The Iowa Farm Bureau’s up in arms over trading cards the Iowa Department of Natural Resources staff has been handing out to kids at the State Fair and distributing to teachers for their students. The cards have cartoon images on one side and a lot of words on the other.

Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Lang says the wording on the cards is a subtle dig at farmers. “My objection to them is the fact that I think they discredit agriculture,” Lang says. “I think they make agriculture the target of water quality issues.”

Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kevin Baskins says that’s not the case. “If he’s interpreting it that way, it’s unfortunate. It certainly wasn’t intentional if that’s the message that he got,” Baskins says.

The cards emphasize the need for people to be conscientious at a number of levels, according to Baskins. The cards mention water pollution that comes from homeowners who apply chemicals to their lawns as well as run-off from construction sites and city-owned waste water treatment plants. “The actions of all Iowans, you know, can have an impact on water quality,” Baskins says. “That was the kind of message that we were trying to get across with these cards.”

But Lang says the cards label two common farm chemicals — nitrogen and phosphorus — as having committed “crimes” when they reach lakes and streams. “If we want to resolve this issue in Iowa around agriculture, around livestock, around clean water/clean air — what we have to do is find a resolution not start to impress young people, through the classroom, about the things that some people assume are the problems,” Lang says.

Lang left a message for the director of the Department of Natural Resources on Thursday, but hasn’t gotten a return call. Lang wants the agency to quit distributing the cards. “We welcome dialogue,” Lang says. “We’re willing to sit down and visit with other people who have other ideas to find a resolution.”

Baskins, the D-N-R spokesman, says the cards are simply a parody of a wanted poster and they have no intention of ending distribution of the cards. “We first started using these cards, actually, last year. It wasn’t until a day or two ago that we’ve even heard anybody express any kind of concern about these cards,” Baskins says. “To the contrary, we’ve actually had a number of teachers and a number of people in the public say they like the cards and found them very informational.”