By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
Having been in the farming business for almost 40 years, Jim Greif of Prairieburg has seen the industry change. As a member of the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA), Grief is a District 6 director, he takes issues affecting the industry to the state and local government, lobbying for his fellow farmers.
Greif has been with the ICGA for two years now, entering his third term in office. With his own farm to run, offering custom farming to neighboring landowners and owning and operating his own seed and chemical business (Prairieview Ag Service) with wife Sharon, Greif has his hand in every niche of the industry.
The Greifs plant about 700 acres of corn and soybeans. Farming is a way of life for Greif, as his father farmed and his brother farms as well.
Aside from their own operation, Greif also custom farms for retired farmers. His method of planting consists of strip tilling. Greif explained this method has its advantages, as it does not destroy or disturb the other stocks in the soil, just the row where the seeds are planted. This type of planting uses special GPS devices.
“It controls soil erosion,” Greif said of strip tilling.
As the cost of corn goes up, of course the number of acres planted decreases over time.
“It’s just another source of income,” said Greif of why they got into custom farming. He said with expensive equipment, you could stretch out the cost by doing more work.
When the Greifs started Prairieview Ag Service in 1995, it was a business venture they just fell into. Greif said he was doing a paint job on a fellow farmer’s sprayer and parked it in the front lawn for the guy to pick up. Greif said he started getting calls from people asking if he could help them spray their fields, seeing a “spare” sprayer on his property. He said the farmer ended up selling the machinery to him.
“I just fell into the business by accident; it evolved and I added to it over time,” Greif said of Prairieview Ag Service.
Their farm-based business sells seed and chemicals and provides precision ag services. At one time Sharon Greif was in the seed business, but when the family started growing, she gave up the job.
Add to Greif’s duties his role with the ICGA, and the guy stays busy!
“Once you get involved in something,” he said, “you always have more meetings and committees to go to.”
With his three-year term running out at the end of this year, Greif intends to run for re-election this summer. Sharon was also involved in the ICGA in the 1990s for several years.
“We keep it in the family,” she joked.
There is a lot to being a member of the ICGA. Greif said the membership dues are used for lobbying, either in Des Moines or Washington, D.C.
“The corn growers board is all about lobbying and politics,” said Greif. “We believe in what we’re doing and that we can make a difference. We need someone to represent our trade.”
Greif said whether you are a corn grower or a neurosurgeon, you need trade groups to advocate on your behalf.
“We want to maintain a good rapport with the state and federal representatives, senators and congress.”
Before they lobby for fellow corn growers, Greif said they hold public meetings and start at the grassroots level to decide what policies and issues they feel most passionate about. He said they try and work with other commodity groups such as Farm Bureau, pork producers and cattlemen.
“Most of the corn grown in Iowa goes into livestock feed,” said Greif, a fact some people may not be aware of, in comparison to ethanol. “Corn and livestock go hand-in-hand.”
On the state level, Greif noted that the gas tax to help repair roads and bridges in Iowa is probably the most important issue right now with the new legislature in Des Moines. He said lawmakers want to tweak the tax formula, but the ICGA feels it needs to stay in the road-use tax fund.
“We need to repair the bridges. Anymore, corn is hauled by semi with heavier loads.”
He said Gov. Terry Branstad is also looking at nutrient management policies.
“It’s basically an environmental issue,” Greif explained.
He said these management practices should be looked at as what is voluntary versus mandated.
On the federal side, the ever-popular farm bill is up for consideration, especially where subsidies for crop insurance is concerned. Greif also added that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) wants to regulate dust control.
“It’s hard for D.C. to see what is going on here in the Midwest,” he said of so many regulations coming down the pipe from the federal government. “Farming is not a 9-5 job, Monday through Friday. It’s hard to get our message across.”
Looking towards the future of farming and the corn industry, Greif foresees environmental issues sticking around for a while. He said farmers should be allowed to self-regulate when it comes to chemical use and safe herbicides and insecticides.
“These chemicals are a lot safer than they were 20-some years ago,” said Greif. “We’re not using any more than we have to. Unfortunately, this is not the image that is being portrayed.”