Iowa Secretary for Ag candidate forum
By BILL SHEA
FORT?DODGE?-The five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Iowa secretary of agriculture all said last Wednesday evening that they’re opposed to any new regulations on the livestock industry.
“I think Iowa farmers are managing livestock better than we ever have,” said Chad Ingels, a Fayette County farmer and member of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission. “We’re managing manure better than we ever have.”
During a forum in Fort Dodge, Ingels and his opponents, Ray Gaesser, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, Craig Lang, and state Sen. Dan Zumbach, were also united in opposition to the concept of adding more regulatory power to the state’s Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
No sharp differences of opinion on major issues emerged during the forum at Fort Frenzy, in Fort Dodge that was attended by about 100 people.
The forum was sponsored by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, The Messenger, the Webster County Pork Producers, the Webster County Farm Bureau and Alpha Media Radio.
Longtime Republican Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey was appointed to a position in the United States Department of Agriculture and was finally confirmed by the Senate earlier this year. Naig, who was Northey’s deputy, was appointed to the post on March 5.
Northey’s appointment cleared the way for a crowded primary election ballot. The winner of the June 5 primary will face Democrat Tim Gannon in the November general election.
In the last year, a number of new hog confinement operations have been proposed and approved in the area as a result of the ongoing construction of the Prestage Foods of Iowa plant near Eagle Grove. The candidates were asked Wednesday if they supported any increased regulation on livestock confinements, including a possible moratorium on their construction.
All of the candidates were opposed to that.
Gaesser, an Adams County farmer who has been president of both the Iowa Soybean Association and the American Soybean Association, described livestock production as “the value-added of Iowa agriculture.”
Lang, a former president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and the Iowa Board of Regents, is a dairy farmer in Poweshiek County. He said he wants to double the size of the bovine industry in the state. Livestock, he said, offers profitability to Iowa farmers.
He said he is opposed to changing the master matrix, which is the formula used to govern the construction of livestock confinements.
“The livestock industry is critically important to the state of Iowa,” he said.
Zumbach, who is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he believes the free market should determine what kind of farming operations exist in the state.
He also attacked the notion that farmers are somehow reckless with their use of manure or other fertilizers.
“There’s not a farmer out there that puts more nitrogen or more manure on an acre than it needs,” he said.
Naig agreed with Gaesser, calling livestock production the “ultimate value-added agriculture.”
He said landscaping and electrostatic fences can be used to contain the odor from livestock confinements.
Naig said he is opposed to changes to the master matrix. He said he is also opposed to a moratorium on confinements.
The candidates were asked if they would like the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to take over more regulatory responsibility for livestock facilities and water quality from the Department of Natural Resources. The answer was a unanimous no.
Naig said his department’s responsibility is to promote Iowa agriculture. He said it would be difficult for it to both promote and regulate agriculture.
Lang said the manure basin at his farm is inspected by the DNR. He said the dairy is inspected by both the state and federal agriculture departments. But he said the toughest inspection he deals with is done by the cheese company that buys his milk.
The candidates were asked if they would support a tax break that would help companies make renewable chemicals from farm commodities. All of them said they were in favor of such a tax break.
Naig said the incentive would create opportunities for additional markets for producers.
“This is really the future for us – replacing the plastics, replacing the cleaners,” Lang said.
Zumbach said demand is the mother of innovation.
“These things need to happen,” he said.
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