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Gov. Branstad Preserves Leopold Center With Veto, Removes Its State Funding

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IOWA  --  A last-minute line item veto from Governor Branstad saves the longstanding Leopold Research Center at Iowa State, but not its funding.

For 30 years, the Leopold Center has been active in agriculture research for the state. A bill signed by the governor on Friday would have shut down the center entirely, save for his veto on that portion of the bill

“There was a certain amount of relief with it, we had a lot of supporters who were working on that veto” said Leopold Center Director Mark Rasmussen.

However, the bill takes away over a million dollars in state funding, instead sending it to a water quality program. Democratic Senator Herman Quirmbach fought to try and keep at least a portion of the funding, but saw no success in the Republican-run legislature.

“There are a couple of things that remain uncertain. First, the loss of state funding is going to hurt the center in the short term, I think, quite a lot,” said Quirmbach.

While some believe the center’s research has run its course, Rasmussen says they currently are working on 49 projects including studies to see if Iowa can grow hops for the craft beer industry, as well as work with an algae that can clean up waste water and turn it into fertilizer.

He says their work will go on, but some projects may be axed.

“We still have a small amount from our endowment funding earnings, that will help a bit, but it’s totally inadequate to run the center as it currently exists. I look at this as a reboot of the system. We’re going to be talking with a lot of stakeholders and a lot of people about how does the center recreate itself, where do we go in the future,” said Rasmussen.

Meanwhile, Senator Quirmbach hopes for a short-term fix with a long-term solution from the Statehouse next year.

“I’m hoping that the college of agriculture, within their general budget, perhaps, will allocate some additional funding for the center, and of course I hope the legislature does a better job next year providing the funding,” he said.

The center's director says they will continue applying for federal grants to secure funding.