IA Sec Ag-Jim Hightower Picks Francis Thicke

Jim Hightower is an outspoken advocate for the Powers That Ought To Be, not The Powers That Be.  He is a populist progressive, and a funny, irreverent thorn in the side of the powerful.  He says that the real political spectrum isn't right to left; it's top to bottom.  A former Agriculture Commissioner who served two terms in Texas, he knows how important this job is for safe food, clean air and water, and a future in which farmers can afford to farm.

“In Iowa’s election for Secretary of Agriculture, the choice couldn’t be clearer. On one hand you’ve got Francis Thicke, who has worked as a dairy farmer for 27 years, selling his products locally and actually building the economy. On the other hand, you’ve got Bill Northey who has led a team that invested nearly $1 million in Brazil’s ethanol production. In a world where money talks, maybe Bill Northey should be running for Secretary of Agriculture in Brazil.”

Thank you, Mr. Hightower.  Well said.

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IA Ag Sec: Who's Afraid of Francis Thicke?

(The horror! - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Some farmers are afraid of me.

I know this because a farmer named Jerry wrote a letter to the Des Moines Register recently saying that they are scared.  It would be a “scary scenario for mainstream agriculture” if I got elected as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, he said.   Francis Thicke is a “true believer in everything organic,” he shuddered.

Running for office is an adventure.  But I never expected to learn that Iowa farmers, who are among the most resilient, shrewd and creative people on the planet, are afraid of a mild-mannered organic dairy farmer with a PhD in Agronomy and some ideas for helping them meet challenges such as peak oil.   So I thought I would write him a letter to reassure him that I’m not scary, because if we don’t get our act together to deal with the real challenges of peak oil, the disruptions caused by climate change, and the growing monopoly power of corporate agribusiness, then we really will have cause for concern.


Dear Jerry,

Don’t be afraid.  This is America, and no one is going to make you “go organic.”  It’s the Big Ag interests that want to limit your choices, not me.   You might save money and protect water quality and the health of your family if you understood how to apply sustainable farming methods that do not require farm chemicals, but you don’t have to.

No one is going to force you to make your own biofuels on the farm from perennial crops that make your farm resilient and energy efficient.  Nor will you be forced to drive a hydrogen or ammonia-powered tractor with fuel derived from wind power.   If diesel prices soar in the next few years, as the Defense Department[pdf] is warning us, it’s your right to pay $6 a gallon or more and keep right on using it.  There may be shortages in our future by 2015, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find fuel at some price, somewhere.

You have the right to keep doing things the way you always have, and not take advantage of science-based ways to bring your costs down and prepare for a future without abundant petrochemicals.  All I am offering is a vision for a thriving agriculture in the absence of cheap oil, and leadership to meet the challenges that we know are coming.   Energy will be a huge game-changer over the coming decade–for agriculture, and for everything else.

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Funding for Clean Water - It's just common sense....

Nobody will dispute the fact that Iowa's distinct character and our quality of life are directly tied to our state's natural resources. Iowa's land is the most heavily altered in the nation. Agriculture plays an INCREDIBLY important role in the state's economy and clean water touches everyone – in the form of drinking water, water to recreate in, and water to feed our crops/livestock. Iowa's parks and lakes receive more than 25 million visits each year, and our fertile soil provides the backbone to our economy.

It's time to get engaged and start motivating the public about this important resource.

The issue goes “hand-in-hand” with progressive priorities such as:

Farm to School
Local Foods
Sustainable Agriculture
Clean Water
Outdoor Education/Recreation
Climate Change

And many others.  This is an opportunity to engage the public on a meat and potatoes prioritiy for ALL Iowans.


Also, you can text the word 'LAUNCH' to 97063 to sign up and learn more!

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Environmental Issues, Progressive Activism, and Voter Turnout

With the historic 2008 Presidential elections well behind us it's time to turn to a discussion of how progressives will be mobilized in 2010.  As we've seen from recent Des Moines Register polling, being “progressive” isn't necessarily a Democratic or Republican issue.  It's a question of “getting things done”. 

Voters of all political stripes see major problems that need addressing and politicians of both political parties not fully meeting those needs.  As I mentioned in a recent diary, I'm the campaign manager for Iowa's Water and Land Legacy.  I believe that this particular ballot issue has the potential to be a rallying point for conservation voters of all political stripes this campaign season.  I will be making a series of posts in the coming weeks that will highlight organizations working on conservation issues throughout Iowa, and some national organizations as well.  If there are groups you are members of or are interested in learning more about please comment here or backchannel me at marklanggin [at] gmail.com.

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Register poll finds lowest-ever approval for Obama, Grassley, Harkin

President Barack Obama and Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin registered record low approval number in the latest Iowa poll by Selzer and Co. for the Des Moines Register. The poll was in the field from January 31 to February 3 and surveyed 805 Iowa adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

The Sunday Des Moines Register reported,

Forty-six percent of Iowans approve of Obama’s handling of his job, according to the poll taken Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. That’s down from 49 percent in November. […]

In Iowa, views of Obama’s handling of key domestic issues remain a problem for him. No more than 40 percent of Iowans approve of his performance on the economy, health care and the budget deficit, although the rates are essentially unchanged since the Register’s last poll, taken in November.

What has changed: The fractions of independents who support Obama’s handling of all three of these issues have shrunk in the past three months.

One-third of independents now say they approve of his work on the economy, about 30 percent on health care and less than a quarter on the budget deficit. Obama pledged during his State of the Union address in January to make jobs, health care and spending cuts top priorities this year.

The Register’s poll did find that 60 percent of Iowans approved of Obama’s work on “relations with other countries,” and 54 percent approved of how he’s handling “the fight against terrorism.” However, I expect economic issues to dominate the mid-term election campaign.

Research 2000 polled 600 likely Iowa voters last week for KCCI-TV and found only slightly better numbers for Obama:



BARACK OBAMA 52% 41% 7%

QUESTION: Do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as President?


ALL 49% 46% 5%

MEN 45% 50% 5%

WOMEN 53% 42% 5%

DEMOCRATS 82% 12% 6%

REPUBLICANS 13% 83% 4%


The Sunday Register also included new approval numbers for Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin. The link doesn’t appear to be on their website yet, but I will add that when it becomes available later today. (UPDATE: Here is that link.) Grassley is at 54 percent approval/28 percent disapproval. Harkin’s numbers are 51/34. Those are all-time lows for both senators, the Register reported. I don’t ever recall seeing Grassley with such a slight advantage over Harkin in terms of overall approval.

The Sunday Register didn’t publish full crosstabs from the poll but reported that Grassley’s approval among Republicans “fell to 68 percent in the new poll, down from 76 percent in the November Iowa Poll and from 80 percent in September.” It sounds as if Harkin’s main drop came from independents; in November 52 percent of independent respondents in the Register’s poll approved of Harkin’s work, but now only 44 percent do.

Harkin won’t be on the ballot again until 2014 (if he runs for a sixth term), but Grassley faces re-election this year. Compared to where a lot of incumbent senators are, 54 percent approval isn’t too bad, but for Grassley this is a surprisingly low number. I had wondered whether his support would rise as public opinion of the health insurance reform bill soured, but it appears that isn’t the case so far. I hope Grassley’s declining support among Republicans prompts many conservatives to stay home in November. A lot of them also aren’t wild about the likely Republican nominee for governor, Terry Branstad.

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Where does our state need good candidates to run? (An open question)

(Good question. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Since we're starting to hear about more and more announcements being made by candidates running for election in 2010, I became curious about where we should encourage more folks to consider running.  

Often, in the places where a fresh face is needed the most, a candidate steps into the race very late in the game because no one else had stepped up.  Activists in the area sometimes fail to ask good candidates to run and end up holding their nose and voting for the weak (electorally or ideologically) candidate who finally stepped up to the plate and became the de facto nominee.

So, perhaps this time around, with just over 12 months until next years election, we can avoid this problem by identifying seats where progressives can, should, or must win. 

By the way, I'm not sure I can really contribute that much to the discussion, besides asking the question, as I've recently relocated to an area I don't know particularly well.  But I encourage you to talk about your communities below and others about which you're familiar.

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