Monday, June 29, 2009

Good Farm Neighbor/Clarion

Good Farm Neighbor winners never think they are anything special - that is one of the things that make them special. That is certainly true of the Larson family. They raise turkeys, kids and grandkids. As the neighbors say, "they are just great people."

Wonderful turkey sandwiches and great neighbors showing their appreciation for the Larson made a great WHO broadcast and a fun time.

Prairie Energy Cooperative hosted our Clarion Town Hall meeting. We had a nice group of folks on a beautiful afternoon. Crops in the area look better than last year, but there has been too much water in the area and that has caused some suffering of the crops. We had a good conversation about many matters including dairy prices and how we can better communicate ag issues to the general public.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Quick trip to Washington. I spoke to a Pew gathering in regard to Climate Change, met with some Hill folks and got caught up with some USDA leadership.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Climate Change

Certainly climate change is the topic of the moment. Not sure I saw this coming when I agreed to come to DC to speak to a group of state and federal folks sponsored by the Pew Foundation regarding low carbon fuels from a Midwest perspective. Of course, it wasn't hard to predict it would come to a head at some point.

I got into DC late this afternoon and will speak to the group tomorrow as part of a panel. I will spend time talking about what has been put together by the Midwestern Governor's Assn and the North Central Bioeconomy Consortium. A significant part of the effort of the Consortium was to discuss the idea of indirect land use and is being a part of a climate change accounting system. You can image many folks in the Midwest are opposed to its inclusion.

It sounds like that Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson may have been instrumental in getting those provisions struck in the Waxman-Markey Bill. That would be good news!

At least tomorrow I will get to share the concerns of many Midwesterners with an important group of state and federal officials.

Then back to Iowa tomorrow night.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lessons from the south

I continue to hear concerns at Town Hall meetings regarding the climate change legislation currently in front of the US House. It sounds like it might have come together today. Can't wait to hear what will be the impact on agriculture.

Some soybeans are still being planted in the southern parts of the state. We saw some soybeans going in near Creston and heard of more around Bedford.

It has been a battle to get hay put up. Many are still working on getting the first crop in. Even with the hot temperatures, the humidity has limited drying. And rains have come and set back drying progress every few days.

If you are on the road in southern Iowa and can come up with a reason to stop and eat near Mt. Ayr you have several choices. Peggy Sue's sure has great homemade potato chips and hash browns.

Town Hall Tuesday

I'm heading south of Des Moines for Town Hall meetings today. I will be in Leon at 9, Mt Ayr at 11, Bedford at 1:30 and Creston at 3:30. I look forward to seeing some of you there!

Just after 5 will be back in Osceola for the opening of their Diversity Garden. We already had a Town Hall meeting there, but I've watched the garden just south of the Farm Bureau building and was glad to hear of its opening today and that we could work it into the schedule.

Sounds like another "warm" day out there today. Maybe it won't seem so hot if I just call it warm...

Monday, June 22, 2009


Imagine a sea of vintage tractors traveling 10-12 mph in near 100 degree temperatures. And one brand new shiny John Deere 8330 with a cab and air conditioning traveling with them. That new JD was the tractor I was driving this morning in the WHO Tractor Ride. I missed a few of the rural smells and the relief of the occasional breeze because I was in a cab, but I sure enjoyed getting to drive a modern marvel. It is not quite the same as my tractors at home. It sure wouldn't be hard to get used to!

We had a good discussion at the Courier in Waterloo and a good visit to the Cedar Valley Tech Works.

I got back to Des Moines just in time to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert.

Every day is interesting. I love my job!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gulf Hypoxia

Predictions are for the Gulf of Mexico to have a large area of hypoxia (low oxygen conditions) this summer. The hypoxic zone is the second largest in the world and is believed to have several causes including nutrients coming from the Mississippi River and loss of wetland habitat near the Gulf. These are interconnected.

At one time Mississippi River water flowed through wetlands providing nutrients for them. With the advent of navigation the river was straightened and bypassed wetlands providing easier ship movement, but loss of nutrients to the wetlands and the dumping of those nutrients into the Gulf contributing to the zone of hypoxia. 1 million acres of land/wetland have been lost in the Gulf area in the last 150 years. Another acres is lost every 38 minutes.

Two things need to happen. Delivery of nutrients should decrease and replumbing through wetlands should happen. Nutrient delivery varies greatly. This year delivery was 23% lower than last year, but still 11% above the 1979-2009 average.

Hypoxia can be hard to predict as it depends on many things - flow from the Mississippi River, nutrients in that flow and storms that mix the waters of the Gulf (diluting the River flows). This year's hypoxic zone is expected to be on the larger size.

We in Iowa have an opportunity to affect the amount of nutrients delivered. One of the ways we do that is using wetlands in Iowa to manage the nutrients through our CREP program. You can find out more about that at I will write more about this later. We hope to expand this program for it can reduce the amount of N in water in Iowa and the Gulf and create wetland habitat in Iowa.

So much to do, so little time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wetlands Discussion

We had some conversations today about how we could make progress decreasing the amount of nitrogen in the waters in Iowa. The Iowa CREP has been demonstrating one strategy to do that. We have an opportunity to continue to the next phase and getting more wetlands in Iowa. Stay tuned to hear about how we can make some real progress in that area by working with lots of partners.

Iowa wetlands for water quality

Today I will continue our efforts to promote the concept of Iowa wetlands addressing water quality in Iowa rivers and in the Mississippi Gulf. We have gotten a lot of support for a program that was started by Secy of Agriculture Patty Judge, that we continued, that promotes wetland use for taking nitrogen out of tile drained water.

This works, and is getting some recognition well beyond the borders of the state. We have some good connections with folks in Mississippi and Louisiana. We are receiving support from them to help with federal funding for the project.

The next couple days, we will be working on coordinating our efforts, to plan for the Hypoxia Task Force meeting later this year in Iowa and to work on the possibility of exchange programs between Iowa farmers and gulf shrimpers.

This program is something that could really change the landscape of Iowa and could help improve water quality in Iowa and in the Gulf.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Busy Tuesday

Good Town Halls in Guthrie Center, Harlan and Audubon. We talked about HSUS, climate change legislation, price and cost volatility in agriculture and livestock regulations.

Crops looked great - only have 4 more months to go for a great harvest... Plenty of problems can come, but things look good so far.

A great no-till field day near Shelby. Around 200 folks there learning how to save soil and grow great crops. Good folks making things happen. And a good steak sandwich for lunch!

We did have time to swing by Hamlin for a pork tenderloin, winner of the 2003 best pork tenderloin in Iowa. I've got to say it was great.

An event at Duane and Shirley Acker's home was a great finish to a busy day. They hosted an event for me in their shop. They are wonderful hosts and had a great crowd there. My Mom and Dad drove down from Spirit Lake for the evening! We all had a wonderful time. Thanks to everyone for being there and for all your support.

Go West (Old) Young Man

I am off to the west today. Town Halls in Guthrie Center, Harlan and Audubon and a to-till field day near Shelby. I finish the day at the Acker's near Atlantic.

It will be good to check out the crops in this direction. Even better to hear from folks with their thoughts about agriculture.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday on the Road

The weather this morning for the WMT tractor ride was perfect. We left the Dubuque County Fairgrounds at 7:45, stopped in Farley at 9 and got to Dyersville at 10:30. It is amazing what you see at 10mph that you miss when going 55mph.

Most of the corn and soybeans looked good, though the crops are in several stages from small to knee high. Weeds are slowing some of the crop growth, but most fields looked quite clean. Some hay was cut and harvested, quite a bit was down and some was to be cut yet. The cool spring has slowed down alfalfa maturity and the dampness has made it hard to get up in good condition.

We had a nice group for the Delaware County Town Hall in Manchester. We talked a lot about milk prices and climate change. Milk prices are taking large chunks out of producers right now. Make sure and do all you can to help folks by eating and drinking dairy products. Climate change legislation is an issues that comes on constantly at our meetings. There is a big concern about what the impact could be on agriculture.

I finished the day in Boone County for a Flag Day event. We had great BBQ (check out Big G's) and good fellowship. Thank you Marti for all your work on the event. And thanks everyone for coming out on a beautiful evening. Thank you Bonnie for the invitation.

Great to have the Keplers there, to see the Branstads, to have David Jamison (go David) and to hear from Jerry Behn, Chris Rants and Ed Failor, Jr. I got to speak as well and appreciate the opportunity to thank folks for their support and to look ahead to what is coming down the road.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

WMT Tractorcade

In Peosta tonight. I will drive in the WMT Tractorcade tomorrow. The Tractorcade starts in the Dubuque Fairgrounds in the morning. Andy Petersen is the 5-9am morning guy and has put together the drive. I will drive his dad's tractor in the morning. We will be talking on the air about 7:10. Listen in on AM600 - the blowtorch.

There is nothing quite like driving a tractor through the rolling hills of eastern Iowa. I am looking forward to it!

We saw some very good looking corn and soybeans on the way here from Des Moines this evening. There were some uneven spots in some of the low ground, but for the most things looked great. Some alfalfa hay is down and that will produce a great smell for a slow tractor ride. Should be great.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

VandeRose in CA

Soon I'm off to see the VandeRose meat market here near Sacramento and then will head back to Iowa. It will be great to see how they market premium Iowa meat in California. It has been good to see Mark Linder here and will be good to see one of his pride and joys - the VandeRose Meat Market.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Water and Ag

Today we had a full discussion on water laws, rights and wars in California and beyond. There are some parallels to what happens around levy and environmental issues and water in Iowa, but for the most part we are fortunate to not have to deal with many of the CA issues. Including their budget crisis!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Farm Foundation in California

We toured a bit of N California and its water issues today. Very complex issues and lots of history. Many questions about the future of ag and water in this state. Water in necessary for ag with 8m+ acres irrigated and much of the fruit, nut and vegetable production.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Farm Foundation

I will head to Sacremento in a couple hours for a Farm Foundation meeting. This group meets twice a year to discuss ag issues and renew friendships. I enjoy the group and learn a lot!

The group slowly changes over time and a new member for this meeting will be Katie Smith, the former Director of Ag for Missouri. Katie is now working at Osburn and Barr in St Louis - and I'm sure is doing the wonderful job for them that she did at the Department of Ag in Missouri. It will be great having her a part of the Farm Foundation.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Town Halls

It was great to get out on the road today. I headed SE from Des Moines to Ottumwa, Oskaloosa, Knoxville and Chariton. The crops looked good, but certainly have had enough rain. Hopefully they will dodge rains the rest of the week. Some hay was down, though quite a bit needed to go up yet. I did see some corn almost completely shading the rows.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Great folks

One of the best parts of being Secy of Ag is having reasons to meet and talk to great folks. Today I will get to see an long time family friend, Harry Stine, and have lunch with a friend that I met through activities at the Department including State Fair activities, Jamie Romer.

Friday, June 5, 2009

World Pork Expo

Yesterday afternoon I got out to join the pork industry folks at the World Pork Expo. A great chance to catch up with some folks and enjoy some good pork. I'm not sure I will make it this evening or tomorrow, but there will be plenty of pork to go around at the BarbeQlossal.

Right now the industry needs all the demand it can get. So whether you can make it or not eat some pork - and down it with an extra glass of milk!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Month After H1N1 Flu Outbreak 16 Countries Continue Ban of Safe Pork Products

Sixteen countries continue to have official or unofficial bans on U.S. pork imports. They took action in response to the H1N1 flu outbreak despite the fact that properly cooked and handled pork and pork products are safe, as confirmed by U.S. and international health organizations.

It has now been over month since the H1N1 flu outbreak and it is vital that these countries reopen their markets to U.S. pork. While the initial action by these and other countries to ban U.S. pork were unjustified, the fact that the restrictions persist show that these trade barriers are not, and never have been, based on science.

The Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, St. Lucia, Indonesia, Thailand, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia and Armenia have banned all U.S. pork. Russia and China only have bans in place for some states and Korea has banned the import of live hogs. Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Macedonia also have unofficial bans in place.

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture 8,758 Iowa farmers raised over 47 million hogs with a value of $4.8 billion.

Iowa is the number one pork producing state in the nation and Iowa farmer who raise hogs face significant hardship due to the actions of these countries. Now that we have entered prime summer grilling season it’d be great if Iowans threw an extra pork chop on to help Iowa’s hog farmers.