Just my 3/8 cents

Eric Lohmeier | President, NCP Inc.

The Idea: Businesses and the state’s business organizations should donate their time, effort and treasure to Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy fund (IWILL) in an effort to fund the state’s improvements in water quality, natural resources and recreation.

My 3/8 cents in making Des Moines and all of Iowa “greater for the next 35 years” entails professional risk and a selfish-driven conflict of interest.

Risk-laden in that a material amount of my firm’s services cater to agricultural-related entities and the safest avenue for my professional career would be to remain behind the scenes. Conflicted and selfish because my wife and I are parents of three beautiful girls who I would prefer live in a clean and safe environment in Iowa for many years to come.

Tragically, I cannot promise them a clean and safe environment in Iowa, today or in the future.  This is due to the fact that nitrogen pollution flows from throughout our state, through our very own communities in Central Iowa and ultimately creates almost insurmountable environmental degradation for countless millions of Americans downstream all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Over the last two decades, nitrogen pollution from field runoff has grown by 50 percent, and our own state’s average contribution to the Gulf dead zone has increased similarly, according to a University of Iowa study published in 2018. It is past time to make a concerted effort in the business community to demand accountability of all stripes of political factions in Iowa as our highest priority, ultimately reversing these devastating trends. Our state’s nutrient reduction strategy is a start, but its resources are woefully inadequate for the task ahead. Our families, our associates and our neighbors deserve no less.

Encouragingly, the infrastructure for a solution is in place, thanks to the efforts of bold leaders and organizations less than a generation ago. In November of 2010, the citizens of the state of Iowa voted to amend the Iowa Constitution, creating the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

This trust is dedicated to benefiting current and future generations of Iowans by creating a dedicated funding mechanism that enhances water quality and natural areas (parks, trails, wildlife habitats) and conserving Iowa’s topsoil. Tragically, due to the political machinations and funding by They Who Must Not Be Named, successive legislatures and governors have refused to fund the trust.

In 2010 when Iowans voted to amend our constitution and create this trust, 63 percent of voters supported this amendment. In 2018, as measured by polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, a record 69 percent of Iowans expressly support the 3/8 percent sales tax as a solution for funding our state’s natural resources. In our political environment, it is hard for me to believe that 70 percent of Iowans agree on anything – it is evident that these issues are as apolitical an issue as has ever existed in this state.

This funding source would amount to almost $200 million annually to support our state’s improvements in water quality, natural resources and recreation, at a time when investments in these critical sources of environmental infrastructure in Des Moines and throughout the state have become ever scarcer. With a sustainable financial resource like the trust, we can truly start to facilitate improvements in our natural environment for all of our state’s citizens.

In addition to the folks in downstream urban areas like Des Moines, some of the largest beneficiaries of these efforts include a large majority of our agricultural producers, who by and large want to make their own operations more environmentally sustainable. These resources will also help to significantly improve the retention of one our state’s greatest natural resources, the black gold we call topsoil.

Finally, the trust supports significant and lasting additions and improvements to recreational opportunities for all residents and visitors to our great state, not to mention our current and future employees and associates, many of whom value outdoor recreation and sustainability as highly as wages and job security.

The benefits far exceed the costs on virtually any measure.

In conclusion, I request that all corporate members and their respective leaders of the Iowa Business Council, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, hell, even the Farm Bureau to please join me in donating your time, efforts and treasure to Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWILL), an organization that exists for the sole purpose of making the funding for our Trust possible.

I hereby add my and my firm’s name to their list of supporters (it is coming with a check), as well as publicly volunteer my personal efforts to this cause I challenge each of you to do the same.

If we come together and make a concerted effort, I believe that we can begin to make a real difference in ultimately making our city and state a cleaner, safer and sustainable environment for Iowa’s future generations and neighbors alike.

My conscience dictates that it is past time for me and business leaders throughout Central Iowa and all regions of the state to make ourselves accountable for solutions to this catastrophe. All of Iowa’s children’s futures depend on it, and I want to look my own in the eyes and be able to say that our generation of leaders was partly responsible for the solution to our environmental crisis. >