Take in BVU this fall

Storm Lake offers two things to make life more fun and interesting that most other rural communities do not: a nice lake and a nice, small liberal arts university. Fail to take advantage of either and you fail to fully appreciate all that life offers in The City Beautiful. So it was a welcome gesture last week when Buena Vista University laid out a welcome mat to Buena Vista County with a full-page ad in The Storm Lake Times inviting you to experience life on campus.

Marketing and Communications Director Jennifer Felton, a Storm Lake native, wrote a gracious invitation for everyone — rich and poor, white or brown, young or old — to attend a lecture, cheer on a Beaver athletic team or listen to the choir. She listed many, but not all, of the events and resources BVU offers during the fall semester. Anyone, for example, can call on a BVU reference librarian for a quick answer to a difficult historical question. Art displays change routinely. People who want to stay in shape may swim in the Finkbine pool. Just a quiet walk around the campus can settle or invigorate the mind.

Buena Vista is so much a part of the community that we can take it for granted.

Yet life here is unimaginable without old Boola Boola.

To say that there is “nothing to do” here completely ignores opportunities open to the community at Buena Vista every single day.

Each of us should be concerned about the town-gown relationship. Buena Vista would not have survived were it not for Storm Lake, whose favorite son Harold Siebens laid an almost perpetual endowment on the college he never attended. And, Storm Lake would be half the place it is without the Blue and Maize. Beavers are bankers, lawyers, health care professionals, educators and farmers right here in Buena Vista County. They have helped make Buena Vista what it is.

BVU is reaching out to the community. It’s up to all of us to reach back and find out all the university has to offer each of us.

Restore the set-aside

A study produced by researchers at Iowa State University’s limnology lab last year found that the state’s lakes were filling in faster with sedimentation as the decades pass. It surprised us, since we thought land owners had participated increasingly in conservation practices near waterbodies. It appears that the sedimentation has increased since the 1980s. We can expect that sedimentation will rise with crop prices as marginal lands are pushed into production.

There would appear to be a correlation between sedimentation and the disappearance of the old 10% acreage set-aside provision in the farm bill. To receive subsidies, land owners had to agree to idle 10% of their reported crop acreage. Typically, land at the edge of fields was left in grass. It helped keep soil in place and promoted wildlife nesting areas. It also helped to marginally manage crop prices by limiting supply.

If we were serious about protecting rivers and lakes from farm runoff, we would put a set-aside back in place. We could require that anyone who wants crop insurance or any other USDA farm benefit must set aside a certain number of acres. It would be voluntary, in that you are not required to buy crop insurance. Years ago, you were not required to participate in the farm program.

Ideologues hated the set-aside because it smacked of limits, of regulation.

Every industry in Iowa is regulated to some degree. Agriculture enjoys the least amount.

They say that 80% of our erosion problems come from 20% of the acres. That’s enough to fill in Little Storm Lake, Pickerel Lake or Lizard Lake with mud within the lifetime of someone born this year. They are being used as filtering devices for modern production agriculture, our lakes. They are being converted to marshes that will hold soil and suck up crop nutrients.

A set-aside program could save them for future generations, combined with strategic dredging or excavation.

Our we could just let them fill in, which is what we are doing.