12/10/2013 12:00:00 AM
Dave Petty named to ICA’s Hall of Fame
Dave Petty, Eldora, was named the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association 2013 Hall of Fame recipient at the Iowa Cattle Industry Convention, Dec. 9-11, in Altoona. Petty, who has a cow-calf and small feedyard, sees cattle production as a key part of environmental conservation, and he’s taken on several roles to share that with state and federal regulators as well as other cattle producers.
Petty has had a life-long interest in farming, but unlike most other 61-year-old Iowa farmers, he started from scratch to build his farm operation. Although he spent his early years on a farm, Petty’s parents sold the farm before he could act on his interests. So he worked for other farmers, gaining experience and learning what makes a farm successful. Following graduation from Hawkeye Tech in Waterloo and a year at Iowa State University, he began to rent land. The available land was often the least desirable, but that’s where he built his livestock herd, and also his reputation as a renter who would implement environmentally sound practices. Early on, Petty realized that many conservation practices lend themselves to cattle.
“I bought my first land when others were leaving farming,” Petty said. “By the time land prices made it possible for me to begin purchasing, I had built a nice herd.” Petty has a commercial Angus cow-calf herd, and he retains ownership of the calves through his feedlot. He also farms corn and soybeans, as well as hay.
Petty’s Iowa River Ranch runs along several miles of the Iowa River. He has spent thousands of dollars building more than 12 miles of terraces, several farm ponds, reshaped more than 12 miles of waterways, and seeded three miles of buffer strips “If you keep the environment in the equation, you improve the total system and everyone comes out ahead,” he said. He noted that his farm operation could be part of the problem, but instead he’s worked to be part of the solution. The proof is in a long list of awards, including the 2001 national winner of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program, sponsored by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; a 2002 Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator’s Award for Environmental Excellence, and the 2003 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture given by ISU’s Leopold Center.
It is those credentials that lead both environmental regulators and cattle producers to listen to Petty. When discussions have heated up between cattle producers, the EPA and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Petty has been on board in the discussions, showing regulators what producers can do, and encouraging producers to step up and do the right thing for the environment. “Dave was the cool head in the room and was often the one that kept the discussions going through some difficult parts of the journey,” said John Lawrence, ISU Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension. “Dave provided a climate and expectation that a solution to the differences was possible.”
One of the most effective tools Petty uses in reaching both regulators and producers is providing access to his farm; either hosting educational tours for farmers or driving key public officials in his pick-up across his pastures and fields to show them the impact of conservation practices cattle famers use. Those tours often followed Petty’s trips to Washington, D.C. to persuade decision-makers on issues ranging from the Conservation Reserve Program to environmental cost-share programs to water quality regulations.
Petty has worked for all Iowa farmers as an 8-year member of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, including his service as EPC chairman for three years. He’s also served as ICA President, and chairman of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation. Currently, he is a member of EPA’s Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee; the Natural Resources Conservation Service State Technical Committee; and is chairman of NCBA’s Agriculture and Food Policy Committee.
Perhaps a fellow Iowa cattle producer said it best: “Dave Petty has gone the extra mile to get common-sense legislation passed, helping to educate those who regulate our industry,” said Bill Couser, a cattle feeder from Nevada. “The beef industry is better off today for his involvement. Every cattle operation in Iowa is better off because Dave Petty took the time to make it so.”