AMES, Iowa — A university’s sustainable agriculture research center is shutting down this summer as the organization’s future is uncertain following the Legislature’s decision to cut the center’s state funding.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University’s budget was reduced by nearly $2 million, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported . The 30-year-old center will no longer offer grants to support researchers, graduate students, working farmers or field-to-table advocacy programs.

Republican legislative leaders called for cuts to the center’s funding in April, arguing that it had accomplished its mission and the funds should go to other issues.

“It’s really concerning that the Legislature defunded a research center that is devoted to public science at a time when we are dealing so many important issues — from water quality to the health of our rural communities,” said Angie Carter, a 2015 graduate of the university’s sustainable agricultural program.

Many of the center’s research grants had to be discontinued or moved to the university’s Nutrient Center. The center’s remaining annual income stems from about $200,000 in endowment interest.

Center director Mark Rasmussen said he’s looking into alternative funding sources.

The College of Agriculture has offered the center a year of funding to help ensure students won’t feel the financial impact of the Legislature’s decision, said Matthew O’Neal, an associate professor of entomology who chairs the university’s sustainable agriculture graduate program.

“We lost funding from the state, and that hurts, but we’re not being dissolved,” he said.

Rasmussen created a nine-member Visioning Task Force to hold listening posts throughout the state and determine what the center should focus on next. The task force includes four working farmers, a university student, a university faculty members and representatives from Riley Resource Group, Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Iowa Environmental Council.


Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/