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The Leopold Center is a research and education center on the campus of Iowa State University created to identify and reduce negative environmental and social impacts of farming and develop new ways to farm profitably while conserving natural resources.
The Center's work is focused in four initiatives - ecology, marketing and food systems, policy and cross-cutting (water, energy, soil and alternative farming systems). Center funding comes from state appropriations and from fees on nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides, as established by the 1987 Iowa Groundwater Protection Act.
The Center is led by Director Mark Rasmussen and Fred Kirschenmann serves as the Center's Distinguished Fellow. Other staff members handle programming, communications, accounting and administrative duties.
A 17-member advisory board, established in the 1987 legislation, advises the director on funding of research proposals, policies and procedures, budget development and program review. Members represent Iowa State University, University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, private colleges and universities, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Two farmers (a man and a woman) are appointed by the State Soil Conservation Committee. In 1994, four ex-officio members representing the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Agribusiness Association of Iowa and the Iowa Farmers Union were added to the board. They received full voting privileges in 1999.
Listen to Dennis Keeney, first Leopold Center director, and Ralph Rosenberg, an Ames legislator who helped write the law that created the Center, share their perspectives on KHOI Ames Community Radio [mp3 file].
A portion of state fees assessed on nitrogen fertilizer and pesticide registrations provide support for research, education and administration of Center programs. An annual education appropriation supports many of the Center's competitive grants and the Center also receives foundation grants and federal funds for specific projects.
As part of its long-standing competitive grants program, the Leopold Center makes funds available to researchers and educators at all Iowa colleges and universities, and to investigators at private, nonprofit agencies and foundations in the state. These awards often act as seed money to initiate work for which other large sources of funding then become available. Since 1988, the Leopold Center has awarded more than 480 competitive grants totaling nearly $18 million.
The Center's mission includes an educational component to inform the agricultural community and the general public about its research findings. The Center collaborates with ISU Extension and other university, state, and local organizations to communicate research findings. It also supports conferences, seminars and special events related to the four research initiatives.
The Leopold Center has a national reputation for cutting-edge research on nitrogen management to improve water quality, riparian buffers, rotational grazing, food systems, low-input cropping systems, and alternative swine production systems (hoop barns). The Center's work is leading to significant dividends for Iowa -- cleaner water, better conservation of natural resources and greater agricultural vitality. Especially important is its exploration of new production and marketing opportunities for Iowans and their food systems.
The Leopold Center also has been a catalyst. Many of the competitive grants funded by the Center and work of its multi-disciplinary issue teams have become long-term programs to make farms more profitable and more environmentally friendly and to strengthen Iowa's rural communities.
The Leopold Center publishes a quarterly newsletter, The Leopold Letter, as well as a monthly e-mail newsletter, Notes from the Leopold Center, and a quarterly Research Results e-mail newsletter, all available upon request. Other publications include an annual report of Center activities, conference proceedings, fact sheets, other special publications, and news releases, all of which help the Center to fulfill its mission of informing the public.
The Center is named for Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), a Burlington, Iowa, native known internationally as a conservationist, ecologist, and educator. He saw the need for development of a land ethic, outlined in his 1949 book of essays, A Sand County Almanac.
For more information contact:
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
209 Curtiss Hall | Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050
FAX: (515) 294-9696
Printable overview [PDF]