New Iowa carbon task force looks like greenwashing

“If someone tasked you with making an exhaustive list of who could profit from carbon sequestration, this is what you would come up with,” tweeted Chris Jones, a research engineer at the University of Iowa who has written extensively about agriculture and water quality.

He was referring to the Carbon Sequestration Task Force, which Governor Kim Reynolds established through a June 22 executive order. In a written statement touting the initiative, Reynolds said Iowa “is in a strong position to capitalize on the growing nationwide demand for a more carbon free economy.” She will chair the task force, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig will co-chair.

The task force looks like a textbook greenwashing effort: deploying concern about about “sustainability” and “low carbon solutions” as cover for policies that will direct public money to large corporations in the energy and agriculture sectors.

One tell: Reynolds did not involve any of Iowa’s leading environmental organizations, which have long worked to reduce carbon emissions.

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A new vision for Iowa agriculture and Iowans

John Norwood is a Polk County Soil and Water Commissioner.

These are my prepared remarks from the June 17 event announcing the Central Iowa Water Quality Infrastructure Project. I initiated a new bundled approach with the help of many others after attending an agricultural field day several years ago, where I wondered, how we could improve our effectiveness? Polk County, state, and federal government agencies are involved with the project; Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig also spoke at Thursday’s kickoff.

The program is novel because Polk County is moving from single installations that used to require each landowner hiring a contractor, to batch installations of 50 and next year more than 100, using a general contractor bidding approach run by the county. The Soil and Water Conservation District actively targets sites using mapping technology and direct landowner outreach to secure participation, as opposed to waiting for landowners to come forward. The county, state, and municipal sources provided 100 percent cost share, and the installation is largely turnkey for the participants.

Secretary Naig, my fellow commissioners, partners, members of the media, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen:

I appreciate the opportunity to join you all today to celebrate this innovative ground-breaking, systematic approach to getting things done. This strategy was born from a chance meeting with Charlie Schafer at a field day several years ago, me asking a lot of questions out of curiosity, followed by several coffee conversations, where together we began to reimagine a new way for delivering conservation infrastructure at scale. And then we widened the circle to include other key players in the conversation who built on the vision and drove it forward with the help of many others. Two of whom you will hear from in a few minutes.

First let me note that this type of locally led effort can be tailored whether we are delivering water quality infrastructure or soil health systems. If the strategies are scalable, turnkey, and targeted, the impact can be magnified many times. What we do in Polk County can be replicated in any of our other 98 counties, and as a “learning organization” that is how my District can support a larger effort. Stay tuned.  

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Get ready for an election contest in IA-02

All 24 counties in Iowa’s second Congressional district have recounted their votes, but the race between Democrat Rita Hart and Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks is far from over.

Trackers including Pat Rynard of Iowa Starting Line and Tom Barton of the Quad-City Times reached the same conclusion: once all counties submit their new numbers to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, Miller-Meeks will have a six-vote lead out of more than 394,000 ballots cast. Rynard posted vote changes in each county since election day here. The two candidates’ vote share is identical to the one-hundredth of a percent (49.91 percent).

The Miller-Meeks campaign’s lawyer Alan Ostergren declared victory after Clinton County’s recount board finished its work on November 28. The Republican candidate said in a written statement, “While this race is extraordinarily close, I am proud to have won this contest and look forward to being certified as the winner by the state’s Executive Council on Monday.”

Three Republicans (Governor Kim Reynolds, Secretary of State Paul Pate, and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig) and two Democrats (State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald and State Auditor Rob Sand) serve on the Executive Council. Assuming that body certifies the result, an election contest is extremely likely.

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Reynolds dodges tough call; State Fair board dodges open meetings practice

In its most closely-watched meeting in living memory, the Iowa State Fair board voted on June 10 not to hold the fair this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the board’s 11-2 vote was livestreamed, the brief meeting shed no light on the deliberations. There was no public discussion of the pros and cons of postponing the event until 2021. Nor did members debate alternative scenarios explored by staff, like holding a scaled-back event with limited attendance, mandatory face coverings, or temperature checks.

All board members present avoided a public stand on the difficult decision through a secret ballot vote, in apparent contradiction with Iowa’s open meetings law.

Governor Kim Reynolds’ designated representative on the body missed the meeting entirely.

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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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