Ag Alternatives Program

October - December 2002

David Andrews , Story county extension education director


During recent Future Talk presentations, several Story County farmers, Ag-Business representatives, and Extension Council members expressed a desire for ISU Extension to offer alternatives to a corn-soybean crop rotation. Central Iowa farmers have now experienced several years of low commodity prices. Large farmers are surviving on government subsidies. Small farmers have reliable off-farm income to sustain them. However, the mid-size farmer needs options if their operations are to remain viable.


Story County Extension provided information to 26 producers, landlords and Ag-business representatives at the Story County Ag Alternatives Program. Kelvin Liebold talked about competition from Brazil and what potential exists for additional grain and livestock production. Dr. Kathleen Delate covered the requirements for certification, production and the economics of organic agriculture. John Kinnecker and alternative crops producer, Chris Cooklin, presented information on the success of alternative bean production taking place in Green County . Norm Olson, from the Biomass Energy Conversion Facility (BEACON) located between Nevada and Ames talked about future opportunities to develop value-added products from Iowa 's abundant biomass resources.


The participants gained an understanding of the global competition which exists and will limit any substantial gains in crop prices in the foreseeable future. The attendees explored the alternatives available in producing organic corn and soybeans, fruits, and vegetables on a much smaller scale, yet providing very high returns. All participants gained the perspective, there are alternatives available today and new value-added ways being researched on the local County level which will make new markets available for their production. Evaluations included comments requesting another similar program covering the same topics on a multi-county scale during the winter season.


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