By Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture
It is hard to believe that my first term as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture is coming to an end, but I am very gratified by the support of the voters and looking forward to continuing to serve the people of Iowa as your Secretary of Agriculture.
During my first campaign I ran on a platform that stressed the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities available through renewable energy, the need to promote conservation and stewardship both in town and on the farm, and my commitment to helping share the story of Iowa agriculture.
I believe that we still have work to do on each of these issues and I am committed to continuing to work hard on each of these priorities. However, I have also outlined three new priorities for my next term that I believe will build on our efforts of the past four years.
New priorities for new term, to build on efforts of past four years
* First, I want to provide a strong voice for farmers and Iowa agriculture and help defend agriculture from activist groups that oppose modern agriculture.
I have visited each of Iowa's 99 counties every year during my first term and will continue that effort. I believe it is important to meet with Iowans and talk about the opportunities available through Iowa agriculture and also the challenges that are facing farmers. This also includes reaching out to non-farmers to share the new technologies farmers are using and why. It is vital we continue to provide information to a public who is more removed from the farm than ever before.
* Second, I believe it's critical that we use science and new technologies to respond to environmental challenges, rather than heavy-handed government regulation.
Farmers care deeply about taking care of their land. They were raised knowing that they depended on the land for their family's livelihood. Proper care of their land is vital to making sure they can continue to make a living working the soil.
New farming techniques and updated technologies have allowed farmers who raise both crops and livestock to significantly reduce their environmental impact, but we still have more work to do.
One example of the opportunities that are available to reduce agriculture's environmental impact is using nitrate removal wetlands to help address water quality issues here in Iowa and also downstream in the Gulf of Mexico. By using these wetlands in conjunction with tile-drained fields, we can continue to produce the food, feed, fiber and fuel needed to support a rapidly expanding global population, while also better caring for our air, soil and water here in Iowa.
During my first term we have also started an Urban Conservation program within the Department to help communities, developers and landowners manage the rain that falls in our towns and cities in a way that better protects water quality. We need to continue to expand on programs like this to make sure all Iowans are helping take care of our state's vital natural resources.
Budget concern, efficient operation of IDALS, will be addressed
Finally, I've made continuing to provide efficient, effective and transparent leadership to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship a top priority for the next four years. Our agency's budget has been cut 23% over the last 2 years. That means we need to continue to do things smarter and more efficiently. Individuals, families and private businesses have been cutting back on spending and doing with less during the current economic recession, and government can, and must, do the same.
As a first step, we have put the Department's budget online so taxpayers can know where their money is going. We have also looked at ways of doing things differently and more efficiently. For example, the department has saved a significant amount of money by moving the state's metrology lab to a community college and allowing them to use it to help teach students.
With a significant budget shortfall projected for the next fiscal year, it is going to continue to be critically important that we make the state ag department as efficient and effective as possible. With all of these concerns and others in mind, I am looking forward to continuing to work hard to advance these priorities and serving the people of Iowa as your Secretary of Agriculture.
Bill Northey was recently reelected to serve a second term as Secretary of Agriculture. Northey is a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake, Iowa. To learn more visit www.IowaAgriculture.gov.