Iowa agriculture, climate change, and "SWAPA"

Paul W. Johnson is a preacher’s kid, former Iowa state legislator, former chief of the USDA Soil Conservation Service/Natural Resources Conservation Service, former director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and a retired farmer. -promoted by Laura Belin

In the early 1980s there was a serious farm crisis in Iowa. Land and commodity prices were falling, so banks were calling in farm loans and foreclosing on farmers who couldn’t pay up. Maurice Dingman was bishop of the Des Moines area during those years, and he was speaking up strongly for farmers who were suffering during this time. I was impressed by his defense of family farmers.

In 1987 David Osterberg and I were serving in the Iowa legislature–he representing Mount Vernon, I representing Decorah–and working on groundwater protection. Industrial agriculture sent their lobbyists to weaken our legislation, and newspapers were carrying stories about their fierce opposition to our work.

During this time, Bishop Dingman phoned us and suggested we have lunch together. 

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The 19 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2019

Five years ago, I started taking stock of my most labor-intensive posts near the end of each year. Not all of these are my favorite projects, though invariably, some of my favorites end up on these compilations.

Before getting to the countdown for 2019, I want to give another shout out to guest authors who poured an extraordinary amount of work into two posts Bleeding Heartland published last year.

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Iowa's Ag department ignored repeated warnings from state auditors

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) has not acted on advice to improve its management of financial transactions and databases “to prevent losses from employee error or dishonesty.”

For ten years running, under three different state auditors, reports have warned Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig or his predecessor Bill Northey that the IDALS accounting system does not conform to best practices and does not ensure that some divisions are collecting and depositing fees appropriately.

IDALS leaders have responded to each report with boilerplate excuses and non-sequiturs, instead of changing internal procedures to address the concerns.

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IA-04: Randy Feenstra to challenge Steve King; Rick Sanders thinking about it

Nine-term U.S. Representative Steve King will face at least one challenger in the 2020 Republican primary to represent Iowa’s fourth Congressional district.

State Senator Randy Feenstra announced his candidacy today, and Story County Supervisor Rick Sanders confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that he is seriously considering the race.

The moves are the clearest sign yet that Iowa’s GOP establishment is tired of King.

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Weak laws allow Iowa Farm Bureau to boost Mike Naig with corporate cash

“This is illegal right?” a contact asked this morning after reading Pat Rynard’s scoop about the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation soliciting agribusiness dollars to help Republican Mike Naig win the secretary of agriculture election.

You’d think so, since Iowa law prohibits corporations from donating to candidate committees or state PACs.

However, the Farm Bureau appears to have found a legal way to boost Naig with Big Ag cash while concealing the sources of those funds until after November 6.

The scheme is a case study of how Iowa’s campaign finance laws fail to limit corporate influence effectively or even provide transparency when companies try to buy elections.

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Weekend thread: Statewide candidate edition

Iowa will soon have its first new secretary of agriculture since 2007. The U.S. Senate confirmed Bill Northey on February 27 as undersecretary for farm production and conservation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He should have been confirmed months ago; senators on the Agriculture Committee unanimously endorsed his nomination in October. But Senator Ted Cruz of Texas held the nomination over a Renewable Fuel Standard dispute that has nothing to do with Northey’s portfolio.

Once Northey resigns as Iowa secretary of agriculture, Governor Kim Reynolds will appoint his longtime deputy Mike Naig to fill that post for the rest of this year, the governor’s office announced on March 1. I enclose Naig’s official bio below. One of five Republicans who have said they will run for Northey’s job, Naig formally launched his campaign for that office on March 2. At this writing, only Craig Lang has qualified for the primary ballot. Other declared GOP candidates are Ray Gaesser, Chad Ingels, and Dan Zumbach. UPDATE: Northey posted on Twitter March 6, “I heartily endorse Mike Naig as our next Iowa Ag Secy. Mike has been a great partner as my Deputy Secy of ag for 4+ yrs. Mike is ready to lead. Let’s elect Mike in June & Nov!”

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