July 28, 2015

Branstad: Trump leading polls due to ‘name recognition’ (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad doesn’t think it’s “likely” that Donald Trump will wind up being the Republican Party’s presidential nominee next year.

“It’s way early and polls at this point in time tend to reflect name recognition,” Branstad told reporters this morning. “And, obviously, he’s a TV personality who has a lot of recognition, but there’s a lot of really good candidates in this race.”

Trump is tops in several recent national polls and a couple of recent surveys focusing solely on Iowa Caucus-goers found Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in the lead, with Trump surging into second place.

“I don’t think he’s going to be the nominee, but you know he, like any other candidate, has an opportunity to express their viewpoint,” Branstad said. “If you remember what happened four years ago, we had a lot of people that were the front-runner at some point in time, but Iowans tend to reward people that work hard and spent a lot of time in the state.”

Trump announced in mid-June that he would run for president and he’s appeared at three events in Iowa since then, including a weekend rally in Oskaloosa that attracted a crowd of more than 14-hundred people. The candidate who has spent the most time in Iowa is Rick Perry and Branstad predicts the former Texas governor “will do a lot better” in the Iowa Caucuses than expected.

AUDIO of Branstad speaking with reporters on this and other topics this morning, 21:30

New bird flu vaccine promising for chickens, tests ongoing for turkeys

Chicken and turkey producers listen during a conference on bird flu.

Chicken and turkey producers listen during a conference on bird flu.

Hundreds of poultry producers are participating in a two-day seminar both in person and on-line, to discuss the deadly bird flu outbreak. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack was the first to address the group.

“I want to thank the producers who are in the audience today,” Vilsack said. “I want you to know that we recognize and appreciate how difficult this has been for producers and their families. It’s why we have been working hard to try to deal with the onslaught of avian influenza and why we are taking steps to be prepared should it reemerge in the fall.”

Iowa Poultry Association executive director Randy Olson greeted producers as they entered the meeting room in Des Moines where the seminar is being staged.

“The folks who have emptied barns and are working on cleaning are tired,” Olson said, with a laugh. “They’ve been working very, very hard…We’re thankful that we haven’t had new outbreaks in the last five to six weeks now. We’re really trying to learn as much as we can about prevention going forward. This conference will help our industry do that.”

Governor Terry Branstad (L), Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Governor Terry Branstad (L), Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The U.S.D.A. is developing a list of disposal sites if bird flu recurs in the fall, plus Vilsack said a more effective vaccine may soon be ready. Vilsack has set aside money in the U.S.D.A.’s budget to buy a stockpile of that vaccine.

“We’ve evaluated the causes for the spread of this,” Vilsack said, “and while it’s difficult to be able to state with a degree of 100 percent of certainty, we are fairly confident that there are multiple reasons for the spread of this.”

It will be up to the officials in each state to determine whether chickens and turkeys will get the vaccine, once it’s ready. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad hasn’t decided whether he’d permit it because some countries might bar imports of U.S. poultry and eggs if the birds are vaccinated.

“So we’re going to continue to review and look at the evidence and information about this and how effective it is,” Branstad told reporters this morning.

The only vaccine currently available for all poultry is just 60 percent effective. Vilsack told reporters that a new strain of vaccine is 100 percent effective for chickens and researchers are conducting tests to determine how it works for turkeys.

“I don’t want to say how long that’s going to take, but I will tell you we’re in a better space than we were, say, six months ago or six weeks ago when all we had was a vaccine that was 60 percent effective and that’s really not good enough,” Vilsack said. “You need something that’s 100 percent effective.”

Vilsack has asked his staff to prepare for reemergence of the bird flu in the fall not just in the states that were hit this spring, but in all states.

“The challenge with this is it mutates,” Vilsack said. “It changes. It literally changes as it migrates across the country.”

Here are the latest stats:

  • Nearly 50 million birds have been killed in 21 states due to the bird flu outbreak that has hit 232 U.S. poultry operations.
  • Iowa has been hardest hit, with tests confirming bird flu hit 77 different production facilities in the state. More than 34 million birds have been killed in Iowa since April.
  • Egg production in Iowa is down 44 percent from one year ago. Turkey production is off by about 11 percent.
  • The U.S.D.A. has paid out over $183 million to cover the cost of dead birds and Vilsack expects the agency will spent up to $400 million more to reimburse poultry producers for the cost of disposal of the birds, plus disinfecting their facilities once all the animals are removed.

Branstad & Vilsack discuss boosting ‘biochemical’ production in Iowa

Governor Terry Branstad wants Iowa to become the first state to offer a tax credit for transforming the “biochemicals” that are a byproduct of ethanol production. Branstad discussed the issue with former Iowa Governor and current U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday during a meeting in Washington, D.C.

“Secretary Vilsack, his department — the USDA, has done a pretty extensive report and they are putting together some federal programs to encourage and support this as well,” Branstad told Radio Iowa.

Branstad’s proposed state tax credit would not be for the ethanol production companies that make byproducts like corn oil and dried distillers grain when they make ethanol. Instead, the tax credit would be offered to companies that find new uses for those “biochemical” byproducts.

“This is something that we both think could be really beneficial for Iowa,” Branstad said. “There’s opportunity for us to get some federal assistance…Secretary Vilsack is really knowledgable about this and that’s an area where I see we have an opportunity to kind of team up and work together on.”

Vilsack gave Branstad the report the USDA released last week about biochemical production and Branstad read it on his way to West Virginia, where the National Governors Association is holding its summer meeting. Next summer, in 2016, the National Governors Association will meet in Des Moines and Branstad has invited Vilsack to be there for the event. Vilsack was Iowa’s governor in 2005, the last time Iowa hosted the summer meeting of the nation’s governors.

Branstad takes concerns about August 6 debate directly to FOX News president

Iowa’s governor has talked with the head of FOX News to air his concerns about the format for the first televised debate among the Republican presidential candidates, set for August 6 in Ohio.

“We had a real good discussion and he shared with me some of the challenges that he’s facing,” Governor Terry Branstad told Radio Iowa today.

In mid-June, Branstad said he planned to talk to FOX News president Roger Ailes about the rules that will allow only 10 candidates on the debate stage, based on which 10 are leading in national polls.

“I don’t think anybody ever anticipated you’d ever have more than 10 candidates,” Branstad said. “And he told me one of the challenges of doing it the way that I suggested — which was two panels and have the candidates randomly chosen (for) that, he said some of the people that are frontrunners would not be happy with that because they would be sharing the state with people that are not, maybe, as viable.”

As of this week, 16 candidates have officially entered the Republican presidential contest. Branstad said it appears Ohio Governor John Kasich — who formally kicked off his presidential campaign Monday — will not be included in the debate in Cleveland.

“Kasich runs well ahead of Hillary Clinton in Ohio and yet he’s not in the top 10, so he won’t be in the debate in his home state,” Branstad said. “That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

FOX News chief Roger Ailes was a political consultant before he helped launch the cable network and Branstad was one of his clients. Ailes produced ads for Branstad’s gubernatorial campaigns in 1986 and 1990 and the two men reminisced a bit about those campaigns during their recent visit.

Branstad convenes Council of Governors, advising Pentagon on Guard issues

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad led a meeting this morning in Washington, D.C. with seven other governors and a top Pentagon official.

“We had a moment of silence for the five service members who were killed in Chattanooga,” Branstad told Radio Iowa after the meeting. “And then I brought up the issue about security for military personnel and we had a good discussion about that.”

On Wednesday Branstad authorized any additional security meaures the head of the Iowa National Guard might believe are necessary for Guard facilities in Iowa.

Branstad is co-chair of the Council of Governors that advises the Pentagon on issues related to the state guard units around the country. Branstad said military officials indicated they plan to present a report and recommendations to the U.S. Defense Secretary when he returns from a trip to Iraq.

“There may well be action in congress on this issue as well,” Branstad said. “We met with both senators and all four (Iowa) congressmen yesterday and talked about a number of issues, but certainly the defense issues and also just security for our armed service personnel is something that they’re hearing a lot from their constituents.”

Private citizens with weapons have begun patrolling military recruitment centers around the country, and in Iowa, after last week’s fatal shootings of five soldiers in Tennessee. Branstad said with Islamic militants using social media to encourage attacks on American soldiers wherever they may be, governors want to “collaborate” with the Pentagon to enhance security of National Guard and regular military installations around the country.

Branstad authorizes new security at National Guard facilities

New Iowa Air National Guard recruiting office.

Iowa Air National Guard recruiting office.

Iowa’s governor has authorized new security measures at Iowa National Guard facilities and recruiting stations.

Governor Terry Branstad joins the Republican governors of Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin to make the move. It’s in response to the shootings in Tennessee last week that killed four Marines and a Navy sailor.

Governor Branstad has told the leader of the Iowa National Guard that he may use his discretion and arm soldiers on Guard property where personnel have not been armed before. Branstad had previously ordered the Guard to conduct a thorough review of security at all Iowa National Guard facilities and recruiting stations.

Branstad is co-chair of the Council of Governors that advises the Pentagon on National Guard issues. That group is meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C. and these security issues are on the agenda.

Private citizens with guns have begun patrols outside military recruitment centers across the country, and in Iowa, following the shootings at the two military facilities in Chattanooga.

Governor requests federal disaster declaration after storms hit 19 counties

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad is asking President Barack Obama to declare 19 Iowa counties federal disaster areas. The governor is making the request based on damage from heavy winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, hail and thunderstorms from June 20th through the 25th.

The counties are spread from central Iowa through northeast Iowa and suffered an estimated $5.1 million in damage. They are: Allamakee, Appanoose, Butler, Clayton, Dallas, Davis, Des Moines, Guthrie, Howard, Jefferson, Lee, Lucas, Marion, Mitchell, Monroe, Warren, Wayne, Winneshiek and Wright.

The federal designation — if granted — would provide help in rebuilding damaged infrastructure such as roads, bridges, culverts and other public facilities. It would also help to pay for the cost of emergency work and debris removal.