A woman from western Iowa is the latest candidate to announce intentions to seek the job of Iowa Ag Secretary. Denise O’Brien lives near Atlantic, where she has farmed for 30 years with her husband, Larry Harris. “I feel like we haven’t yet done enough for farmers in Iowa,” she says. “Maybe we need to talk about some new ideas and look for some other solutions to keep family farmers on the land.” O’Brien, who will run as a Democrat, says the state should help promote small-scale farms which grow produce for Iowa institutions, like schools. She says that would help younger farmers get started in the business. O’Brien says farmers can grow specialty crops, and larger farms should be encouraged to start growing “biomass” crops like switchgrass to convert to energy, and she says it’s a crop that can be grown year-round.”There’s local, national and state ways that you can work on issues that keep farmers on the land and I think that we need to explore some because the system that we have now doesn’t seem to have worked very well,” she says. O’Brien is executive director of the non-profit “Women, Food and Agriculture Network” which helps widows who owns farms and young farmers. She has twice run for office at the local level, losing a Cass County Supervisors seat by 35 votes in the early 1990s and losing in a recent bid to sit on her local school board. She says she’s formed an “exploratory committee” to prepare to run for Ag Secretary. She’ll face at least two other Democrats in a primary. Brent Halling of Perry, the current Deputy State Ag Secretary, and Dusky Terry, an aide to Governor Tom Vilsack, have both announced they intend to run for the job.
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