Once the election season is over, some politicians seem to disappear. Not Bill Northey. Iowa's secretary of agriculture is determined to visit all 99 Iowa counties each year to meet with Hawkeye State residents to discuss the future of agriculture. He regards this commitment to stay in close touch with Iowans to be a high priority at all times. Northey began these listening trips soon after taking office and is on the road even when no rendezvous with the voters is imminent.
"Visiting each of Iowa's 99 counties every year is an important part of my effort to stay in touch with Iowans and continue to learn more about all that is going on within Iowa's rich and diverse agriculture industry," Northey said, in a statement announcing that his visit to the 12th annual Farm News Ag Show in Fort Dodge earlier this month would also mark his fulfillment of this commitment for 2013.
Iowa agriculture is so diverse that Northey finds it essential to get out of Des Moines to experience directly the richness of this important industry. By visiting each county, he is able to gain detailed knowledge about how the needs of agriculture and related industries vary across the Hawkeye State. An appreciation for the complexity of the agricultural economy is vitally important for all state officials, but especially so for anyone who heads the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
In his remarks at the Ag Show, Northey highlighted two issues being addressed in Washington, D.C., that have ramifications for the future of Iowa's agricultural economy:
The Environmental Protection Agency's announcement that it may cut back or eliminate the Renewable Fuels Standard and
California's attempt to require that eggs sold there must be produced in accordance with that state's requirements.
Northey said an EPA decision to set the RFS aside would threaten not only corn-based ethanol, but would stymie future investments in developing cellulosic ethanol, such as the POET facility in Emmetsburg set to open production in spring 2014. Gov. Terry Branstad, Northey and others are working hard to prevent this change from being implemented.
Similarly, GOP leaders are trying to include language in a future farm bill that would prevent actions by states akin to the regulatory action by California.
Northey's leadership on these issues and many others illustrates his important role in helping Iowans evolve an agricultural strategy that can keep this state's rural economy the envy of the world.
Northey's expertise makes him a valuable advocate for the agricultural community. It is particularly impressive, however, that he chooses to keep in close contact with his constituents. This is a man whose insights into the future of agriculture are well worth pondering. He also is a leader who demonstrates by his actions that he cares what you think.