A top statehouse Republican says in 2006, lawmakers will consider turning the Secretary of Agriculture job into an appointed position. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says it may be time to end the 82-year tradition of having the state’s voters choose a state Ag Secretary. Rants says the issue’s coming up now because there’s a vacancy. The current Ag Secretary, Patty Judge, has decided not to seek reelection. “There’s talk about it now before the campaign goes too far down the road, before you have primaries and nominees and a bunch of money is raised and spent,” Rants says. Rants says it makes sense to have the state’s governor — whomever that may be — choose his or her own top state ag official. Rants says it’s something that was considered eight years ago but abandoned because some thought such a move would diminish the importance of agriculture in state government. But Rants says over the past eight years, Governor Tom Vilsack and Iowa Ag Secretary Patty Judge have had a rocky relationship despite the fact that both are Democrats. Rants says it merely takes an act of the legislature, with the governor’s approval, to make the change and does not require a chance in the state’s constitution. Rants says the Ag Secretary position is a creation of the legislature and the governor. “That position can be taken away at any time,” Rants says. But Governor Tom Vilsack’s spokesman, Matt Paul, says the governor isn’t likely to approve such a change. “The governor believes that agriculture is obviously the foundation of the state’s economy (and) that it deserves independent and thorough oversight and accountability by the people of Iowa,” Paul says. “So people should be able to vote for the Secretary of Agriculture.” Paul says the governor has repeatedly said the job of state Ag Secretary should be an elected post, not appointed.
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