Candidates are lining up to launch campaigns in hopes of succeeding out-going Iowa Ag Secretary Patty Judge, who’s among the Democrats running for governor. One of Judge’s deputies — Brent Halling of Perry — has announced he wants his boss’ job and will seek the Democratic party’s 2006 nomination for Ag Secretary. Halling describes himself as a “life-long Iowan” who was raised on a farm in northern Dallas County. “Agriculture’s been a part of my life for all of my life,” Halling says. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and all I am doing.” Halling raises hogs and crops on a century farm near Perry with his dad and his brother. For the past six-and-a-half years, Halling has served as the deputy state ag secretary, often working as a liason between his boss and the legislature as well as with other state agencies. “The experience…I think fit pretty well the bill to go ahead and be Secretary of Agriculture…and lead us into the bright future,” Halling says. Halling was president of the Iowa Pork Producers in 1995. Halling says that was “when things were really starting to heat up” and legislators enacted tougher rules for livestock manure pits and tried to place restrictions on the size of livestock operations. Sources say Eddie Peterson, a former member of the Webster County Board of Supervisors, also plans to run as a Democrat. At least three Republicans are considering a bid for the top ag post in state government, including Karey Claghorn, a farmer from Milo. She’s been the secretary of the American Hampshire Sheep Association. Republican Mark Leonard, a banker and cattle producer from Holstein, already has a campaign website — www.leonardforiowa.com. “Certainly, there’s a feeling of being compelled or driven to try and make a difference in the world,” Leonard says about running. “That’s really been the biggest thing about my banking career is it’s an opportunity to make someone’s life better everyday.” Leonard also raises Limosein and Angus cattle with customers around the U-S and in other countries. “Honestly, I don’t intend to make a political career out of my life. I want to do my service and do what I can,” Leonard says. “When we have accomplished that, I’ll come back home and do what I’ve always wanted to do and that’s run cows and farm.” If elected, Leonard promises regulatory and policy changes to help ignite the ethanol and biodiesel industries. “There’s a great amount of work and promotional activities that can be done to truly make Iowa the capitol of renewable energy in the world,” Leonard says. “We have the opportunity to be as important a player in energy sources as what Texas or Oklahoma has been historically…but we need leadership to help take us there and it needs to be leadership at the governmental level.” Corn and soybean farmer Bill Northey of Spirit Lake is also laying plans to seek the Republican nomination for state Ag Secretary. Northey has been a leader in state and national commodity organizations. Northey was president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association in 1990 and ’91 and president of the National Corn Growers Association in 1996 and ’97. “I certainly feel like agriculture is important to this state. I think it needs a strong voice,” Northey says. “I’ve had experience in being able to communicate the strengths of ag and the opportunities for agriculture and I think that this is the right time to be able to do that for all Iowa farmers.” Northey says he would take the Iowa Department of Agriculture in a new direction. “Ag can use a stronger voice,” Northey says. Northey, a former soil and water district commissioner in Dickinson County, also believes there should be a “greater emphasis” on protecting the soil and water resources in Iowa, and Northey would look for ways to bolster state and federal funding for such efforts. Northey is part of an “Innovative Growers” project raising specialty soybeans that have the kind of high-protein content for which customers are willing to pay a premium price.
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