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Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Candidates’ Positions

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Candidates’ Positions See the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture candidates’ positions on critical issues for farmers and all Iowans.
Farmers Vote 2018 >> Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Candidates’ Positions

Click the links below to reveal the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture candidates’ positions on critical issues for farmers and all Iowans.

All announced candidates have been asked to complete this survey. We will update this page as candidates return their responses.

Animal Agriculture

1. Who should determine the best animal care practices for producing livestock, milk, eggs, or poultry?
________ Farmers   
________ State Legislatures

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): Farmers.

Ray Gaesser (R): Farmers.

Chad Ingels (R): Farmers. Farmers are definitely best equipped to determine animal care practices. As Secretary I would advocate for farmers if our Legislature or other State Legislatures moved to adopt or mandate animal production practices.

Craig Lang (R): Farmers, of course, should determine their livestock and poultry care. A recent study in Dairy Herd Management quoted a study on “Causes American Care About”. In this study that gathered responses from 1000 adults, 41% choose animal welfare number one. Children’s education ranked second with 38%, followed third by hunger at 33%. This unfortunately, is the world we live in. Farmers care both from a financial and emotional point of view for their animals and birds. I’ve often stated that unless you’ve been knocked down by the livestock you care for, or cried when your favorite cow died, you can’t understand how important animals or birds are to a livestock or poultry farmer. I would add, that livestock organizations offer very good quality assurance and control programs and farmers should seek out their assistance in helping to create best practices when working with any of these important industries.

Mike Naig (R): Farmers.

Dan Zumbach (R): Farmers.

2. What would you do to prepare our livestock, egg, and poultry farmers to protect their farms from animal disease outbreaks?

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): I would advocate for continued increased funding for disaster preparedness, so that we not only have the plans in place, but also the staff to implement them, and the training for persons across state, county, and local government along with our industry partners should a new outbreak occur. As we saw with HPAI in 2015 and PEDV in 2014, animal disease outbreaks can have a devastating impact on producers in our state, and weigh on the economy, too. Iowa has to work with our neighbors and USDA to ensure that we have open, effective communication so that we know of any disease outbreaks that could threaten Iowa producers. This means ensuring that all state and federal systems work together.

We also need to make sure that the new Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Iowa State gets built, and if that means increasing the funding committed in the most recent budge, I would advocate for that increased funding. With animal agriculture playing such an important role in our state’s economy, we should not be penny wise and pound foolish such that the Lab’s accreditation might be endangered.

Finally, we need to work with commodity organizations, RMA, private crop insurance companies, and possibly Congress to ensure that our livestock producers have the same world class risk management options available to them that row crop producers enjoy with Federal multi-peril crop insurance. For years, limitations on underwriting capacity for livestock policies cut short any serious discussion on this topic. With Congress’ lifting of the cap on livestock, I am ready to advocate for innovative insurance products that would help producers recover from a disease outbreak.

Ray Gaesser (R): I will ensure IDALs has the tools to stay ahead of and monitor disease outbreaks locally, statewide and globally. We must fund technology upgrades, staffing, outbreak preparation and response, and the veterinary team’s ability to lead the industry in animal agriculture. I will lead dialogue that brings decisions based on the best research, data, lessons learned and that benefits all of Iowa. Specifically:

I will upgrade IDALS communications technology so we can immediately identify and respond to problems. I will build stronger, regular communications among states, to monitor and stop the spread of disease and to continuously learn from each other. Internally, we will hold weekly meetings, even daily when needed. IDALS is short-staffed, so we must hire and maintain employees, especially in areas where there’s a profound impact internally and/or on consumers.

Learning from the avian flu situation, we must continue to limit access/exposure to avoid or contain diseases. Proper uniforms, boots and masks and proper disposable of them is one example. We should monitor vehicle traffic between livestock facilities—delivery and product pick-up as well as employees’. The ag industry can apply broader lessons from poultry and pig farrowing operations.

Premise ID is the 9-1-1 of animal location. Veterinarians often support the database while farmers have mixed reactions, due to expense and the voluntary or mandatory question. I will discuss with farmers and industry leaders, their concerns on how best to prevent and mitigate disease. We will collaborate to determine best practices that benefit all concerned.

Chad Ingels (R): To better prepare farms from animal disease outbreaks I would first do more to promote the acquisition of voluntary premise identification numbers for all farms raising livestock. Secondly, I would work to update IDALS current livestock traceability system to an all-electronic system. Finally, I would work with the livestock commodity organizations to incorporate technology improvements in livestock traceability and continue to upgrade our disease response plans.

Craig Lang (R): About disease outbreak and preparation in our livestock and poultry industry? I would make sure the most qualified individual would fit in the role of State Veterinarian. This is an essential role of Iowa’s Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and should be a major part of the Secretary’s role. Defining a strategic plan and protocol that includes all vendors to the growers of livestock and poultry industry in case of a disease outbreak should be a top priority. A protocol must be set up that stops further spread of an identified animal and poultry disease risk. Secretary Bill Northey showed wise leadership when the avian flu devastated Iowa’s poultry and laying hen facilities just three years ago. I’d bring the same kind of determination and wisdom to the Secretary’s office. Disease is not confined to animals and poultry. Disease outbreak could also devastate other markets for fruit and vegetable growers. Farmers markets and other food markets can be impacted, such as the E.coli outbreak from romaine lettuce. Since April 1 of this year there have been 38 food recalls from FDA, including Listeria and Salmonella in organic coconut flour and other vegetables. The CDC estimates that nearly half of all food borne illness is from produce. That is why a strategic plan for contacting growers as well as all vendors, the governor’s office, USDA, Homeland security and others, about a disease outbreak or food related illness is essential for Iowa agriculture and consumers. Very little has been written about potential terrorist attacks in our food growing region, but the possibility must be analyzed and prepared for. It is a potential risk that must be prepared for. Blockchain Technology is, or soon will be available, to alert growers and venders to risks in the food industry. This technology will allow growers and consumers comfort in knowing risks can be identified in minutes rather than weeks. Farm identification along with animal identification is an important piece of this technology and our desire to provide consumers with the safest and most affordable choices in food.

Mike Naig (R): Animal disease preparedness and prevention is one of my top priorities as Secretary of Agriculture. Leadership of the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship must understand emergency response plans. As Secretary of Agriculture, I requested increased funding for our foreign animal disease preparedness. The increased funding will be designated for an emergency management veterinarian who will further improve our disease response capabilities. My advocacy for an increase in funds, and for the creation of this new position, stem from lessons learned during the 2015 high pathogenic avian influenza outbreak. The Department continues to make strides in our preparedness plans. Currently, I am requesting all livestock producers in the state make sure their information is up to date in the Iowa Premises Identification Program to assist in animal disease response.

Dan Zumbach (R): Education on best practice is essential using commodity ag groups to promote and educate is important.

3. Are current regulations for livestock operations adequately balancing the air, water, and neighbor interests with opportunities to grow livestock farms in our State?
________ Yes  
________ No

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): Yes.

Ray Gaesser (R): Yes.

Chad Ingels (R): Yes. Current regulations are working well to protect the environment. However, we must continue to support research that seeks to improve practices that farmers can use in the future, especially associated with odor control.

Craig Lang (R): Yes. Current regulations for livestock operations adequately balance the air, water, and neighbor interests. I would add that any expansion of a livestock and poultry operation should include a survey and the advice of the Coalition to Support Iowa Farmers (CSIF). Mistakes are made occasionally that could have been avoided if farmers would have worked with the “Coalition”. CSIF has helped over 4,100 farmers expand and build new facilities in the past 13 years and their service has been outstanding.

Mike Naig (R): Yes.

Dan Zumbach (R): Yes.

4. Do you support changing the Master Matrix used in siting livestock operations?
________ Yes  
________ No

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): Yes. I do not support a moratorium on construction of livestock buildings, and I won’t tell you that we need to change the Matrix to some set of criteria that do not make sense. I would work with experts at Iowa State and in the livestock industry to make sure that the most up to date science is reflected in the Master Matrix. As well as the Matrix has worked, I have not heard anyone say it has worked perfectly, and I have heard many people who support it say that tweaks can or should be considered. Given the recent $50 million judgement against Smithfield in North Carolina, I think we should make sure that the Matrix is up to date and backed up by the latest scientific data to ensure that we do not have the North Carolina lawsuit repeated in Iowa.

Ray Gaesser (R): No.

Chad Ingels (R): No. I do not support changing the Master Matrix. However, I do support working to educate legislators and the public that the Matrix already allows for increased regulation of the largest confinement facilities.

Craig Lang (R): No.

Mike Naig (R): No.

Dan Zumbach (R): No.

Water Quality and Conservation

5. Which approach do you support regarding soil conservation and water quality?
________ Regulatory Controls   
________ Farmer Led Watershed Initiatives

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): Farmer led watershed initiatives.

Ray Gaesser (R): Farmer led watershed initiatives.

Chad Ingels (R): Farmer led watershed initiatives. I believe farmer-led watershed initiatives are the best way to improve water quality and soil health. I also support increasing the autonomy of farmer-led watershed councils as a delivery method of voluntary, financial incentives.

Craig Lang (R): Farmer led watershed initiatives are successful and I support them. 40 watershed initiatives in Iowa have been successful and should be continued. When farmers and community work together on common goals, good outcomes occur. I would also look for ways in which farmers and communities can, from a free market system, utilize more cover crops. This has been a strong element of my campaign, to grow the use of cover crops and small grains across Iowa. Building healthy soils will create wealth in Iowa. If readers will go to craiglangiowa.com you will read my policy paper on healthy soils and why healthy soils reduce crop nutrients in our waters.

Mike Naig (R): Farmer Led Watershed Initiatives. As Deputy Secretary, I led the implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS). The NRS establishes a non-regulatory, science-based framework that recognizes each farm is unique. Because of this flexible framework, farmers are able to implement the best conservation practices for their land. A one-size-fits-all approach to conservation is counter-productive. As Secretary, I will continue to implement the NRS and pursue public-private partnerships that will continue building momentum on water quality.

Dan Zumbach (R): Farmer Led Watershed Initiatives.

6. What funding sources do you support to provide long-term, sustainable resources for the Water Quality Initiative, Nutrient Reduction Strategy?
________ Current revenue sources   
________ Increased taxes    
________ Increased fees    
________ Penalties

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): Current revenue sources, Increased taxes.

Ray Gaesser (R): Increased taxes.  3/8 - cent sale tax.

Chad Ingels (R): Current revenue sources, Increased taxes.  I support the Water Quality bill that used current revenue sources and was signed by the Governor this year. This funding stream is just a start, though. It funds just 7% of the estimated $4 billion that is projected to be needed to achieve the Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals. I would support increasing the sales tax to raise funds for implementing the Nutrient Reduction Strategy if it is part of a tax reform package that reduces income or property taxes, and addresses the inequities in mental health funding.

Craig Lang (R): Current revenue sources. Current revenue sources will continue to be an important part of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy(INRS). I will also seek prominent foundation support for regional projects where progressive farmers will participate to prove certain practices, such as, crop rotation, the use of cover crops, and small grains improving the outcome of the INRS. A similar project was conducted a few years ago by Sioux Center and the Leopold Center which proved nitrates in the Sioux Center water were reduced when crops were rotated and cover crops were used.

Mike Naig (R): Current revenue sources. As Secretary, I supported passage of Senate File 512. The passage of this legislation is a positive step forward in our water quality efforts, and provides over $200m toward the departments water quality initiatives. Through this dedicated funding source, the Department is able to leverage those dollars to secure additional funding from outside sources.

Dan Zumbach (R): Current revenue sources.

7. Which is the best way to gauge short-term advancements in water quality, and why?
________ Water monitoring   
________ Measure the adoption of structures and practices

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): Water monitoring, Measure the adoption of structures and practices.   I do not see this as an either/or situation. Through measuring increases in adoption of conservation practices like no till and cover crops and the increase in structures such as bioreactors and wetlands, we know that there will be benefits that can be measured through monitoring. With the information gleaned from monitoring, the state can create a robust Water Quality Market that will get others individuals and groups to contribute to conservation so that farmers are not footing the entire bill not covered by cost share. This will help leverage even more money than traditional state and federal cost share programs that are needed to help us reduce the nutrient load.

Ray Gaesser (R): Measure the adoption of structures and practices. I advocate for “responsible, profitable agriculture.” We gauge short-term growth through monitoring results, incentive and insurance discount programs usage and growth in cover crops, edge-of-field and in-field practices and job creation.

The rain falls on all of us, so we each have a part to play, urban and rural. While the Nutrient Reduction Strategy is voluntary, it’s not optional. If we are stewards preserving our water and soil, we will be profitable, short- and long-term. We must continue water sampling to establish a water quality baseline. Yet, every watershed is different. Farmers need flexibility to implement practices best suited for their farm and their watershed. One size fits all regulation is impractical. That will drive up costs and will not effectively improve water quality

We can measure short-term advancements through practical, financially workable approaches along with IDALS and USDA support. Incentive programs such as cost-sharing in the first year of cover crops for the first 160 acres, encourages farmers to plant cover crops. The new Iowa crop insurance discount for cover crops provides a $5/acre premium break in this three-year demo project. I will help guide these endeavors for Iowa to reach 60% of our corn and soybean acres in cover crops. As co-chair of the Iowa Conservation Infrastructure Initiative with Bill Northey, our team successfully pitched this smart recommendation early on for insurance discounts.

We’re bringing more people onboard the Conservation Infrastructure Initiative to identify and implement economic development in achieving the Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals. We’ve provided the research, data and are creating new opportunities for farmers, landowners and communities to implement practices that advance economic development, as a result. We are helping farmers implement water quality practices, including edge-of-field such as bioreactors and saturated buffers and in-field such as cover crops and strip till and no-till.

The result will be economic benefits: More farm families growing cover crop seeds, custom planting those seeds, new opportunities for grazing, and technical assistance for new jobs such as design of structures and certified crop advisors. These are all strong indicators of our advancements in water quality efforts.

As one of Iowa’s pioneers in establishing and mentoring others on conservation practices and cover crops—I have 30 years of firsthand experience in the value of sequestering nutrients, protecting and building soil health and building that organic matter. Soil health leads to water quality—they are interdependent, and part of the daily decisions made by farmers.

A personal example of meeting the Strategy and collaboration is that a cattle farmer neighbor and I’ve agreed that he will take hay off one of our cover crop fields, as a test, and before we plant soybeans. He will have easy, close-by access and we’ll receive payment for the hay. Those without livestock can help those who do. When we work together, we all benefit. This example also is part of my vision to impove water quality while also bringing more young people into farming, starting with creating opportunities through livestock. Farmers truly do care and want to be aware of how they impact their neighbors. I encourage voluntary awareness and communication between farmers and communities. CSIF is a valuable resource and deserves ongoing support.

Iowa’s new water quality bill, Senate File 512’s funding, is a start. We will initiate investments in water quality by acquiring additional research and data that encourage water quality practices. Farmers want to make smart economic and environmental decisions. They want to know the true cost-benefit equation for planting cover crops so they can intelligently follow through. They need to know if it’s affordable and if and when they can recoup their investments. This research and data will begin to open more doors for cover crops, and in turn, allow more young people to start farming and grazing with livestock and create other ag-related jobs in rural communities.

We should also think broadly about how to expand our funding to $5 billion for a comprehensive approach across Iowa in reaching the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. I will work with teams to bring in funding from private sources, the Iowa legislature, federal agencies, cities upstream and revolving loan funding.

Chad Ingels (R): Measure the adoption of structures and practices.  Measuring the adoption of practices identified in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy is the best way to gauge short term progress toward water quality improvement goals. Water monitoring should also be a part of local farmer-led watershed efforts to increase engagement and understanding of the water quality issues. Northeast Iowa watersheds have found water monitoring to be a valuable planning tool as they identify practices to promote locally.

Craig Lang (R): Both water monitoring and measuring the adoption of structures and practices are important in measuring advancements in water quality. From a short term perspective, measuring water gives a reading that can be immediately recorded. However without a history or baseline the reading doesn’t provide a clear and concise conclusion. Weather events, such as temperature, rainfall and past occurrences, like drought and snowfall are all important in measuring outcomes in advancing water quality.

Adopting certain structures and practices are more predictable and farmers know the outcome of crop rotation utilizing meadows, buffer strips, saturated buffers and dry damns. These structures and many more are practices our farmers use every year and we know how effective they are. These are the reasons why when measuring water quality advancements, I believe both short term and long term measures are important.

Mike Naig (R): There are over 580 known water quality monitoring sites in Iowa, which means 88% of the state drains to a monitored locations. Measuring the adoption rates of proven practices gives us a more comprehensive assessment of the progress being made across Iowa. The momentum we’ve built by working with legislators, associations, farmers and landowners will help continue our success moving forward. Achieving our water quality goals is a long-term commitment and as Secretary I am committed to that long-term effort.

Dan Zumbach (R): Measure the adoption of structures and practices . Practices in place have preloaded information on their long-term effectiveness.

8. Do you support changes to the Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund allocation formula, focusing more funding for the Nutrient Reduction Strategy?
________ Yes   
________ No

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): No. I support an increase in the sales tax to fund the Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund because we need to help farmers cover the cost of conservation practices on many times more acres than currently in place to meet the goals of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. However there are benefits to Iowa, and especially Rural Iowa, in spending money on lake restoration, critical wildlife habitat, and other outdoor recreation as outlined in the Trust Fund’s formula. Outdoor recreation, especially hunting and fishing, can be tremendously beneficial to local economies. If more people are hunting and fishing in rural Iowa, more people are spending money on food, lodging, and supplies. More outdoor recreation opportunities mean more opportunities for Rural Iowans to capture some tourism and recreation dollars of people from out of state and Iowa’s cities and suburbs. And it should not just be seen as a way to help small town diners, motels, and Casey’s stores. A bike trail in rural Linn County provides a lot of business to a local dairy that opened a creamery selling their ice cream, chocolate milk, and other Iowa products to bicyclists who make up a significant chunk of the business’ clientele.

Ray Gaesser (R): Yes.

Chad Ingels (R): Yes. The Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund formula should be changed to align more closely with the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. According to the Center for Rural Development at Iowa State, if we achieve the nutrient reduction goals public spending near the state’s lakes will increase by $30 million annually. Funding water quality improvement first would ultimately lead to public revenues through current streams to fund other non-water quality items currently outlined in the trust fund formula.

Craig Lang (R): If the Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund allocation formula were changed, the only way I would support the Trust Fund or a change in the formula, would be if all the money went to enhancing Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Mike Naig (R): Yes.

Dan Zumbach (R): Yes.

9. Do you support changing this formula before the sales tax increase is initiated?
________ Yes   
________ No

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): No.

Ray Gaesser (R): Yes.

Chad Ingels (R): Yes. The formula should be changed before the sales tax is increased.

Craig Lang (R): Yes. I believe a change in the formula must occur before any sales tax is initiated. Improving Iowa’s water is a daunting task. Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy has brought together 5 years of dedicated hard work in identifying ways to reduce nutrients in our waterways. Farmers and communities working together can reach the targets of reduction set by the INRS, but it is imperative we start sharing the results with the public.

Mike Naig (R): Yes.

Dan Zumbach (R): Yes.

10. Iowa’s water quality efforts to reduce Nitrogen and Phosphorus are primarily based on the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. How should Iowa move forward?
________ Continue to implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy   
________ Regulate farming practices   
________ Other

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): Continue to implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, Other. The Nutrient Reduction Strategy has provided a way to get momentum moving forward, but what we need to see is more than just strategy, we need to see results. This means IDALS must continually work with the DNR and researchers and scientists so that we are continually implementing the best practices in the correct locations. We need to continue implementing conservation practices that not only help reduce the nutrient load in our water, but also improve soil health providing farmers and landowners with an economic benefit, and we need to be able to provide taxpayers information letting them know the results that their investment in nutrient reduction is accomplishing.

Ray Gaesser (R): Continue to implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Chad Ingels (R): Continue to implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. We should continue with the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, it is only 5 years old. Data compiled by Iowa State and the Iowa Nutrient Research and Education Council shows that we may be getting close to achieving phosphorus loss reduction goals, when using the 1980-1996 period as a baseline. Phosphorus is much more closely associated with soil loss, which we have been focused on for decades. Work to reduce nitrogen loss has been emphasized for just a few years. We need to continue the current course.

Craig Lang (R): We should move forward and continue to implement Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. When elected Secretary of Agriculture, I will ask and encourage the adoption of more cover crops and find ways in which cost shares can be provided. We will set up regional demonstrations and measure soil health and water quality and provide the metrics to the public. We will also increase opportunity for more watershed activities where communities and farmers can share the responsibilities and rewards for water advancement.

To sum up the entire section on water quality, I want farmers to lead the progress and educate the public about the realities of agriculture. We have reduced our nutrients and have targeted the needs of growing crops on some of the richest soils in the world. Our state has more rivers and streams per capita than any other state. These are blessings, and provide us with an advantage nowhere else in the world can duplicate. Therefore, we have a responsibility to improve and sustain these blessings. My fear is, we are just one federal judge or one political administration decision away from mandates and regulations. We must, as a group, organize, educate and prove to the public we are making meaningful advancements in improving Iowa’s water. I’m confident we can.

Mike Naig (R): Continue to implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. As Secretary, I have been committed to the implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS). It is critical we have leadership at the Department who will continue to pursue public-private partnerships that build on our water quality momentum. As we approach the 5-year anniversary of the NRS, I am committed to move beyond demonstration and implement broader conservation practices. These proven conservation practices would include bioreactors, saturated buffers, and wetlands.

Dan Zumbach (R): Continue to implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Trade

11. Will trade promotion be a priority for you and IDALS if you are elected Secretary of Agriculture?
________ Yes   
________ No

If Yes, how will you promote Iowa agricultural products to our customers outside of the United States?

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): Yes. Selling our products overseas is extremely important to Iowa farm income. Disruption of relations with our trading partners as we’ve seen with pulling out of TPP, renegotiating NAFTA, and now the threat of tariffs on Iowa products from China can be catastrophic, so I would be meeting with our trading partners and foreign businesses that buy our products to ensure them that they will still get the highest quality product available from Iowa and the United States. If we can restore order and normalcy sooner, we may not lose market share everywhere as we have in Mexico. We also have to look for new markets and work to increase exports to countries that may not be major destinations for our products today, but who could be in the future.

I would be a full partner with our commodity organizations in promoting our products on overseas trips, as well as welcoming reverse trade delegations coming to Iowa to learn more about our farms, how we raise crops and livestock more efficiently than in the past, and how our corn, beans, pork, beef, ethanol, and other products can meet the needs of foreign consumers.

I would also work with industry, other states, USDA, and USTR to point out other countries/regions’ unfair trade practices that harm our ability to sell Iowa products. The EU for example, keeps our biodiesel out of the market on a phony sustainability claim. The key is to resolve unfair trade situations in a way that does not trigger a trade war. I would urge any Administration that rather than act unilaterally, find allies with similar grievances. We might have gotten Japan and the EU to join us in protesting some of China’s most egregious trade practices, and this would have made it more difficult for China to single out American farmers for retaliation.

Ray Gaesser (R): Yes. My entire 40-year farming career is a living “yes” to trade as a priority. Additionally, 20% of Iowa’s economy is tied to exports; $1.25 billion in pork, and 60% of soybeans and 25% of corn grown here are exported. As a farmer who primarily grows, soybeans, I am keenly aware soybeans are the largest single product export from the US to China.

No other candidate can compare to my volunteer, unpaid leadership over 25 years on 50+ trade missions and hosting hundreds of foreign dignitaries, farmers from some 20 countries and aspiring Iowa students. One trade missions to China led to the signing here in Iowa of the largest single purchase of soybeans in the world. This also ties in to my work in creating the current U.S. Farm Bill and understanding policy at all levels as well. Of all the candidates, I am the most familiar with the Farm Bill’s market access and trade enhancement programs.

Trade is one arena through which I’ve given back to the industry that’s created my family’s livelihood and that ensures a viable, valuable future for Iowa agriculture. I’ve been fortunate to gain high-level knowledge and understanding of different countries’ cultures, their ways of doing business and the elements required to increase trade. I’ve built personal, long-term relationships built on trust with different Ministers of Agriculture, trade representatives and customers, globally.

Newly appointed to President Trump’s Ag Advisory Council, I have expressed my concerns about guarding our tireless trade efforts over the last three decades through that channel, and also with our Iowa Congressional delegation. Since then, the President has expressed hope for an agreement with China, rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, agreeing on NAFTA and ensuring ag is protected.

Chad Ingels (R): Yes. Promoting Iowa products domestically and internationally will be a high priority for me as Ag Secretary. It will be important to participate in trade missions that promote corn, soybean, beef, pork, and poultry around the world. It will also be very important to work with our Federal government and other governments to advocate against placing artificial barriers like tariffs on farm products.

Craig Lang (R): Trade promotion is and always has been a priority. As secretary of agriculture, I will seek new markets for the products we grow. I will look for opportunities to partner with other states to find key markets in parts of the world that have a growing middle class. As secretary, I will seek and find opportunities for local growers to market their products as groups, thereby leveraging opportunity to receive higher prices. According to the Economic Research Service of USDA, FARMERS ARE RECEIVING THE LEAST AMOUNT OF THE CONSUMER DOLLAR since records have been kept. It is imperative farmers capture a larger part of the consumer’s dollar spent on food. As Secretary of Agriculture, I will have an open door policy for all foreign dignitaries and work hard to open markets for the things we grow. I’ve worked on trade issues in China, Europe, South America and Africa. I’ve debated farm issues with other countries both on the Iowa and American Farm Bureau level and attended two WTO meetings in Hong Kong and Cancun, where I participated in trade discussions.

Mike Naig (R): One of the most essential roles for the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture is being Iowa agriculture’s greatest promoter. As Secretary, I have worked to maintain markets to sell our products and I will continue to grow and expand our opportunities for Iowa’s livestock producers, crop farmers, and agribusinesses. I have lead trade missions, met with international delegations, and will continue to promote Iowa agriculture worldwide. It is crucial for us to sit across the table from our customers, build relationships, and effectively communicate why they need to be purchasing our world-class agriculture products. As Secretary, I am committed to continue being Iowa agricultures biggest promoter.

Dan Zumbach (R): Yes. I would be a nonstop advocate for agriculture, working with all farm organizations promoting ag products. Also work with state and federal officials to ensure consistancy across all agencies for a clear world wide voice.

Renewable Fuels

12. Is expanding the use of renewable fuels a priority for IDALS if you are elected Sec of Ag?
________ Yes   
________ No

View the candidates' responses


Tim Gannon (D): Yes.

Ray Gaesser (R): Yes.

Chad Ingels (R): Yes. Expanding the availability and use of renewable fuels, especially E15, is a priority of mine.

Craig Lang (R): Yes.

Mike Naig (R): Yes. As Secretary, I support a robust renewable fuels market and and will continue to advocate for policies that expand market opportunities for Iowa farmers.

Dan Zumbach (R): Yes.

13. What actions will you take to advance the market opportunities for ethanol and bio-diesel?

View the candidates' responses

Tim Gannon (D): We can continue to increase market opportunities for ethanol and bio-diesel in several ways. We can continue to expand biofuels use by government at all levels. We should follow Minnesota’s lead on encouraging higher blends of ethanol to be sold creating a stronger market for E-15, E-30, and higher blends of bio-diesel. Continuing to fund the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program will be important to providing continued growth in access to higher blends of ethanol, and any Federal blender pump programs that can be leveraged should be to the greatest extent possible. I would take a look at allowing all E-15 and E-30 blends sold at blender pumps to include the octane as South Dakota allows, and I would work with other Midwest states to synchronize our policies so that we are more cohesive in making biofuels not only more available, but also making it easier to explain their many benefits such as higher octane. I would continue to push for greater ethanol and bio-diesel export opportunities as the growth in foreign markets can be a boon to our ever more efficient producers.

We also should look at economic development opportunities in ethanol inputs like enzymes and by-products. State incentives helped build many ethanol and bio-diesel plants. Now there are numerous opportunities to move enzyme production and by-product production/processing nearer to the plant, and that should be a part of the state’s economic development strategy that includes the use of grants, forgivable loans, and other incentives.

Ray Gaesser (R): I will share with the EPA and Congress all the environmental benefits and value-added benefits of using crops as renewable fuels and in multiple other ways—how they create a circle of life, from fuel and distiller grains, to feeding animals and then, using animal waste to fertilize the next crop.

Just like farmers, the renewable fuels industry and the Iowa Farm Bureau want, I want to expand E15 into the marketplace. Instead of its current, limited availability I will work to make it the standard for the country. We must increase incentives, increase demand, alleviate renewable identification number issues and support fuel options.

In Iowa in 2006, ag groups and the Renewable Fuels Association united to seek state legislationand funding to incentivize tanks, blender pumps, etc. and to encourage a renewable fuels supply to customers. I will fight to implement the Renewable Fuels Standard, according to the original intent and legislation when passed in 2007. The American Soybean Association, the Farm Bureau and other ag groups, have also called upon President Trump to support the RFS and in turn, rural America. Their letter urges him to follow through on a regulatory fix for higher blends and to ensure the volumes of renewable fuel to address farmer and refiner concerns.

The American Soybean Association presented its first-ever Distinguished Leader Award to me this spring, recognizing my role in helping to create and increase demand for biodiesel and strengthening the Renewable Fuels Standard. This has long been a primary economic and ecological priority to me. .

Chad Ingels (R): First, we must continue to push on the Federal government for an E15 waiver that allows sale of this product year-round. We also must work to assure that the RFS stays in place with the current renewable fuels use expectations. As Secretary, I will work with the Legislature to fully fund the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program. And I will also be vocal in my support for increasing the availability of higher blends of ethanol and bio-diesel at retail locations across the state.

Craig Lang (R): It a priority. I envision growing the market both for ethanol and bio-diesel, because the U.S. should be the leader in the world exporting renewable liquid energy. Because of our rich soil and balanced management, combined with favorable weather, this is our advantage in creating wealth across our state. Also, there are co-products that are created in both ethanol and bio-diesel plants, which are very valuable organic compounds which can be used to create high value cleaners, lubricants and sealants. These organic compounds allow corn and soybeans to be the base of commercial and home products that compete with petroleum based cleaners, lubricants and sealants, both on price and efficacy. But, I wouldn’t stop with liquid energy. I would look to expand the bio-gas industry, capturing methane from livestock facilities for electricity, heat, natural gas and the transportation industry. Anaerobic bio-digesters that utilize cover crops for feed stock and animal and food waste are now commercially and financially viable. I believe this is a renewable fuel that can provide energy that is readily available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Anaerobic bio-digesters can be owned by farmers and the community where they live. I’ve studied the financials and I believe the financial returns could be very rewarding.

Mike Naig (R): As Secretary, I have advocated for a robust and strong renewable fuels standard (RFS). I have advocated for greater market access through year-around E-15. Working hand-in-hand with the Governor, and our Congressional delegation, I will continue to promote Iowa-grown renewable fuels and defend the industry from attack. I have been in direct contact with EPA leadership and senior USDA officials working to preserve the RFS. This legislative session, I reaffirmed my commitment to the renewable fuels infrastructure program and received funding to continue our work making renewable fuels more accessible to all Iowans.

Dan Zumbach (R): Work with state and federal officials to ensure RINs and the RFS are expanded. America wants and needs renewable fuels.

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