on the soil, yet they are against measures to conserve the soil because it will hurt the economy! How self sacrificing of them! Trouble is, if the soil is depleted and food cannot be grown anymore, won't the economy be affected?

9:11PM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

Iowa is inspiring! Hope they lead the pack and the rest of the country jumps on this idea to heal their own state. We CAN do it! Just vote in the right people and keep them on track.

6:24PM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

Interesting article. Thank you for posting.

12:54PM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

OOPS - that was supposed to be "... out of the HANDS of lawmakers...." Mea culpa!

12:53PM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

I hope they don't take too long to consider it. The time to take action on such a necessary issue is now.

12:53PM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

Good job, Iowa! And I hope your voters and legislators pass that legislation!

Here in California, we have an initiative to put an $18 surcharge on our auto registrations to go directly to our state parks and wildlife areas (which I voted "YES" to yesterday on my mail in ballot). Our state legislators are mostly screaming "you can't do that, because it will take control of tax monies out of the lands of lawmakers, and give it directly to the state department it's intended for!"

Our legislators are in for a rude awakening come Nov. 2nd, methinks! If we can pass enough initiatives and propositions similar to this one, where we designate certain fees and taxes to go directly to the programs for which they are intended, maybe some day we can do away with our overpaid and under-worked elected officials and RUN OUR STATE OURSELVES, BY POPULAR VOTE!!!

11:05AM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

Iowa is taking a longterm view and action for the state & all (or most) of those who will benefit from fund, now & in the future. A salute to those who thought up the idea & want to implement it! The Farm Bureau must have some dirty secrets & friends in low places that would personally benefit by the Trust Fund Not happening. Sure hope more states (CA) would take note & action like this.

10:51AM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

We local yokels have to work on our green solutions, as it seems likely that Republicans intend to block even the most common-sense and urgently needed measures.

10:43AM PDT on Oct 23, 2010

"We are very concerned that passing this amendment would increase the pressure to raise the sales tax at a time when all Iowans are struggling with the economic downturn," said Don Petersen, government relations director for the Farm Bureau.

In light of the fact that 90% of Iowans want this passed, and there is not direct increase in taxes on the board to support this trust fund, I think that Farm Bureau is wrong. To me it sounds like a no-brainer. More states should look at this approach.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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