Naig: Iowa ag community continues to support US food, energy security
As Iowans continue to fight against the spread of COVID-19 with extraordinary public health measures, it’s important that “National Ag Week” is now. Our farmers and the entire Iowa food and ag community are continuing to step up, providing food and energy security when it matters most.
Food is a year-round essential, but this situation has called special attention to the critical role our farmers and food industry plays in ensuring access to quality, nutritious food, no matter the circumstances. It’s in moments like these that the adage “if you ate today, thank a farmer,” especially rings true.
The examples of Iowans pitching in and overcoming hardship to keep food accessible are remarkable. Dairy operations, such as Stensland Family Farms in Larchwood and AE Dairy in Des Moines, are making extra milk deliveries to grocers and shifting production to keep milk available. Cedar Ridge Distillery in Swisher has converted its grain-intensive operation into a make-shift hand sanitizer production facility and is giving away thousands of bottles for free. Farmers are upholding biosecurity best practices as they continue to feed and raise livestock.
Nonprofits fighting food insecurity are also rising to the challenge of maintaining services. The DMARC food bank network is implementing new health measures to keep its mobile food pantry running while also collaborating with Food Bank of Iowa and Des Moines Public Schools to provide “grab-and-go” meal packages at schools. Northeast Iowa Food Bank is continuing its emergency boxes and elderly nutrition programs in addition to shifting its mobile pantry to a curb-side pick-up model.
Logistics companies are working overtime to facilitate shipments of essential food, supplies, and household items, a task made easier thanks to Gov. Reynolds’ transportation waivers. Public employees, including those at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, will continue to perform essential functions to secure supply chains and ensure food safety.
As a national leader in production of corn, pork, eggs, ethanol, biodiesel and soybeans, Iowans always bear a tremendous responsibility to keep people fed and the economy moving. Now is no different. One in five Iowans work in jobs connected to agriculture, and 85 percent of our state’s land is dedicated to food and fuel production. “National Ag Week” might normally be time for meetings and celebrations of Iowa’s role as a global agriculture leader. This year, our state will celebrate by showing why leadership matters, and why the nation can count on our agriculture and resilience at any hour.
This week and every week, we say thank you to all of the Iowa families, biofuels workers, livestock producers, truckers, and everyone involved in ag from the farm gate to the grocery shelf, who are digging deeper and coming together as a community.
Mike Naig is the Iowa secretary of agriculture