A man who hopes to become the Democratic nominee in the June Primary as Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture in the General Election, says incumbent Republican Bill Northey “represents the status quo in agriculture,” and does not have a vision for the future of agriculture in the state.

Francis Thicke, from Fairfield, hopes to eventually face off against Northey who has served as Ag Secretary since 2007. He says the state needs to for example, look at what they will do when oil prices rise and some segments of agriculture face increased costs.

Thicke says in order to move forward, Iowa needs to become less oil dependent and make the farming operations more energy efficient. He says the state could look at more perennial crops, such as switchgrass, which would take less energy to grow, and then could be used to make biofuels. Thicke says the state also needs to look at using biofuels in ag machinery.

He says new technologies such as gasification of bio-mass will allow bio-oil to be produced, especially on a small-scale, for on-farm use, thereby reducing costs. Thicke says during World War Two, about a half a million cars in Europe were powered through the gasification process. He says that could be done on a farm scale, and that would eliminate the fuel costs on the farm. Thicke says the technology just needs to be developed further.

Thicke says also, the next generation of wind turbines — those in the 30 to 50-kilowatt capacity range — should be used to power farms across the state, because it would save farmers money and create another “green industry” along with more jobs. He says putting mid-sized turbines on farms would help eliminate electric bills, while also creating some profits.

He says the turbines could be paid for through a policy similar to one currently being used in Europe, where power companies are required to pay a high rate of return during the first few years a turbine is used. Thicke says that would help the farmers pay for the turbine in a creative way.

Thicke, who owns and operates an 80-cow, grass-based, organic dairy farm near Fairfield, says his background as a farmer and his Ph-D in agronomy, along with his service as National Program Leader for Soil Science at the U.S.D.A. in Washington, D.C., makes him well prepared to assume the role of Iowa’s Ag Secretary.

By Ric Hanson, KJAN Atlantic