MWPS Provides Research-Based Publications for Rural Living

Cooperative program has a long history of education in agriculture and farming

September 9, 2016, 2:54 pm | Jay Harmon

Farm BuildingsAMES, Iowa – One of the oldest regional cooperative efforts of land-grant universities in the United States, MidWest Plan Service (MWPS) provides research-based, peer-reviewed and unbiased publications that supports the outreach mission of Iowa State University. The publications created by MWPS are targeted toward topics in agriculture, farming and rural living.

“Most of our materials are engineering and infrastructure related and provide information in a lot of areas where there isn’t much material readily available,” said Jay Harmon, extension livestock housing specialist and professor in agricultural engineering at Iowa State. “Our strength has come from educational materials on how to build and manage farm structures; and from pulling together the resources and expertise from multiple states to the point where anyone can make informed decisions on farm management and their infrastructure.”

While the other land-grant universities who traditionally supported MidWest Plan Services have dropped their financial support, Iowa State has continued to sustain this unique publishing cooperative. Experts from around the Midwest continue to support publication development.

All of MWPS’s publications can be found through its online catalog at Publications fit into nine categories: construction on the farm, country and rural living, crop production, farm business, grain handling and storage, livestock operations, manure management, ventilation for livestock and water and septic systems.

“Manure management remains a big area for our specialists, along with dairy and beef facilities,” said Harmon. “Grain drying remains an emphasis as there are only a few grain drying specialists left. We also highlight different aspects of rural living, things like septic tank design, water treatment from a well, and we even have a book on aspects of acreage living like snow removal. This allows farmers with all different sizes and production emphasis areas to gather the information necessary to improve their operation.”

History of MWPS

As farmers turned to their state universities to help plan new buildings on their farm, the individual engineering experts created plans for farm buildings and distributed them through their own extension services. Creating these plans and publications was time consuming, and these engineers began looking for a better way to get large volumes of reliable information to farmers in their states.

MidWest Plan Service was created in 1929 to combine the expertise of agricultural engineers from land-grant universities from 12 states – Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, South Dakota and Wisconsin – into one resource for farmers to rely on. This would allow these states to pool the resources of their experts while eliminating unnecessary duplication of material.

Iowa State saw the value of this endeavor early in its existence, with Iowa State College President Raymond Hughes providing a $6,000 loan to establish the service in 1932. Iowa State professor Henry Giese was selected as the group’s first chairman.

MWPS Today

Today Iowa State remains the only of the original 12 universities to retain an affiliation with MidWest Plan Service. Despite a price tag of $216,000 per year – split between the 12 states – only Iowa State has the foresight to continue supporting the program.

“We are essentially self-supporting, except for the office space we use which Iowa State provides,” Harmon said. “We are still pushing out new content. Work is in progress right now on an update of our grain handling book and other specialists are working on new manure management content. Some of the materials might look old but in the engineering world the information doesn’t change, science is still science.”

MWPS is housed on the Iowa State campus, with its offices and publication warehouse residing in Elings Hall. More information on the organization and how its research-based information can benefit farmers can be provided by emailing or calling 515-294-4337.

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