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I have been on hundreds of farms and talked with many more farmers through the course of my graduate work in sustainable agriculture, my volunteer work with Practical Farmers of Iowa, Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa Network for Community Agriculture, and my decade-long involvement with the Iowa Food Cooperative (including working as its General Manager). From that experience, I have learned of and experienced many impediments to the development of small direct to market entrepreneurial agricultural enterprises. The “Right to Farm Small” is a compilation of code changes and targeted investments that Iowa can undertake to drive innovation, grow new farm enterprises, and bolster Iowa’s local food supply chain.

Open new options in dairy sales and production: allow off-farm direct-to-customer sales of raw milk, allow for mobile parlors so dairies can milk on rented ground, ease restriction on transporting milk from the farm to the processor.

Restore funding to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture so it can continue to do research into alternative cropping systems and food systems.

Allow more versatile use of small poultry processing:Allow for inspected custom kill and inspected kill in the same locker on separate days (like our small red meat lockers), allow for deer processing after Thanksgiving and in poultry plants idle for the winter, allow mobile on farm poultry processing.

Bring parity between bee and beekeeping expenses and other livestock by extending tax-exemptions to include them.

Support Existing Fence Law and strengthen it by mandating agricultural buffers in subdivisions adjacent to existing livestock fields.

Strengthen pesticide drift fines and develop an online reporting system so affected farms can rapidly respond to drift events and testing results can be turned around in days instead of months.

Revise Warehousing Fee Structure: Scale initial licenses costs to projected sales, not the maximum possible fee, only use the specific enterprise on the farm that will use the facility and not the entire farm operation sales for determining the annual inspection fee.

Create a clearing house of information, guidance, and assistance for farms, processors, and retailers to help them navigate the regulatory framework to sell local food and goods.

Streamline the fee structure behind the Farmer’s Market Food Establishment License, so that it applies statewide instead of having to pay a separate fee to each county.

Increase financial assistance and technical assistance to local meat lockers and local food processors. The past year has made it clear how important our local lockers are to the stability and security of our food system. The last year has also highlighted the lack of processing plants for canning and flash freezing local fruit and vegetables.

Develop unique regulatory framework for food hubs that serve as intermediaries between farmers and consumers. They fall between farmer’s markets and grocery stores but are inconsistently treated as one or the other.

Invest in local food supply chain development (logistics, aggregation, storage, and distribution), similar to Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverages Division and similar to North Carolina’s model.

The “Right to Farm Small” is as ever a moving target and I am always soliciting suggestions and thoughts that can improve this project. If you feel we have left-off or over looked a potential change, please reach out to me at and put "Right to Farm" as the subject line, or call at (515) 460-0215.

“As a farmer and manger of a local food cooperative, I have come to see that small regulatory changes and targeted investments could do a lot to reshape our agriculture.”

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