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Ice cream and politics

By Staff | Nov 18, 2016

STATE AGRICULTURE SECRETARY Bill Northey visits with Lesley Bartholomew, corporate and employee communications manager for Wells Blue Bunny, during a Nov. 11 visit to Wells’ downtown ice cream parlor in Le Mars. There, he cited the company’s long-time contributions to both urban and rural counties’ economic picture.

LE MARS – On the surface, Donald Trump’s presidential victory may favor certain areas of farming, which would repay the rural sector for its overwhelming voting block.

According to the New York Times on Nov. 11, “By contrast, a total of 1,826 U.S. counties moved by at least five percentage points away from the Democratic candidate.”

The Times reported that nearly all of the most drastic swings toward Trump were in the Midwest.

“That abrupt shift was probably driven by numerous factors that are hard to untangle: weak economic prospects; Mrs. (Hillary) Clinton’s lack of attention to those places on the campaign trail; Mr. Trump’s xenophobic message to voters anxious about change.”

During a stop in Le Mars on Nov. 11, state Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said the election will lead to plenty of discussions in the future.

BILL NORTHEY, state agriculture secretary, takes time to visit with, from left, Ralph Klemme, Chuck Holtz and Norm Barker, all of Le Mars, during Friday’s Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor stop. His Le Mars stop was one of several during the day as part of his goal of visiting all 99 counties in the state. Additional stops that day included Rockwell City, Sioux Center and Larrabee. Holtz, a retired veterinarian, is the newly elected District 5 state representative for Plymouth and Woodbury counties.

“I think we’re seeing and will see a lot of conversations about concerns, certainly in the agriculture community,” Northey said. “This is because of the (rural) turn-out for Republicans, certainly for Trump mostly, so it should be a chance to give a relook for some of the regulations in agriculture.”

Trump’s election, he said, will give ag additional opportunities to attempt changing some federal regulations, including Waters of the U.S.

And because trade is a big deal for agriculture, Northey said it’s “important to be able to get right. We need markets.”

“The enforcement of trade agreements is certainly among other concerns, such as the Chinese saying we can’t ship DDGs to China. The people spoke pretty clearly when they said we want trade, but we want it to work.”

When asked if he thought the impact of the rural vote was overlooked in the election of Trump, Northey said “Here, too, the people spoke strongly, but it didn’t get the attention received (that) urban or big city areas received.”

“The situation was similar for the attention given on rural issues by the national media.”

He said agriculture’s issues and voting impact was pushed to the back of the line compared to media focus on other national and international issues.

Jobs for vets

Northey turned his attention to Veterans Day observances hosted by Wells’ Blue Bunny. He focused specifically on agriculture’s role in opening new opportunities for all veterans.

He said national veterans’ organizations are aware that Iowa has vet employment and farming programs through Iowa State University and Iowa’s Veterans in Agriculture.

“These programs may be seen as small efforts,” Northey said, “but they’re growing ones (that) we’re seeing in other places as well. We certainly would love to have more veterans involved in agriculture be it full- or part-time.”

He said some that leave the service look to agriculture as their main employment option.

“It’s an option with lots of room for them to come into and, I think, one that can be a great fit for many of them.”

Veterans considering farming options can find additional program information on the websites of IA Farmer Veterans, Network Rural Americans Hiring and Find a Farmer Veteran, and through the VIA Resource Guide.

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