Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
August 28, 1998

CARD turns 40 this year

by Steve Jones

What started four decades ago as a small research effort to help Iowa farmers now plays a major role in agricultural policy decisions throughout the world.

Iowa State's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) is celebrating 40 years of helping people -- from local farmers to world agricultural leaders -- make informed decisions. CARD became well-known for using quantitative analytical modeling systems to answer questions and solve problems involving agriculture, food, the environment and rural development.

"CARD was the first public policy research center at a land- grant university that focused on agricultural, rural development and natural resources issues," said Stanley Johnson, vice provost for extension and director of CARD from 1985 to 1996.

Johnson said CARD is the nation's largest public policy center of its kind. The center's reputation, however, wasn't built on size. Strong faculty leadership, innovative thinking and success in attracting funds helped make CARD the prototypical agricultural public policy center in the country.

CARD's 40th anniversary is the theme of its annual fall policy conference, "Agricultural Contracts: Freedom or Restraint," Friday, Sept. 4, at the Scheman Building.

The idea for CARD was born in the 1950s. America was enjoying economic prosperity, but farm income was down. In 1956, 15 Iowa businessmen and farm leaders wrote Iowa State president James Hilton and agriculture dean Floyd Andre, requesting university programs that would define the farm problems and find solutions.

The Center for Agricultural Adjustment began operation July 1, 1958, with ag economist Earl Heady as its first director. The center would go through several name changes before becoming CARD in 1971.

Initially, CARD focused on adapting farming to technological and economic changes. The focus eventually broadened to regional, national and global commodities and agricultural policies.

Heady used economic modeling, which allowed agricultural decision making to become much more scientific. Modeling made it possible for analysts to evaluate many interrelated factors that affect farm income and performance, said William Meyers, CARD's interim director.

A trademark of CARD the past 40 years has been its outstanding domestic and international students and post- doctoral researchers, said Meyers. Many international students returned to their native countries and later assumed high positions within their governments. Several ministers of agriculture (akin to the U.S. secretary of agriculture) are CARD alumni.

Heady retired in 1984 and died in 1987. As director, Johnson added research programs with policy emphasis on natural resources and the environment, food and nutrition, and international agriculture.

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