Clint McDonald, Harrison County Extension Education Director
With the rapid expansion of the ethanol and biodiesel industries in Iowa in 2006 and early 2007, many Extension clientele across the county and state voiced concern. The majority of these people were encouraged about the new opportunities. However, most also believed that the increased profit opportunities would drive knee jerk, short-term decisions that could have negative, long-term consequences.
ISU Extension Vice President Payne recognized the concerns of our clientele and charged a task force with the responsibility of addressing these issues. The Extension Bioeconomy Task Force set in motion town hall-like meetings that were conducted across the state. The Community Conversations on Iowas Bioeconomy, events were designed to seek the input of our local clientele and then to begin the process of setting priorities and developing workable strategies to address potential problems.
Harrison County Extension conducted their Conversations meeting on March 28th. The meeting was open to the public. Invitations were also issued to 20 county thought-leaders and bioeconomy stakeholders, with 19 attending. The group first identified 15 areas of concern and placed emphasis on four: 1) transportation infrastructure, 2) water quality and quantity, 3) increased feed costs affecting the livestock industry, and 4) grain storage shortage. Harrison Countys final report was forwarded (along with the other 96 participating counties) to the Bioeconomy Task Force. The task force tabulated the 96 county reports and published an executive summary report (SP307, June 2007). This report has been used throughout ISU Extension and ISU to impact strategies and place priorities on education and research relating to the bioeconomy.
As a result, two major conferences hosted by ISU were fine-tuned to further address the issues raised by the statewide Conversations: 1) The 2007 Biobased Industry Outlook Conference, and 2) the Iowa Street and Roads Conference. The Bioeconomy Task Force is also in the process of giving input to the new ISU Century Farm which will be conducting bench-scale biorefinery research as well as biomass production research. In addition, a web portal tool is being developed by the Bioeconomy Task Force to facilitate interested stakeholders as they search ISU and ISU Extension for bioeconomy related information.
The Bioeconomy Task Force was motivated by the fundamental purposes of education and engagement. Engaging citizens who desire to maximize opportunities and minimize negative consequences is core to the Extension mission.
184 Farm, Communities and Human Dimensions
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January 10, 2008
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