Ames legislator proposes bill to fund Leopold Center


State funding cuts leave Iowa universities in a tough spot. They’ll either have to increase tuition or face other consequences. 

Devyn Leeson

The state defunded the Leopold Center at Iowa State as a part of the annual appropriations bill last year, but a new bill could help bring some of the funding back.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture was “created to identify and develop new ways to farm profitably while converting natural resources.” The Leopold center today focuses on continuing research started before 2017 and operates solely on their endowment fund.

Through their ongoing research, Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said the Leopold Center has helped farmers implement sustainable agriculture techniques and increase crop yields.

“These farmers are the number one economic engine for the state and the Leopold Center has been helping them,” she said.

Legislators voted to cut funding to the Leopold Center during the 2017 legislative cycle.

Director of the Leopold Center Mark Rasmussen said last November, “With funding and staff reductions, we have got to narrow our priorities to what’s most important.”

Wessel-Kroeschell proposed legislation which would require the state fund $1 for every dollar raised by Iowa State for the center, up to $1 million. The previous budget for the center was used to fund agricultural grants.

“I know this wouldn’t fully fund the Leopold Center, but it could have an impact,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.  

More specifically, she claimed that the Leopold Center has been training farmers on how to avoid nitrate runoff and water contamination, an issue that is being heavily debated at the Statehouse.

However, this bill still has many hurdles, Wessel-Kroeschell said; the legislation is currently going through the appropriations committee and she said, “It likely won’t get a hearing.”

Whether or not the bill gets a hearing still isn’t decided. Last year the appropriations bill was going to end the Leopold Center altogether but after public outcry was only defunded.

Rep. Wessel-Kroeschell sees this as possible hope for the future.

“With enough public support, it could get a hearing,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.

And if it doesn’t get a hearing she said, “we are putting a light on it for now, so in the future we might be able to get it funded with a change in leadership.”