The five candidates for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture talked in a forum Thursday at the Iowa Power Farming Show in Des Moines. All five say the Ag Secretary needs to be proactive in promoting the state and its products. Democrat Denise O’Brien of Atlantic says she has the edge over her opponents with her knowledge of alternative agriculture.
She says she’s lived and worked for 30 years with alternative crops and organic farming and she says there’s an opportunity to promote more organic crops. She says the state imports a billion and a half dollars worth of organics every year. O’Brien says she would speak for farmers at every level, as she believes we need small and medium and large size farms and that’s what she would represent.
Republican Karey Claghorn of Milo says she’d bring knowledge from the consumer side of agriculture. She says she has a much more diverse background from spending much of her career in the supermarket industry, which she says has given her the opportunity to see the food chain from beginning to end. Klaghorn says that’s let her see food-safety issues and the needs of consumers.
Klaghorn says the Ag Secretary needs to keep selling Iowa food outside the state borders. Klaghorn says when she goes to New York City people don’t know where food comes from. She says Iowa farmers have a product that’s good and diverse and the state needs to continue selling that product to other states.
Republican Mark Leonard of Holstein says his experience with government gives him the edge. He says everyone has some ability to create a message, but the key is to be able to deliver the message in a very forceful and convincing way. Leonard says he also have the access to get the message where it needs to go to be effective. Leonard says his experience in international business is another edge he has over his competitors. He says his opponents are all “bright people, very likeable people” but he says we’re at a point in time where the Department of Agriculture is a key entity in the security of this country.
Democrat Dusky Terry of Greenfield says his past experience on governor Vilsack’s staff gives him an edge in leadership. He says he represents “a new generation of leadership here in Iowa, with fresh ideas and the energy to actually follow through and create opportunities.” Terry says he wants to create opportunities in both the rural and urban parts of the state. Terry is the only candidate to support a requirement that all gas sold in Iowa contain ethanol. He says supports a policy of Iowa signaling its preference for ethanol by requiring ethanol use. Terry says ethanol makes up 77-percent of the market share and capturing the other 33-percent would be “significant” in creating new jobs and reducing our dependency on foreign oil.
Republican Bill Northey of Spirit Lake says his knowledge of the ethanol industry is key. He says in the last 20 years he’s watched and participated in the industry, and says it’s been successful from people working to make things happen, they just didn’t happen themselves.
Northey says even though he’s a strong believer in ethanol, he wants to build it’s use without a mandate. Northey says he wants to give retailers an option to sell ethanol and let them sell some gasoline without ethanol if they sell enough ethanol gas to compensate that. He says we’re after gallons sold and demand instead of forcing people to buy ethanol. The five candidates are vying for the Ag Secretary job being left open by Patti Judge who is running for governor.