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Iowans tell ISU Extension bioeconomy is complex

Bioeconomy Community Conversations II

When Iowans come together to discuss the bioeconomy, a complex picture emerges of Iowa’s agriculture, communities, families and environment. That’s what happened when more than 800 Iowans in 97 of Iowa’s 100 extension districts participated in ISU Extension’s Bioeconomy Community Conversations II: Food, Feed and Fuel last November and December. Preliminary results show that Iowans are concerned about immediate economic issues, but also are looking toward the future of agriculture and energy in the state.

Extension organized the 90-minute conversations to get small groups of Iowans talking about the opportunities and the challenges associated with food security, feed production, fuel prices and growth in the renewable fuels industry, said Gerald Miller, director of ISU Extension to Agriculture and Natural Resources. The conversations included representatives from agriculture, government, finance, education and economic development.

Overall, Iowans seem enthusiastic about the opportunities the bioeconomy offers, but also are concerned about the challenges the industry faces, Miller said. The participants view the bioeconomy as an important issue not only for people who are involved in agriculture, but for anyone who consumes food and energy.

“The most popular topics of the conversations seem to be issues related to food expenditures, support for local foods and the effect of higher energy and commodity prices on food choices,” he said.

Food costs resonated the most with Iowans in the state’s northeastern and northwestern counties, Miller continued. In central Iowa, participants were more interested in discussing changes in cropping patterns and conservation practices in the past two years, and how higher feed costs were affecting the livestock industry.

People in the southwestern counties were evenly distributed in the topics they covered, while those in southeast Iowa were most concerned with addressing the effect of rising energy and food prices on families, Miller said.

Video presentations and white papers from ISU experts on the bioeconomy conversation topics are available from the ISU Extension website.

This article appeared in March 2009 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter