Patty Judge--an embarrassment (w/poll)

As an environmentalist and supporter of Ed Fallon for governor, I was deeply concerned when Chet Culver selected Patty Judge to be his running mate. During her tenure as secretary of agriculture, Patty Judge never stood up to the Farm Bureau on any issue that I was aware of.

Instead of advocating for sustainable agriculture and family farmers, she was a mouthpiece for the corporate ag lobby that has too big a voice in Iowa politics already.

As governor, Chet Culver has mostly exceeded my expectations. I didn’t even mind too much that he replaced Jeff Vonk at the DNR, because the new DNR head, Rich Leopold, is a strong environmentalist.

However, my worst fears about Patty Judge’s influence have been realized with the recent changes to the Environmental Protection Commission.

Some of you may have seen this article in the Des Moines Register a few days ago.

Culver replaced four members of the nine-member Environmental Protection Commission, which

oversees the natural resources department and writes rules to implement state environmental laws, including setting limits on air and water pollution.

Environmental groups including the Sierra Club had urged Culver to reappoint the four commissioners, who include Donna Buell, a strong advocate of local control from northwest Iowa, and Francis Thicke of Fairfield.

Two of Culver’s new appointees to the commission have great credentials: Iowa Environmental Council research director Susan Heathcote and conservationist/philanthropist Charlotte Hubbell.

The other two are probably going to do their best to prevent the Environmental Protection Commission from doing anything to rein in agricultural pollution: former secretary of agriculture Dale Cochran (a Democrat but not a sustainable ag advocate) and former Republican lawmaker Ralph Klemme, who is involved with the big corporate ag groups.

Thicke showed up at his last commission meeting this week wearing a t-shirt that said “Environmental Protection Commissioner,” with commissioner crossed out in red and hand-written words below: “fired for protecting the environment.” You can see a photo of him here.

I’ve heard the arguments for why Culver was smart to select Patty Judge. She had already won two statewide elections. She supposedly helped him in rural areas and small towns, perhaps providing his margin of victory over Blouin in the primary. (For the record, I think Blouin would have been a worse governor than Culver overall.)

But now four strong voices on the Environmental Protection Commission have been replaced by two strong voices that will be cancelled out by two voices from the other side. I’m all for bipartisan appointments, but no one as tied into the corporate ag interests as Klemme belongs on this commission.

During his last meeting of the commission, Thicke blasted the Culver/Judge administration for deferring “to the dictates of agribusiness special interests who lobbied for our removal” and told a revealing story about one of his neighbors:

“A few days ago, it became clearer to me where at least part of the Culver/Judge administration is coming from. I spoke with one of my neighbors who is proposing to build a 4,800-hog confinement about a mile and a half upwind from me. When I talked to him about it he said Patty Judge is his ‘champion’ and the reason he is planning on going through with this in spite of the objections of his neighbors. He said Patty Judge told him that Iowa is an agricultural state and anyone who doesn’t like it can leave in any of four directions.”

Got that, people? If we don’t like having our air and water poisoned by large hog confinements, we can leave Iowa in any of four directions.

Thanks a lot, Governor Culver.

Feel free to take the poll and comment. Chris, I seem to remember that you’ve got a soft spot for Patty Judge. Maybe you can say a few words in her defense.

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  • Patty Judge is a big reason our environment is in trouble now

    During her reign as Sec. of Ag the condition of our environment in Iowa fell.  The influence of corporate Agriculture grew by great margins.  Judge’s position now will only help continue this trend.

    • when the GOP slashed the budget

      of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU, Patty Judge didn’t say a thing. I know it wasn’t in her power to change the legislature’s action, but she should have at least pounded the table about how important sustainable agriculture could be for Iowa’s economy.

      Before the 2006 election I was talking with an environmentalist I know who is much more knowledgeable than I am about the effects of industrial agriculture on waterways. We were talking about how great it would be if Denise O’Brien got elected secretary of agriculture (still can’t bring myself to take that bumper sticker off my car, by the way).

      My friend commented that even though he would love to see Denise win, he knew Bill Northey a little and thought he was not as bad as some Republicans with respect to the environment. In fact, my friend said, the irony is that Northey would probably be an improvement over Patty Judge as secretary of agriculture.

      Like I said, Patty Judge is an embarrassment.

  • Hog Confinements and Ethanol

    I would have thought that now was a terrible time to build a new hog confinement operation.  My understanding was that the increasing amount of corn used for Ethanol was expected to drive corn prices up to the point that it would be only minimally profitable to feed corn to hogs.  And what else you gonna feed them in confinement?

    I also have never been fond of what I know of Judge’s view on confinement operations.  And if that quote is accurate, it is very depressing.  Iowa is an ag state, but not all ag is confinement.

    • not quite

      I think many of the new ethanol plants are going to have CAFOs right next to them, because the parts of the corn plant they aren’t using to make ethanol will go into animal feed.

      What all this is going to do to our soil and water, few of the ethanol advocates are taking into account. When we start removing whole corn stalks, we will be putting nothing back into the soil–will start depleting our incredible farmland, a non-renewable resource.

      • Hogs or cattle?

        Unfortunately, I think you’re right about this – the availability of dried distillers grains (DDG) will bring more CAFOs to Iowa.  However, in their current form, DDGs are only suitable for cattle feed.  Hogs, with their one-part stomachs, cannot digest them.

        • good catch

          yes, I think you’re right–they will be cattle CAFOs next to those ethanol plants.

          • Actually, not even that

            Ethanol byproduct grains can only be used as a percentage of animal feed, be it bovine or porcine.  (warning – pdfs)

            http://www.iowabeefc… indicates maximum of 50% for cows barring future developements.

            Hogs can digest them, (hogs usually eat corn) but nutritionally I have previously heard they are limited to 20-30%.

  … is a booklet from the industry that indicates the limits.

            So if corn prices rise 20%, and you can offset 20% with DDG (which you don’t get for free), it is not going to be a wonderland for confinements overall.

  • Certain parts of the party are a hinderance

    Over the weekend I was having a talk while tailgating at the Fire game with my friend in Chicago who is a DFA activist.  The subject was: Is the Democratic Party capable of curing what is wrong with the country?

    My friend was arguing that the party needs to be “purged” (he didn’t use that word but it was what he was driving at) of elements that stand in the way of real reform.  We were talking of the DLC and some elements of the Clinton wing of the party who we feel are too often place compromise ahead of principles when it really counts.

    My position was (is) that we need to use our (progressives’) increasing strength and sophistication to offer voters better choices at the ballot and just take the party over from the bottom up.

    I think Patty Judge could probably be thrown in with that lot as well.  Not much one can do now though is there, though?

    If I were the leadership of Iowa’s environmental organizations I would be taking Ms. Judge’s “leave in any of four directions,” quote around to economic development people in the larger cities, to real estate developers, to the large, non-farm employers such as health-care and insurance sectors who all have a vital interest in Iowa being an attractive, non-polluted non-stinky state.

    Patty Judge is probably used to being disliked by the environmental movement.  Let’s see how she likes having her chain yanked by the National Association of Realtors.

    I dunno, do our local enviro people have that kind of political nous?

    • good idea, but first

      a reporter has to go to her and get her to confirm or deny that she ever said that “in any of four directions” comment to Francis Thicke’s neighbor. Get it on record–is that what she thinks people should do if they don’t like having their air or water poisoned by a huge hog lot?

      In 2002 Patty Judge was the reason I didn’t vote a straight Dem ticket. I figured that if, say, 10 percent supported the Green Party candidate in that race, it would send a message. I was pretty disappointed when Brian Depew only got 4 percent of the vote, until I read a story in the paper about how angry Patty Judge was. She was actually furious that environmentalists would express their displeasure with her at the ballot box.

      Culver is doing a good job so far overall, but he needs to put Patty Judge somewhere where she can’t influence any real policy.