Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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July 13, 2017

Sullivan’s Salvos     7/18/17

In this edition:

*No Salvos Next week!
*Foster Care Follow Up
*Johnson County Fair
*Wealth Transfer
*Did You Know?

*No Salvos Next Week!
         No Salvos next week, as I will be attending the National Association of Counties Convention in Columbus, Ohio. I hope to come back with some good ideas for the people of Johnson County!

         Expect your next issue, dated August 1, to show up in your inbox around July 28.

*Foster Care Follow Up
         I wrote last week about the many problems with Iowa’s foster care system, and how staffing cuts are the root of all these problems. This prompted a response from Ro Foege, former Democratic State Legislator from Mount Vernon.

         For those who do not know, Ro was a wonderful Legislator who had a long career as a social worker and educator. He was THE go-to person in the Legislature on any human services-related issue. I have known Ro since I was a kid, and he was an idol and a mentor for me.

         Last week I mentioned foster kids transitioning to adults. In fact, Ro Foege wrote that bill. It became known as PALS—Preparing for Adult Living Skills. As a kid, Ro actually spent time in an informal foster home and considered foster family care services as one of the motivating factors in his becoming a Social Worker. Ro noted that it was an era of bipartisan cooperation, and Dave Heaton provided the Republican support needed for passage.

Ro even included photos of the bill signing with Gov. Vilsack, June 2, 2006! Ro went on to say, “This is one of those accomplishments that made campaigning and fund-raising and walking in parades worth while. Thanks for accurately describing the current state of sad affairs of the Iowa Child Welfare system.”

Thanks, Ro – for everything!

*Johnson County Fair
         The Johnson County Fair runs from Monday, July 24 through Thursday, July 28. This is a great opportunity for the whole family to take a step back toward our agricultural roots!

         I love the way the Johnson County Ag Association manages the County Fair. I am particularly fond of the fact that there is never an entry fee, and parking is free. In many counties, you would pay $10 to park and $5/head admission, if not more. That is $30 minimum for a family of four before you have even done anything!

         The Board of Supervisors started a “tradition” four years ago of holding our weekly Thursday meeting on the main stage at the Fair. While we have yet to draw a big crowd, it has been a fun change of pace.

Yes, it is typically hot out there. But that is why they sell ice cream! So, please stop out and enjoy the Fair. You’ll be glad you did!

For the full daily lineup of events, see:

*Wealth Transfer
I wrote the piece below in March of 2010. It is still quite valid today.

There is a change coming to rural parts of the US, including the rural portions of Johnson County. This is a quiet, slow-moving, and devastating change. No, it is not disease, insects, or some other plague. It is wealth transfer.

Most folks do not realize it, but the US is undergoing the most massive transfer of wealth in the history of the planet. There are lots of people in their 80s and older, and many of them are nearing the end of life. As they age, their assets are being passed down to the next generation. On the farm, this becomes a huge problem.

         For the most part, the folks inheriting the wealth are not farmers, and they do not live in the small communities where the farm sits. Why does that matter?

         Let’s use a hypothetical Lone Tree couple as an example. While this is all made up, the example should ring true. You have an 85-year-old couple who farmed 300 acres outside of Lone Tree their whole lives. They have two adult children – a son in Des Moines and a daughter in Chicago. Five adult grandkids are spread around the US.

The Dad coached little league, spent ten years on the Board of the local bank, served twenty years as a Fremont Township Trustee, and is a member of the Lone Tree American Legion. The Mom was a Cub Scout Den Mother, a 4H leader, a Deacon in the Presbyterian Church, and a regular volunteer with Lone Tree Schools.

         The couple was active in church activities, and even in older age could be counted on to support every school fundraiser. Every time the Lone Tree Volunteer Fire Department held a pancake breakfast or chili supper, they slipped an extra $20 into the donation box.

After long, full, wonderful lives, they pass away. The children in Des Moines and Chicago are in the final ten years of their own careers; they cannot drop everything to return to Fremont Township to farm. The 5 grandkids do not know anything about farming, and the idea of living in rural Iowa scares them.

So, the son in Des Moines decides to sell his half. The daughter in Chicago just cannot bear to sell the family farm, so she decides to hire a farm manager and rent out her half.

But who gets what? Mom & Dad never really spelled it out. About half of the ground is prime farmland, a quarter was hay and pasture, and a quarter included the house, barns, and some woods. The daughter wants to keep the house, but also wants the good land, because the rest is much tougher to rent. The son wants to sell the good farmland, because it will bring a better price. They end up chunking the family farm into three sections, two of which are sold and one that is rented.

         The son gets $600,000 cash after the sale. He pays off his house in Des Moines, buys a new car in Urbandale, and gives $20,000 to each of his three kids. Even after all that, he has plenty to put in his Des Moines-based bank.

         The daughter gets $100,000 cash, and begins renting the land. A local farmer pays cash rent to her. All the money is deposited in her Chicago-based bank.

         Can you see what happened? The land is still in Fremont Township, but the money is all gone. Money now flows from Fremont Township to Chicago. The monetary capital has been transferred.

         Perhaps even more importantly, the Legion lost a member; the bank and restaurant lost customers; the fire department lost donors; and the school, nursing home, and church lost volunteers. The human capital is gone.

         I used a fictional couple and Lone Tree as examples, but this scenario is playing out all over the Midwest. Unfortunately, the story is often sad, and there are no good solutions.

         What can we take away from this? I hope that younger locals will recognize how much this couple has contributed to the community, and do their best to pick up the slack. Meanwhile, if you have ideas, please share them. I think we need good suggestions in order to avert a real crisis.

*DID YOU KNOW?  Over 70,000 people annually visit the Johnson County Fair.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

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