Making educated ag decisions

John Lawrence’s message from Oct. 29, 2018

Making educated decisions is a whole lot easier when you have the information you need. In our Agriculture and Natural Resources programs, one of the ways we help Iowans make decisions is through Ag Decision Maker. It’s a decision-oriented agricultural business website designed for farmers, lenders, farm managers, agriculture instructors and others. From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, the website averaged 7,451 visitors per day. Did you know?

  • Since October 1996 when the “premier” newsletter was launched, Ag Decision Maker has been providing analysis and insight into many of the issues facing modern agriculture. Today more than 15,000 users receive monthly updates highlighting the materials on the Ag Decision Maker site.
  • Economists (including yours truly) and farm management specialists at Iowa State and other Midwest universities and institutions provide the content. (In fact, a check of the archives – thank you, Ann Johanns – shows that I wrote the lead article for the “official” volume 1, issue 1 newsletter published in November 1996, addressing the new CME Lean Hog Contract.)
  • Overall, downloads of Ag Decision Maker information sheets and decision tools reached 1.26 million for FY2018, while more than 240 information files, decision tools, voiced media and teaching activity files were added or updated on the site.
  • The AgDM Twitter feed promotes materials and events throughout the month to more than 1,900 followers.

Given the uncertainty in the farm economy, we need to do all we can to help Iowans with their decision-making, and foster profitable and resilient farms and thriving rural communities. Here are two more resources to keep in mind:

  • Farm Financial Planning is ISU Extension and Outreach’s farm financial analysis program. The confidential, free service consists of one-on-one financial counseling, a computerized analysis of the farm business and referral to other extension programs or outside services that may be useful. Five farm financial management associates are available to help Iowans understand a complete picture of their farm’s financial situation.
  • On the Human Sciences side, Iowa Concern provides access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge.

More notes

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Still calling Iowa Concern

John Lawrence’s message from July 2, 2018

Sometimes a phone call can make all the difference, and even save a life. ISU Extension and Outreach learned that lesson more than 30 years ago. When Iowa farmers, families and rural communities were under stress and needed help during the 1980s farm crisis, we responded with Iowa Concern. Today we continue to answer Iowans’ calls 24/7, not only with stress counselors and a toll-free phone number, but also with live chat capabilities, email and a website. Iowa Concern provides Iowans with access to an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. Did you know?

  • ISU Extension and Outreach started the referral service, originally called Rural Concern, in cooperation with Iowa Department of Human Services and United Way of Central Iowa in 1985 (thus the phone number, 800-447-1985). Initially it was funded through donations from Farm Bureau, FmHA and the Farm Credit System. In 1986, the Iowa General Assembly appropriated money to continue the service, according to “75 Years of Service: Cooperative Extension in Iowa,” an extension history book by Iowa State’s Dorothy Schwieder.
  • After the floods of 1993, the name was changed to Iowa Concern to expand the hotline’s reach as a source of help for all Iowans in need.
  • According to Tammy Jacobs, current coordinator for Iowa Concern and all other Human Sciences Extension and Outreach hotlines, Iowa Concern answered 7,826 calls in 2017. All contacts are confidential.

Tammy says the hotline has seen a slight increase in ag-related calls in the last few months. Caller concerns include the farm bill, ag prices and most recently how this year’s flooding has been impacting farmers. Iowa Concern also answers calls related to financial issues and basic needs – such as connecting Iowans with assistance for rent, utility, food and medical needs, to name a few. Iowa Concern focuses on the immediacy of the individual’s need and works to connect people with helpful resources. For more information, contact Tammy directly at or 515-727-0656.

Recently each county office received at no cost a package containing two mini tabletop displays and a supply of information cards and bookmarks highlighting Iowa Concern and AnswerLine. We hope you will use these resources at upcoming community events and programs to raise awareness among our clients. Thank you for partnering with Human Sciences to get the word out about these valuable resources.

One more note: Have a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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