Republican Bill Northey won re-election as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture in the November 2 election, defeating Democrat challenger Francis Thicke, an organic dairy farmer from Fairfield. "I'm gratified by the voter support my campaign received," says Northey, a grain farmer from Spirit Lake. "I'm excited about the good things happening in agriculture."
Thicke said after the election, "We had a positive campaign and moved the dial forward for sustainable agriculture."
The final vote count percentage was 63% for Northey and 37% for Thicke. Was that the biggest spread of any statewide election this November 2 in Iowa? No, Iowa U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley won by more than that. But of the rest of the statewide races in Iowa, Northey's win had the biggest spread. With 65% of the vote, Republican Grassley beat his opponent Roxanne Conlin, a Democrat who had 33% in the U.S. Senate election.
What do the results of this November 2 election mean?
So what's ahead for Bill Northey, with four more years at the helm of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship? "There are many issues to deal with," says Northey. "I look forward to serving with Iowa's new governor. Governor Branstad has a great appreciation for agriculture, is a hard worker and is concerned about marketing Iowa products. He wants to make sure farmers have the ability to produce more crops and livestock here in Iowa and to do a good job of producing. But the governor wants to be sure we have a market for those crops and livestock too. He will get out and help market Iowa products."
Are the 2010 election results, with more Republicans being elected, a mandate to make government smaller and more responsive? "I think people want their government officials to pay attention to their concerns," says Northey. "Right now jobs are extremely important. Government should be about helping to create jobs and helping private business to do that. It should also be about not spending more money than the government has—both at the state and federal level."
Important ethanol decisions face "lame duck" session of Congress
What does Northey see ahead for ethanol? How many blender pumps does he expect will be installed at gas stations in Iowa now that the E15 ethanol blend was recently approved by the federal EPA for use in vehicles that are of the model year 2007 and newer?
"I hope we will see a lot of blender pumps installed at gas stations in Iowa over the next year or two," says Northey. "We have about 30 blender pumps in Iowa right now. Four years ago, we had about 30 E85 pumps in the state. Now we have 100 E85 pumps plus the 30 blender pumps. So I'm not sure I'd be happy if we only had 100 blender pumps or 130 total out there across Iowa a year from now. I hope it grows much more than that—especially with this division EPA has created. They are allowing the newer cars to use E15 but the older cars have to use E10. I hope we have a lot more blender pumps installed over the coming year or two at gas stations throughout Iowa."
Northey is excited about the potential for ethanol use to continue to grow, but is concerned about the shift in support for ethanol. What's he hearing out of Washington D.C. about the possible extension of the blenders tax credit for ethanol and extension of the tariff on ethanol imported into the U.S.? Both are due to expire at the end of 2010—unless Congress acts to restore them.
What's the impact of 2010 elections on ethanol's future?
"People in Washington are talking about the lame duck session of Congress upcoming, where they could look at some of these bills and the Congressmen and Senators who were there before the election would debate and vote on this legislation," he says. "The outcome of that debate in Congress would be unpredictable. But action on the ethanol legislation still may get done. There also has to be some consideration about taxes—income taxes and estate taxes."
Northey doesn't know if this situation in Congress, with a lame duck session at the end of 2010, creates a more partisan or a less partisan environment for legislation. Hopefully, now that the election is passed, Congress will cooperate and get the legislation passed that needs to be passed.
For example, biodiesel tax credits. "We are now 10 months into this year without a biodiesel tax credit and yet almost everyone agrees that's something that ought to be there," says Northey. "I would think most people recognize we need support for ethanol as well. Congress should not let the ethanol legislation expire on December 31, 2010. But it's very unpredictable. It's hard to predict what will happen, when all these things can change in this session."
Northey notes that the federal EPA is supposed to decide sometime in November or December whether or not it will allow older model cars—those between 2007 model year and 2001, to burn E15 instead of E10 blends.
He adds: "Most folks hope that the EPA will change the federal laws, so we do have some federal support that will allow 15% ethanol blends in more vehicles than just the 2007 and newer models. If that happens, we're talking about demand worth billions of gallons nationwide. With Iowa being the leading ethanol producing state, that's every important to our state's economy."