Kitchen Garden

Anyhydrous Days

Anhydrous Ammonia
Anhydrous Ammonia

LAKE MACBRIDE— Following a truck pulling a double bottom of anhydrous ammonia tanks, I snapped a couple of photos at a traffic signal. On my way to a shift at the warehouse, thoughts were turning to all the garden work needing done at home, and the closed environment at the warehouse seemed a distraction from more important things in the outside world.

This type of rig is out everywhere, although it is more common to see them being pulled by tractors in a field during spring than on the streets. It’s time to fertilize the fields for the row croppers.

We accept this type of wobbly evidence of conventional farming, rolling off on the shoulders of roads on busy traffic days, because of the importance of the farm economy to our community. As readers know, I work in the local food system, which in some ways is different, and in some ways, similar. In fact, the question, what is farming, comes up with regard to many diversified farms.

A rebellion is brewing among local food producers. Rep. Art Staed of Cedar Rapids posted this on his Facebook page yesterday:

I attended a meeting today organized by John Whitaker, State Executive Director of the IA Farm Service Agency. The meeting’s focus was on addressing and removing barriers to the production of local foods. We heard producer goals and concerns, and county concerns from a zoning and building perspective. We also studied legislative, financial, regulatory and other issues and perspectives. The goal is to encourage and support small farmers in their efforts to provide more fresh, local fruits and vegetables. This was an informative discussion, and I’m really excited to assist with this endeavor at the state level. More local meetings will be scheduled…

Staed put the best face on the issue, which is farmers are not always treated as farmers in this state. The biggest barrier to local food producers is that they are often treated as commercial operations by local governing bodies, rather than farming operations. They are deprived— wrongly, they believe— of the Iowa agricultural exemption from regulations. The meeting organized by John Whitaker is one of a number of them, and I’m carrying one of his business cards in my wallet, if you want a sign of where I’m at on the issue.

Staed is the ranking member of the local government committee in the Iowa legislature, which will play a key role in enabling all farmers to take advantage of the agricultural exemption, should the legislature act. Already, there is bipartisan support for doing something to relieve local food producers of unnecessary regulatory burdens that add a financial hardship that inhibits entry of new family members into diversified farm operations. More diversified farm operations would be better for our economy, and better for the environment.

We’ll see how this plays out, and there is a lot going on that hasn’t made it into the public eye. Right now, folks focus on those prominent anhydrous tanks, distracted from the movement toward parity that is stirring among farmers involved with local food production.