Hired Gun for Big Ag Endorses Francis Thicke's Opponent

(Disappointing but not surprising. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Yesterday the Iowa Agriculture Secretary, Republican Bill Northey, got an endorsement from a Democrat in his effort to get rehired by Iowans.  Jerry Crawford is not just any Democrat.  He is a close friend of Hillary Clinton, and Tom Vilsack, and has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns.  So what is he doing on WHO TV talking about Bill Northey, instead of the Democratic candidate, Francis Thicke?
If blood is thicker than water, money in politics is thicker than that.  When it comes to agricultural issues in Iowa, politics is a blood sport, played for keeps.  If you think this is inside Iowa baseball, you should know that Iowa agriculture is the engine that brings GMO foods to your table, that is killing the Gulf of Mexico, and that can send contaminated eggs across the country and as far away as Guam.
Continue Reading...

Weekend open thread: Catching up on the news edition

Who else is watching the World Cup? I am surprised by how much my kids are enjoying the games, even though they don’t play soccer and it’s such a low-scoring sport. Des Moines business owner Tanya Keith and her husband have gone to every World Cup since 1994, and Tanya is blogging here about her family’s trip in South Africa. What I want to know is, how are her two young kids coping with the vuvuzela noise at the games? It sounds deafening even on tv.

I wasn’t around last weekend to write up the Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention in Des Moines. Radio Iowa’s blog covered most of the highlights here. Sue Dvorsky of Iowa City is the new IDP chair, replacing Michael Kiernan, who needs to have surgery on a tumor near his salivary gland. Iowa Democrats nominated Jon Murphy as our candidate against State Auditor David Vaudt. Read more about Murphy at Radio Iowa or at Iowa Independent. I am so glad we’re not giving Vaudt a pass.  

Convention delegates also voted to change party rules so that the gubernatorial nominee can choose the lieutenant governor candidate. The move was intended to undermine Barb Kalbach’s efforts to replace Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge on the Democratic ticket, and will make it impossible for an activist to do something similar in the future.

John Deeth has been pretty harsh on Kalbach, suggesting it’s a waste of time for her to run against Judge when her own Republican state representative and senator don’t have Democratic opponents. I see things differently. Kalbach said in announcing her candidacy, “I am taking this opportunity to represent the progressive, grassroots base of the Democratic Party who feels the issues that they have put forward have been ignored at the state level.” Kalbach wouldn’t have run if the Culver administration and Democratic legislative leaders had done anything to limit factory farm pollution during the past four years. She wouldn’t have run if the governor had done anything to advance the cause of local control (agricultural zoning), which he claimed to support during the 2006 campaign. Kalbach wouldn’t be able to draw attention to those failures as a candidate for the Iowa House or Senate in a conservative district. By the way, Culver would have an army of grassroots volunteers now if he had listened less to Patty Judge. He would also have a great campaign issue to use against Terry Branstad, on whose watch factory farm pollution became a much bigger problem in our state.

Moving to Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, while I was away a group called Americans United for Change started running this television commercial against Senator Chuck Grassley. The ad mentions campaign contributions Grassley has received from oil interests and draws a line between the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and Grassley’s vote for a “resolution of disapproval” that would have limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a poor ad, because as Grassley’s office noted, that particular vote had little to do with big oil or offshore drilling (click here for more background). In voting for the Murkowski amendment, Grassley was carrying water for big coal, utilities that rely on fossil fuels, corporate agriculture interests and major industrial polluters.

Grassley has done plenty throughout his career to represent corporate interests rather than the public interest. There’s no excuse for such a sloppy attack ad.

The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder interviewed Grassley’s opponent Roxanne Conlin yesterday, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette tried to make a big deal out of her misspeaking on when Grassley won his first election. Rasmussen’s latest Iowa poll of 500 likely voters on June 14 found Grassley ahead of Conlin by 54 percent to 37 percent. The previous Rasmussen survey, taken in late April, had Grassley leading Conlin 53-40. I would like to see other polling of this race. The Washington Post published a feature on Scott Rasmussen this week, including some criticism of his methods.

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend. Also feel free to post any links to good reads. I am working my way through this article by a self-described Tea Party consultant.

Continue Reading...

Culver opposes dirty water bill

Governor Chet Culver will not sign a bill that would weaken Iowa’s current restrictions on spreading manure over frozen and snow-covered ground. Culver’s senior adviser Jim Larew confirmed the governor’s opposition during a February 22 meeting with members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Iowa CCI is among the environmental groups that have sounded the alarm about House File 2324 and a companion bill, Senate File 2229. The bills would exempt many large farms from the new manure application rules adopted last year. Earlier this month, the House Agriculture Committee approved HF 2324 with minimal debate.

Culver had previously promised to block the new proposal in private conversations. The bill’s lead sponsor in the Iowa House, Democratic State Representative Ray Zirkelbach, told IowaPolitics.com yesterday, “Basically I was told that the governor’s going to veto it no matter what … if it came to his desk […].” Zirkelbach contends that the bill is needed to help the struggling dairy industry. He denies that it would lead to more manure contaminating Iowa waters.

I am glad to see the governor take a stand against Zirkelbach’s proposal. Improving the manure application bill was a major victory during the closing days of last year’s legislative session. We should not have to keep fighting efforts to move us backwards on water quality.

The full text of yesterday’s press release from Iowa CCI is after the jump.

Continue Reading...

Year in review: Bleeding Heartland on food and parenting in 2009

This blog will always be primarily about politics, but I enjoy writing about other subjects from time to time. In fact, one of my new year’s resolutions for Bleeding Heartland is to write more about food and parenting in 2010.

After the jump I’ve compiled links to posts on those topics in 2009. Some of the diaries were political, others are personal. The link I’m most proud of combined the two: My case against Hanna Rosin’s case against breastfeeding.

Any thoughts or suggestions for future topics to cover are welcome in this thread.

Continue Reading...

Here's a novel idea

“Stop USDA loans to factory farms”:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is using our tax dollars to make loans to hog and poultry factory farms at a time when we have too many factory farms, too much pork and poultry on the market, and record-low pork and poultry prices.

To make matters worse, USDA is also using our tax dollars (about $150 million so far) to buy overproduced pork and poultry off the market in an effort to stabilize prices. […]

Based on its own data, USDA has provided over $264 million in loans to build new factory farms in the past two years. […]

In the past, USDA has said it doesn’t want to suspend these loans because it doesn’t want to eliminate credit going to beginning farmers. We have to remember, though, that these loans – which are averaging about $500,000 each – are going solely for the construction of new and expanding hog and poultry factory farms. Why encourage beginning farmers to put up capital-intensive factory farms when there is already severe overproduction and record-low prices? USDA could provide much smaller loans to many more beginning family farmers if it stopped making factory farm loans, and directed the money elsewhere.

On the Des Moines Register’s site you can read the whole op-ed by Hugh Espey, executive director of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Unfortunately, it sounds as if Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has not been receptive to the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, which has been pushing for the UDSA to change its loan policies. There is precedent for such action. Espey writes that the Clinton administration “ordered a halt to these loans in 1999 when similar oversupply conditions existed.”  

Continue Reading...
View More...