Farmer Sees Donations Affected by Commodity Prices
by Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor
DES MOINES (DTN) — Arlyn Schipper has been aggressively working to help with global food security, but the north-central Iowa farmer noted Tuesday that charitable donations from farmers would likely be down this year with the downturn in crop prices.
Arlyn Schipper, an Iowa farmer, spoke about his work helping raise funds for the Food Resource Bank at the Iowa Hunger Summit on Tuesday in Des Moines. (DTN photo by Chris Clayton)
“When the profit margin is in the red, it's hard to give anything extra,” Schipper said. “It's going to have a huge effect on every organization as far as giving.”
Farmers who had a chance to lock in higher prices last spring waited and now are seeing harvest prices below $3 a bushel for their corn.
Schipper was on a panel Tuesday at the Iowa Hunger Summit, a precursor event for the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue that begins Wednesday in Des Moines.
Schipper farms about 6,000 acres near Conrad, Iowa. He got involved in the Foods Resource Bank after seeing a video and taking it to his pastor 12 years ago. Schipper now volunteers to help smallholder farmers in other parts of the world improve their production practices. He also works on fundraising efforts in the U.S. for the organization and serves on its board.
The Borlaug Dialogue, named after Nobel Prize Award laureate Norman Borlaug, always draws attention to the new challenges facing food production and hunger globally. This week, the event will focus heavily on issues surrounding Ebola in West Africa with representatives from Liberia and Sierra Leone expected to speak at the conference. Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma had been expected to attend the World Food Prize event but will now speak to the group through a webcast. Nearly 9,000 people have been infected with Ebola in West Africa with more than 4,400 deaths. The World Health Organization projected Tuesday the epidemic could grow exponentially in the coming weeks.
The fears of Ebola affecting thousands of people translates into a hunger crisis for far more people in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone. Villages have been quarantined, making it more difficult for people to get access to food. Moreover, farmers in those areas are unable to get their foods to market.
On Tuesday, however, discussion at the Iowa Hunger Summit centered on various efforts to raise money for local food aid and contribute to projects globally. Schipper's panel discussion looked at various models to fight hunger. Topics included ways cities could coordinate food pantries and other agencies, as well as ways gardeners can connect with food pantries to donate produce. Schipper talked about his work with the Foods Resource Bank. He noted that one of the advantages of Foods Resource Bank is that there aren't any particular ground rules for fundraising. In rural communities, churches might lease ground from farmers and raise money through the crops grown on that land. Farmers might also simply donate the ground, seed or labor to the church as well.
“There are a lot of different ways you can do it,” Schipper said.
Schipper recalled going to Malawi three years ago to check on a Foods Resource Bank project in that country. He told the crowd he felt bad that the farmers he visited cooked a chicken dinner for him because he knew those farmers seldom ate meat. Still, the Malawi farmers were grateful he had come to the country to see the work they were doing.
“They are so proud that we came that far to see what they were doing,” Schipper said.
After trips to Malawi and Nicaragua, Schipper said he planned to take his grandchildren on an overseas trip to see a project, largely to show them that people in other parts of the world don't have the advantages of Iowa farm families.
As far as Schipper's advice to farmers or rural churches interested in such fundraising projects, he said groups need to consider what their goals would be. Still, he recommended every farmer consider such an effort.
“They need to be involved. It gives you a purpose,” he said.
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Posted by Jami Howell