The four major party candidates hoping to be Iowa’s next Secretary of Agriculture faced off Friday in a two-hour forum broadcast on KUNI public radio. Democrats Dusky Terry of Greenfield and Denise O’Brien of Atlantic agreed that the future of Iowa’s farming industry lies in getting young people into a career on the farm. But they disagreed on how to do that. O’Brien says their age sets the two apart, as she worked with Terry’s father in the 1980s. With her background as a grassroots organizer, farm wife and mother and her years of work on food and trade issues, O’Brien says she has a “wealth of experience.” While Terry saluted that experience, Terry said his experience as an aide to Governor Tom Vilsack means he understands how the legislative process works and has relationships with lawmakers in both parties. The greatest difference between the two Democratic candidates was over ethanol. Terry says every gallon of gasoline sold in Iowa should contain some of the alcohol fuel. O’Brien says it shouldn’t be mandatory and cautions that focusing on ethanol might distract attention from other possible alternative energy sources. Terry and O’Brien agreed, as did the Republican candidates, that the secretary of agriculture should continue to be elected, not appointed by the governor. Republican Mark Leonard of Holstein says he raises not only corn and beans but also cattle, giving him a better grasp of the state’s livestock industry. Leonard, who served on the board of the Iowa Agricultural Development Authority for years, says the board’s Beginning Farmer Loans are important and during his term the board loaned $350 million to over 3000 beginning farmers and didn’t have a single loan lost during that time. Leonard says the important lesson from that is that leveling the playing field will help beginning farmers get into the industry. His opponent Bill Northey says he has the experience to be an advocate for Iowa farmers in Des Moines and in Washington. Northey says he spent a lot of time there while serving as president of the National Corn Growers Association. Northey says the ag secretary needs to lead a discussion on how to bring in the next generation of young farmers. He says while some are coming into “niches” in the industry, he wants to make sure they aren’t discouraged from becoming livestock farmers from what he calls the negative tone toward livestock farming in the state. The primary is June 6th.
You are here: / / Four ag secretary candidates meet in radio forum