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Naig makes Emmet County campaign stops

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture says Iowa has “no shortage of issues”

September 4, 2018
By Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer , Estherville News

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig has had five months in the position, after serving five years as deputy secretary.

"We are in a time of uncertainty with no shortage of issues to work on," Naig said. Two of the major federal issues to affect Iowa farmers are the trade deal with Mexico and up to $12 million in aid to farmers to offset their losses from tariffs and trade skirmishes.

"Farmers want trade, not aid," Naig said.

Article Photos

Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig visited Daybreak Foods to see the innovative truck wash and biosecurity measures they’ve implemented. From left are Zach Whiting, Brett Pickar, Todd Halbersma, Secretary Mike Naig, Rep. Tedd Gassman. Photo submitted

"In a couple weeks the initial assistance package will come through," Naig said.

On tariffs, Naig said agricultural markets have declined significantly since the beginning of summer.

"At harvest, farmers will be bringing the crops out of the field, and they'll have to take the price offered," Naig said.

Planning has begun for the 2019 growing season, and the tariffs and trade wars are impacting those decisions, too, Naig said.

"I'm no fan of tariffs. We have real issues that need to be fixed between the U.S. and China. This has gone on too longChina needs to come to the table," Naig said.

In the wake of the state legislature's passage of a water quality bill earlier this year, Naig acknowledged the nitrate problem, which involves nutrient runoff into Iowa's streams and rivers, is an issue.

"There's no doubt the weather has a tremendous impact. Water quality is key, and it's tied to the weather," Naig said.

The Iowa Dept. of Agriculture is developing nutrient reduction strategies, including improving soil health and interventions that are sustainable and improve water quality, Naig said.

"Cover crops are a key element. We know what's in the water, because 88 percent of the runoff drains into streams we already monitor. We can know how many acres are impacted by nutrient runoff," Naig said.

Naig said he is passionate about creating economic opportunity in agriculture.

"Companies say they cannot grow because they don't have enough employees. There are challenges keeping young people on farms, and across the board to co-ops, retailers, dealerships, and more. One solution is to connect to students earlier, when they are in high school, and even if they don't know what they want to do, help them understand that these opportunities exist," Naig said.

These opportunities do exist in rural communities, and students do not necessarily have to leave their home areas to find opportunities, Naig said.

Naig is an ex-officio member of the Empower Iowa Task Force.

"Housing in rural area is a barrier [to keeping young adults in the rural area]. We can zero in on specific challenges, work with the legislature to pass good policy, and address these challenges," Naig said.

Naig said there is renewed interest in the federal hemp law. Hemp was once a major cash crop in the state, according to archives at Iowa State University.

There may be an opening to it in Sen. Mitch McConnell's version of the 2019 farm bill, Naig said.

"Until we have clarity in federal law related to industrial hemp, we won't see it grown here. The other question is whether there is a viable market for it," Naig said.

State Rep. Tedd Gassman, who was traveling the area with Naig, said, "You can make rope out of nylon."

According to the Iowa Hemp Association, hemp is "worthless from a psychoactive point of view," but has a variety of consumer, industrial and medical applications. Of all the industrialized farming nations in the world, the U.S. is the only one which does not grow hemp as an agricultural crop.

The IHA cites hemp as a potential source of damage control for soil compaction and erosion.

Naig also cited the increase in women farmers owning land. Over half of Iowa's farm acres are owned by women, and the average farm owner is a woman age 65 or over, according to the farm ownership survey by the Iowa State University Extension.

"We would love to encourage those land owners to think of the farm as an investment, and build out the infrastructure to make it profitable and sustainable in the future," Naig said.

Naig also visited Daybreak Foods to see the innovative truck wash and biosecurity measures the company has implemented.



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