- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Some Iowa lawmakers gave their support Tuesday to an effort to preserve land in the state for beginning farmers.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, and Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said they would serve on an advisory board to the new Sustainable Iowa Land Trust. The organization seeks to preserve land in Iowa for farming and to make it more affordable for beginning farmers.

“I’m an Iowan and I like to eat good, healthy food,” said Bolkcom. “It’s important because we have a growing local food movement.”

The lawmakers are not planning any immediate legislation but will start discussions about how the state could help the effort. A total of 28 states have programs that provide funding to protect land, according to the Farmland Information Center,

“I’m a Republican and a farmer. This is not in any way, shape or form, an anti-agriculture effort,” said Kaufmann. “In fact I think for a lot of farmers, this is a good thing. It puts money into their pockets.”

Suzan Erem, president of the Iowa Land Trust, said the group will try to help reclassify land to preserve it for farming and will seek to acquire parcels that could be leased to farmers. This could increase food production in the state, she said.

“We want to start the conversation. Does it matter to Iowa that we preserve our farmland, especially farmland to grow local food?” Erem asked. “We hope our local and state leaders will see the need some day to provide funds for this common good.”

According to the group, it can be hard for younger farmers to access land. The state loses agricultural land to development annually and much of the existing property is owned by older farmers. Erem said the group will work to acquire or classify land so that it will be kept in the hands of farmers.

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