Iowa Public Television

 

Bill Northey & Denise O'Brien

posted on October 13, 2006

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Borg: VACANCY AT THE STATEHOUSE AG OFFICE. WE'LL QUESTION THE TWO CANDIDATES FOR SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, DEMOCRAT DENISE O'BRIEN AND REPUBLICAN BILL NORTHEY, ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

FUNDING FOR 'IOWA PRESS' WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: NEXT MONTH'S GENERAL ELECTION WILL FILL THREE SPOTS ON THE FIVE-MEMBER IOWA EXECUTIVE COUNCIL AT THE STATEHOUSE. TWO EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEMBERS, INCUMBENT STATE TREASURER MIKE FITZGERALD AND STATE AUDITOR DAVID VAUDT, ARE UNOPPOSED FOR REELECTION, BUT THERE WILL BE A NEW GOVERNOR, SECRETARY OF STATE, AND SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE. TWO FARMERS, REPUBLICAN BILL NORTHEY OF SPIRIT LAKE AND DEMOCRAT DENISE O'BRIEN OF ATLANTIC ARE SEEKING THE AGRICULTURE SECRETARY JOB BEING VACATED BY PATTY JUDGE. SHE'S THE DEMOCRATS' CANDIDATE FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR. IOWA'S SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE HAS RESPONSIBILITIES WELL BEYOND PRODUCTION AGRICULTURE. THE JOB, FOR EXAMPLE, INCLUDES WEIGHTS AND MEASURES ENFORCEMENT; JUST LOOK FOR THE SEAL ON THE PUMP THE NEXT TIME YOU'RE BUYING FUEL. MR. NORTHEY AND MS. O'BRIEN ARE SEEKING STATEWIDE OFFICE FOR THE FIRST TIME. WELCOME TO 'IOWA PRESS.'

O’Brien: THANK YOU.

Northey: THANK YOU.

Borg: AND ACROSS THE 'IOWA PRESS' TABLE: 'RADIO IOWA' NEWS DIRECTOR KAY HENDERSON AND 'ASSOCIATED PRESS' SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: MS. O'BRIEN, LET'S START WITH YOU. WE ALWAYS LET CANDIDATES WHEN THEY COME OUT HERE GIVE A COMMERCIAL, BECAUSE WE FIGURE YOU'LL DO IT AT SOME POINT ANYWAY. SO LET'S START WITH YOU. WHY YOU FOR SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE AND NOT MR. NORTHEY?

O’Brien: WELL, MIKE, I'VE BEEN A FARMER FOR THIRTY YEARS WITH MY HUSBAND, LARRY HARRIS, IN CASS COUNTY NEAR ATLANTIC. AND DURING THAT TIME OF BEING A FARMER, WE'VE GONE THROUGH A TURBULENT TIME IN AGRICULTURE. THE 1980S ESPECIALLY WAS THE FARM CRISIS YEARS, AND THAT WAS MY TRAINING GROUND AS LOOKING AT FAMILY FARM STRUCTURE OF AGRICULTURE. SO I WORKED ON NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL ISSUES AND POLICY AND THROUGH THOSE YEARS DEVELOPED MY LEADERSHIP, BESIDES BEING A FARMER AND A MOTHER AND A WIFE, AND I'VE COME TO THIS DAY TO BRING MY LEADERSHIP FORWARD AND MY SKILLS FORWARD TO THE POSITION OF SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE.

Glover: MR. NORTHEY, THE SAME QUESTION TO YOU. WHY YOU FOR SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE AND NOT MS. O'BRIEN?

Northey: WELL, I THINK CERTAINLY EXPERIENCE AS WELL AS VISION I THINK ARE IMPORTANT. AND SO I FARMED AT SPIRIT LAKE, BEEN A FULL-TIME FARMER SINCE 1981. I GRADUATED FROM IOWA STATE. I EARNED A MASTERS IN BUSINESS AS WELL SINCE THEN. AND THE EXPERIENCE OF FARMING AS WELL AS BEING INVOLVED IN CORN GROWERS AND FARM BUREAU, SERVED AS PRESIDENT OF THE IOWA CORN GROWERS, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL CORN GROWERS. AND THROUGH ALL THAT WORK WORKING ON ETHANOL AS WELL AS LOTS OF OTHER ISSUES, WE HAVE A LOT AT STAKE RIGHT NOW. WE HAVE A VERY EXCITING TIME IN IOWA AGRICULTURE. WE HAVE ETHANOL PLANTS AND BIODIESEL PLANTS, AND IOWA IS IN THE LEAD OF THIS AND SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES THAT WE NEED TO FOLLOW UP ON. AND I CERTAINLY WANT TO BE A PART OF WORKING WITH OTHERS TO MAKE SURE THAT THAT HAPPENS.

Henderson: LET US NOW TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE SPECIFICS IN THIS CAMPAIGN. LET'S START WITH LARGE-SCALE LIVESTOCK OPERATIONS. THERE IS A FLOOR AT WHICH STATE REGULATION KICKS IN: (A) SHOULD THAT BE LOWERED; AND (B) SHOULD THERE BE AN UPPER LIMIT? SHOULD THERE BE A LIMIT ON HOW MANY ANIMALS SHOULD BE PLACED IN ONE OF THESE FACILITIES? WE'LL START YOU, MR. NORTHEY.

Northey: I THINK THE STATE RULES AS THEY ARE ARE PRETTY EFFECTIVE. I THINK AS YOU LOOK AROUND, YOU LOOK AT THE NEW FACILITIES THAT ARE GOING UP. THEY'RE VERY ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE. WE ARE NOT SEEING SPILLS AND CONCERNS FROM THOSE NEW FACILITIES. I DO BELIEVE WE NEED STATEWIDE REGS, WE NEED UNIFORM REGS, AND THEY SHOULD BE BASED ON SCIENCE -- SOUND SCIENCE. AND THAT'S WHAT THESE REGS HAVE BEEN DEVELOPED TO DO TO MAKE SURE THAT WE DON'T HAVE WATER QUALITY PROBLEMS.

Henderson: SO NO CHANGES IN THE NUMBERS FROM YOU. MS. O'BRIEN, DO YOU AGREE THERE SHOULD BE NO CHANGES IN THE NUMBERS?

O’Brien: IN THE -- THERE ARE SEVERAL ISSUES THAT GO ALONG WITH THIS --

Henderson: RIGHT, AND WE'LL GET INTO THOSE, BUT THIS IS A NUMBERS QUESTION.

O’Brien: OKAY, OKAY. A NUMBERS QUESTION. I BELIEVE THAT THE NUMBERS QUESTION IS IS THAT WE'VE GONE FROM -- IN THE LAST DECADE WE'VE GONE FROM 60,000 FARMERS -- HOG FARMERS TO 11,000 FARMERS. I THINK THE LOSS OF FARMERS IS INDICATIVE OF THE TYPE OF AGRICULTURE THAT THESE HOG FACILITIES ARE IN PLACE, WHAT IT'S DONE TO THE STRUCTURE OF FAMILY FARMS IN IOWA.

Borg: MR. NORTHEY, I HEARD YOU SAY JUST A MOMENT AGO THAT YOU BELIEVE THE STATEWIDE REGULATIONS ARE WHAT YOU'D SUPPORT AND ARE DOING AN EFFECTIVE JOB RIGHT NOW. DO YOU AT ALL ADVOCATE THAT THERE SHOULD BE SOME LOCAL CONTROL VOICE IN THOSE REGULATIONS?

Northey: CERTAINLY SOME LOCAL INPUT --

Borg: MORE THAN THERE IS NOW?

Northey: I DO THINK THAT WE'LL HAVE SOME DISCUSSION THIS NEXT LEGISLATIVE SESSION AROUND THESE RULES. I THINK THESE RULES STILL OUGHT TO BE STATEWIDE, BUT I DO THINK THERE'S SOME THINGS THAT NEED TO BE ADDED TO IT, LOOKING AT LOCAL TOPOGRAPHY AND HAVING THAT BE A PART OF THE STATEWIDE REGULATIONS. FOR EXAMPLE, THE KARST AREA UP IN NORTHEAST IOWA, MAKING SURE THAT WE'RE NOT PUTTING BUILDINGS WHERE THEY SHOULDN'T BE, AND MAYBE SOME ADDITIONAL SETBACKS AROUND SOME OF OUR TOURISM AREAS AND THOSE KINDS OF THINGS. BUT I STILL BELIEVE IT SHOULD BE STATEWIDE REGS.

Borg: WHO WOULD ADMINISTER THAT ON THE LOCAL LEVEL? SUPERVISORS IN EACH COUNTY?

Northey: NO, I THINK THE INPUT CAN COME FROM THEM, BUT IT SHOULD BE INPUT INTO THE RULES. I DON'T BELIEVE THAT THERE SHOULD BE DECISIONS BEING MADE AT THE COUNTY SUPERVISOR LEVEL WHERE YOU HAVE 99 DIFFERENT REGULATIONS ACROSS THE STATE THAT CHANGE EVERY TIME YOU HAVE A SUPERVISOR RACE. SO I BELIEVE THAT WE NEED UNIFORM STATEWIDE STANDARDS THAT ARE SCIENCE BASED, THE WAY THAT WE HAVE THEM RIGHT NOW.

Borg: MS. O'BRIEN, STATEWIDE REGULATIONS? YOU'VE JUST HEARD WHAT MR. NORTHEY SAID.

O’Brien: RIGHT. AND I'VE ALWAYS ADVOCATED THAT WE HAVE A GOOD SET OF STATEWIDE STANDARDS, BUT THEN THERE'S UNIQUENESS IN IOWA ALL ACROSS THE STATE. AND PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE -- OUR COMMUNITY SHOULD BE TRUSTED WITH THE ABILITY TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT THE LOCATIONS ARE CORRECT IN THEIR VICINITY AND THEIR LOCAL COMMUNITIES. AND I LOOK AT IT AS NOT JUST BOARD OF SUPERVISORS BUT PUBLIC HEALTH, A COALITION OF PEOPLE WHO WOULD BE -- YOU KNOW, WORK TOGETHER TO DO THAT. WE SHOULD TRUST OUR COMMUNITIES TO KNOW WHAT KIND OF AGRICULTURE IS GOOD FOR THEIR AREA.

Borg: A SPECIAL BOARD, THEN, IN EACH COUNTY COMPRISED OF SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT YOU'VE MENTIONED, PUBLIC HEALTH, SUPERVISORS?

O’Brien: WELL, I'VE TALKED TO SUPERVISORS ALL OVER THE STATE, AND THEY'D LIKE A LITTLE HELP IN MAKING THE DECISIONS. SO PROBABLY ULTIMATELY THE DECISION WOULD BE WITH THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS BUT WITH A TASK FORCE OR A TEAM TO HELP MAKE THAT DECISION.

Glover: MR. NORTHEY, LET'S STEP BACK FROM THE DETAILS OF HOW YOU STRUCTURE THESE AND LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE. SHOULD IOWA BE ENCOURAGING THE DEVELOPMENT OF THESE LARGE-SCALE HOG FACILITIES?

Northey: I THINK WE CERTAINLY SHOULD HAVE SOME OPTIONS FOR GROWERS TO BE ABLE TO -- TO UPDATE AND EXPAND THEIR BUSINESSES.

Glover: IT IS -- ISN'T IT -- IS IT IN THE STATE'S INTEREST TO ENCOURAGE THE DEVELOPMENT OF MORE OF THESE TYPES OF FACILITIES?

Northey: I THINK THE INDIVIDUALS MAKE THE DECISION ON WHETHER THEY WANT TO BUILD MORE FACILITIES OR NOT. I GUESS THE WAY THAT WE WOULD ADDRESS IT AT THE STATE IS EITHER TO DISCOURAGE OR ALLOW. AND I THINK WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO ALLOW FACILITIES THAT ARE BUILT -- MODERN FACILITIES BUILT RESPONSIBLY AND WITHOUT ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS. I THINK THAT NEEDS TO BE CONTINUED TO BE ALLOWED. AS WELL AS WE HAVE GREAT OPPORTUNITIES NOW WITH DISTILLERS GRAIN THAT PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXPAND OUR DAIRY BUSINESS, OUR CATTLE FEEDING BUSINESS, THOSE NEW FACILITIES ARE VERY ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE.

Glover: MS. O'BRIEN, IS IT IN THE STATE'S INTEREST TO ENCOURAGE THE DEVELOPMENT OF MORE OF THESE FACILITIES?

O’Brien: I THINK IT'S IN THE STATE'S BEST INTEREST TO ENCOURAGE DISPERSED LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION ALL THROUGHOUT THE STATE OF IOWA. WHEN I STARTED FARMING, PIGS WERE A WAY THAT FARMERS COULD GET INTO FARMING, HAVE A CASH FLOW, AND -- AND KEEP THEIR PRODUCTS THROUGH THEIR ANIMALS AND THAT. AND WE'VE REALLY DISCOURAGED THAT WITH THE LARGE-SCALE OPERATIONS THAT WE HAVE HERE. WE'VE LESSENED THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE TO GET INTO AGRICULTURE, AND LIVESTOCK IS A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF HOW PEOPLE GET INTO AGRICULTURE.

Glover: IS THERE SOME KIND OF A TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTION TO ALL OF THESE PROBLEMS? IT SEEMS TO ME THIS IS KIND OF A LOW-TECH INDUSTRY. BUT IS THERE SOME TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTION THAT COULD HELP THIS?

O’Brien: WELL, I THINK THERE IS TECHNOLOGY THAT CAN BE, YOU KNOW, EMBRACED AND ENDORSED IN THAT, BUT I THINK THERE'S BEEN WAYS THAT PEOPLE ARE GROWING HOGS IN IOWA NOW IN HOOP BUILDINGS, FOR INSTANCE, THAT ARE MUCH MORE ECOLOGICALLY SOUND THAN THE LARGER SCALE OPERATIONS.

Glover: MR. NORTHEY, IS TECHNOLOGY AN ANSWER HERE?

Northey: I THINK IT'S DEFINITELY PART OF THE ANSWER. MOST OF THESE BUILDINGS ARE MUCH MORE TECHNOLOGICALLY VALUABLE THAN WHAT THEY WERE YEARS AGO AS WE LOOK AT BEING ABLE TO PROTECT OUR WATER. BUT WE'RE ALSO -- I THINK REALLY THE BIGGEST CONCERN IN RURAL AREAS IS THE ODOR PROBLEM, AND THERE IS TECHNOLOGY THAT'S BEGINNING TO ADDRESS THAT. AND WE CERTAINLY NEED MUCH MORE WORK IN THAT AREA, BUT IF WE CAN SOLVE THAT, THAT CERTAINLY AFFECTS THE IMPACT OR POTENTIAL IMPACT --

Glover: HAS IOWA STATE DONE ITS JOB, MR. ALUM, IN DEALING WITH THIS?

Northey: WELL, I THINK THEY'RE DOING A GOOD JOB AT IT, BUT IT'S BEEN HARDER, I THINK, THAN MOST THOUGHT THAT IT WOULD BE. BUT THERE CERTAINLY HAS BEEN PROGRESS MADE.

Henderson: LET'S TURN TO ETHANOL. THERE'S NOT A POLITICAL CANDIDATE FOR STATE OR FEDERAL OFFICE IN THIS STATE THAT DOESN'T ENDORSE THE ATTRIBUTES OF ETHANOL. BUT, MS. O'BRIEN, HAS THE STATE MADE A MISTAKE IN PURSUING ETHANOL MADE FROM CORN, BECAUSE STUDIES SHOW YOU CAN'T GROW ENOUGH CORN TO MAKE ENOUGH ETHANOL TO FUEL AMERICA'S VEHICLES? HAS THERE BEEN A MISTAKE MADE IN THE INDUSTRY?

O’Brien: OH, I THINK NO. I DON'T THINK A MISTAKE HAS BEEN MADE. I THINK IT'S THE FIRST GENERATION GOING INTO WHAT'S GOING TO BE A RENEWABLE FUEL OF THE FUTURE FOR IOWA, AND I THINK IT'S A VERY IMPORTANT PART. I THINK IT WOULD BE A MISTAKE TO PUT ALL OUR CORN IN ONE BUSHEL, OR OUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET, AND THAT WE ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ON THAT CUTTING EDGE WITH RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT TO KNOW WHAT'S OUT THERE AND WHAT'S GOING TO BE OUT THERE. SO THERE'S SOY, THERE'S BIOMASS, THERE'S WIND. THERE'S ALL SORTS OF TECHNOLOGIES THAT WILL BE -- WILL KEEP IOWA AT THE HEAD OF THE CURVE IN RENEWABLE ENERGY.

Henderson: MR. NORTHEY?

Northey: NO, I THINK IT'S BEEN A GREAT PROCESS. AND YOU LOOK AT BEING A PART OF THIS OVER THE LAST TWENTY YEARS, WHAT A GREAT ESTABLISHMENT OF THE INDUSTRY THAT WE'VE MADE. IN FACT, I WAS COMBINING CORN YESTERDAY, AND TO BE ABLE TO LISTEN TO THE MARKETS BEING UP AGAIN BECAUSE OF THIS DEMAND. I DO THINK THAT BECAUSE OF CORN, WE NOW HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE ABLE TO MOVE TO CELLULOSE. WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE ABLE TO MOVE FROM CORN FOR ETHANOL TO CORN TO BIODEGRADABLE PLASTICS AND FIBERS AND OTHER KINDS OF THINGS. AND IT CAME BECAUSE WE HAD ETHANOL FROM CORN, AND IT CAME BECAUSE CORN GROWERS DID IT. AND SO I DO THINK THAT THERE'S A DIFFERENCE AMONG THE CANDIDATES IN OUR EXPERIENCE, IN OUR COMMITMENT OVER THE LAST TWENTY YEARS.

Henderson: THERE HAS BEEN AN EFFORT ON THE PART OF SOME POLITICIANS TO REQUIRE THAT EVERY GALLON OF FUEL DISPENSED IN IOWA BE AN ETHANOL BLEND. MS. O'BRIEN, DO YOU SUPPORT THAT KIND OF A MANDATE?

O’Brien: WELL, MANDATES, YOU KNOW, ARE GIVEN TO PEOPLE -- ARE PUT ON PEOPLE, AND IT VARIES HOW PEOPLE RESPOND TO THAT. I THINK WE HAVE ENOUGH INTEREST IN THAT -- IN RENEWABLE ENERGY THAT WE DON'T NEED A MANDATE, THAT PEOPLE ARE USING IT BECAUSE THEY KNOW, FIRST OF ALL, IT'S BEEN CHEAPER, EXCEPT FOR THAT LITTLE GLITCH A COUPLE MONTHS AGO, BUT IT'S BEEN CHEAPER. AND SO I DON'T THINK A MANDATE IS NECESSARY.

Henderson: MR. NORTHEY, THE REPUBLICAN WHO IS AT THE HEAD OF THE TICKET, JIM NUSSLE, THINKS THERE SHOULD BE.

Northey: WELL, I THINK THERE'S CERTAINLY GREAT REASON FOR PEOPLE TO USE ETHANOL. WE CERTAINLY ENCOURAGE THAT. I PREFER THE E85 SOLUTION AND THE EFFORT THAT THE LEGISLATURE MADE THIS LAST YEAR TO EXPAND E85, AND THERE'S SEVERAL REASONS. ONE IS AS WE HAVE A LOT MORE ETHANAL COME ONTO THE MARKET IN THIS NEXT SIX MONTHS AND THIS NEXT YEAR, WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO FIND WAYS TO USE LARGE AMOUNTS OF THAT ETHANOL. E85 IS A GREAT WAY TO BE ABLE TO EXPAND OUR ETHANOL DEMAND, SO I'M NOT SUPPORTIVE OF A MANDATE. I CERTAINLY THINK WE NEED MORE EFFORT INTO E85 AND FLEX FUEL VEHICLES.

Glover: MS. O'BRIEN, THIS RACE HAS GOTTEN A LOT OF ATTENTION MOST RECENTLY IN THE 'NEW YORK TIMES,' AND THE RACE IS OFTEN CATEGORIZED AS THE OLD AGRICULTURE EMBODIED BY MR. NORTHEY AND THE NEW AGRICULTURE EMBODIED BY YOU. ADDRESS THAT. IN WHAT WAY IS THIS A NEW VERSUS OLD RACE?

O’Brien: WELL, I THINK IT'S -- THAT'S AN INTERESTING WAY TO PUT IT, NEW VERSUS OLD. I THINK IT'S MORE ABOUT DIVERSIFYING THE AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPE IN IOWA. WE'VE BEEN VERY MUCH CONCENTRATED IN THE LAST NUMBER OF YEARS DUE TO NATIONAL POLICY ON CORN AND BEANS, AND IT'S REALLY ALTERED OUR LANDSCAPE. WE HAVE THE RICHEST SOIL IN THE WORLD JUST ABOUT, BUT WE HAVE THE ABILITY ALSO TO GROW A DIVERSITY OF CROPS. WE WERE -- BEFORE THE 1940S WE WERE VERY MUCH OF A FRUIT AND VEGETABLE GROWING STATE AS WELL AS A COMMODITY CROP. SO I THINK IT'S REALLY INTERESTING TO ME THAT WE'VE LATCHED ONTO THIS AND WE'VE BEEN PUT INTO A CORN AND BEANS TYPE OF MONOCULTURE. SO -- SO MY -- MY QUEST IN THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE HAS BEEN TO HELP DIVERSIFY, TO PRESENT MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE TO GET IN ON A SMALLER AND MEDIUM SIZED SCALE. WE'VE GOT AN EXCELLENT NUMBER OF FARMERS IN IOWA, BUT WE'VE GOT FEWER FARMERS. AND I THINK THAT'S REAL CRITICAL TO WHAT WE'VE BEEN DOING IN AGRICULTURE. SO WE HAVE THE BEST FARMERS. WE HAVE THE BEST TECHNOLOGY. WE HAVE THE BEST RESOURCES, AND WE HAVE THE BEST INFRASTRUCTURE FOR A LARGE AGRICULTURE. SO I'M LOOKING THAT WE NEED SMALL AND MEDIUM SIZES AS WELL.

Glover: MR. NORTHEY, AS I SAID, THIS RACE IS GETTING A LOT OF ATTENTION AND A LOT OF PEOPLE CLASSIFY IT AS THE OLD VERSUS THE NEW, AND YOU'RE VIEWED AS THE OLD TRADITIONAL AGRICULTURE. ADDRESS THAT.

Northey: I THINK CERTAINLY PART OF A GREAT, EXCITING TIME IN AGRICULTURE RIGHT NOW. NEW IS AROUND ETHANOL AND BIODIESEL AND ALL THE NEW PRODUCTS THAT WE'RE CREATING OUT THERE. NEW IS BIOTECHNOLOGY THAT WE'RE ADDING, AND CERTAINLY WE HAVE A DIFFERENCE ON OUR SUPPORT OF BIOTECHNOLOGY. I THINK IT'S A WONDERFUL THING. WE'RE HARVESTING 200 BUSHEL CORN OUT THERE IN A TOUGH YEAR, AND PART OF THAT IS BECAUSE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY. ONE OF THE REASONS WE GROW CORN AND SOYBEANS IN THIS STATE IS BECAUSE WE'RE GOOD AT IT. WE SHOULDN'T APOLOGIZE FOR BEING SO GOOD AT BEING THE NUMBER ONE CORN AND SOYBEAN STATE IN THIS COUNTRY. WE NEED TO FIND MARKETS FOR IT. WE'VE BEEN WORKING AT THAT, AND CERTAINLY IT'S PAYING OFF RIGHT NOW, AS YOU LOOK AT THE PRICES AND YOU ALSO LOOK AT THE JOBS GOING IN SMALL TOWNS AND LARGE TOWNS ACROSS THE STATE BECAUSE OF ETHANOL.

Borg: LET ME JUST DO A FOLLOW-UP HERE. WHEN YOU SAY DIVERSIFY, MS. O'BRIEN, WHAT DO YOU MEAN, OTHER CROPS LIKE GRAPES AND THINGS LIKE THAT? AND MY QUESTION THEN TO YOU IS DOESN'T THE MARKETPLACE DRIVE WHAT PEOPLE GROW AND PRODUCE.

O’Brien: ABSOLUTELY. AND THE MARKETPLACE HAS NOT DRIVEN CORN AND SOYBEANS. WE'RE ALWAYS OUT LOOKING FOR MARKETS. WE'RE NEVER BEING THERE FOR A MARKET. AND I THINK THAT THE MARKET DRIVING RIGHT NOW -- THE MARKET DRIVING FORCE IS ORGANIC PRODUCTS ACTUALLY, AND IT'S THE MOST SUCCESSFUL PART AND PROFITABLE PART OF AGRICULTURE. AND WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO GIVE PEOPLE THE OPPORTUNITY TO RAISE THOSE CROPS. PEOPLE -- THERE'S A -- WE LIVE IN THE MIDWEST WHERE WE HAVE A REGIONAL FOOD SYSTEM THAT WE CAN SUPPLY LARGE AMOUNTS OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES TO A MARKET THAT'S BEING -- THERE'S A DEMAND FOR. WE ARE NOT MEETING, CURRENTLY IN THIS COUNTRY, THE DEMAND FOR ORGANIC PRODUCTS OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES AND OF MILK. AND SO THERE'S -- SO I WOULD TALK ABOUT THAT AS A DIVERSITY OF CROPS AND A MIX OF AGRICULTURE WHERE WE HAVE A MIX OF SIZES OF AGRICULTURE AND A DIVERSITY OF CROPS. WE WERE THE NUMBER ONE GRAPE GROWING REGION PRIOR TO THE 1940S. WE HAD 6,000 ACRES OF GRAPES. WE NOW HAVE ABOUT 600 AND GROWING.

Borg: MR. NORTHEY, WILL THE MARKET, THOUGH, SUPPORT THAT KIND OF CROP?

Northey: YEAH, I THINK WE ARE SEEING SOME CHANGES AND SOME NICHES. NOW, THESE ARE GOING TO BE VERY, VERY SMALL NICHES AND CERTAINLY NOT A WAY TO IMPACT 22 MILLION ACRES OF CORN AND SOYBEAN PRODUCTION IN THE STATE. AND IN SOME WAYS ETHANOL HAS KIND OF HELPED US WITH THAT, BECAUSE AS CORN FARMERS AND SOYBEAN FARMERS, WE USED TO THINK WE JUST PRODUCED CORN AND SOYBEANS IN THIS STATE AND HOGS AND CATTLE AND WE DROPPED THEM OFF TO SOMEBODY ELSE. NOW WE KNOW WE CAN GO TOGETHER AND PRODUCE A PROCESSING PLANT TO BE ABLE TO RAISE IT TO PROCESS THESE PRODUCTS, TO BE ABLE TO RAISE OTHER CROPS. WE DO SEE CONVENTIONAL FARMERS WITH 1,500 ACRES WORTH OF CORN AND SOYBEANS PUTTING IN GRAPES AT THE SIDE OR ORGANIC PRODUCTS AT THE SIDE. BUT THESE ARE STILL NICHES. THESE ARE NICHES. ORGANIC IS 2.5 PERCENT OF THE MARKET. THAT'S NOT GOING TO DRIVE THE LARGE ACREAGES IN THIS STATE. IT'S A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR SOME. IT'S SOMETHING THAT SHOULD ABSOLUTELY BE ENCOURAGED ANY WAY. TO PRODUCE MORE PROFIT OUT THERE ON THE FARM IS A GOOD THING, BUT WE CERTAINLY NEED TO NOT IGNORE THE GREAT OPPORTUNITY WE HAVE WITH ETHANOL, BIODIESEL, WIND POWER IN THIS STATE, METHANE PRODUCTION, ALL KINDS OF OTHER OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE RIGHT NOW IN FRONT OF US. WE HAVE TO BE VERY AGGRESSIVE IN MAKING SURE THAT IOWA CONTINUES TO LEAD IN THESE.

Henderson: THE IOWA FARM BUREAU'S POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE HAS ENDORSED MR. NORTHEY IN THIS RACE. AND THIS WEEK, MS. O'BRIEN, YOU HELD A NEWS EVENT TO AIR A BEEF THAT YOU HAVE WITH THE FARM BUREAU. WHAT IS THAT?

O’Brien: WELL, THERE WERE SEVERAL ACCUSATIONS IN THAT LETTER THAT ACTUALLY WERE ABOUT MY BEING AGAINST MODERN FARMING AND BEING -- AND NOT BEING PROGRESSIVE. SO YOU CAN -- YOU KNOW, THERE'S LANGUAGE THAT'S USED ON -- IN EVERY DIFFERENT WAY. THE ISSUE IS, YOU KNOW -- THE ISSUE CAME UP WHEN PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPORTING ME RECEIVED THE LETTER, AND THEY WERE -- THAT'S WHERE THE ISSUE STARTED. IT WASN'T REALLY ACTUALLY WITH ME. THEY PHONED US AND GAVE US THE LETTER THAT WAS GOING OUT. AND IT WAS THEIR DECISION THAT THEY WANTED TO HOLD A NEWS EVENT SO THAT THEY COULD AIR WHAT THEY FELT ABOUT -- BEING USED BY THE FARM BUREAU IN THEIR MEMBERSHIP IN THIS WAY.

Henderson: MR. NORTHEY, DO YOU AGREE THAT SHE IS AGAINST MODERN FARMING PRACTICES?

Northey: WELL, I CERTAINLY AM VERY EXCITED TO HAVE FARM BUREAU'S SUPPORT, AGRIBUSINESS ASSOCIATION, ASSOCIATION OF BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY, TURKEY FEDERATION, LOTS OF DIFFERENT IOWA GROUPS. AND AS MIKE MENTIONED, THERE'S CERTAINLY BEEN OTHERS THAT HAVE WEIGHED IN. 'NEW YORK TIMES' HAS WEIGHED IN FOR DENISE. I'M CERTAINLY VERY, VERY PLEASED TO BE ABLE TO HAVE THE AG SUPPORT. AND THESE ARE FOLKS THAT MADE A DECISION --

Henderson: BUT DO YOU AGREE THAT SHE'S AGAINST MODERN TECHNOLOGY?

Northey: CERTAINLY THERE ARE ASPECTS THAT WE HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS ON. FOR EXAMPLE, BIOTECHNOLOGY; SHE BELIEVES THAT BIOTECHNOLOGY OUGHT TO BE CONTROLLED LOCALLY AND THOSE SEEDS THAT ARE PLANTED OUGHT TO BE CONTROLLED LOCALLY. I THINK WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO HAVE STATEWIDE AND FEDERAL REGULATIONS --

Glover: MS. O'BRIEN?

O’Brien: NO, NO. I WAS -- I BELIEVE THAT POLLEN IS NOT LOCALLY CONTROLLED, YOU KNOW, THAT WHEN WE HAVE POLLEN DRIFT FROM BIOTECH CROPS, AND THAT IT'S -- THAT'S NATIONAL STANDARDS THAT SHOULD BE IN CONTROL OF THAT. AND THERE'S A LOT OF ISSUES WITH BIOTECHNOLOGY THAT ARE OUT THERE. AND BIOTECHNOLOGY IS A PART OF OUR FUTURE IN IOWA. IT'S PART OF WHAT WE HAVE. THERE ARE ISSUES WITH IT THAT NEED TO BE RESOLVED AND, AS SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, I WOULD BE ONE TO REALLY WORK ON RESOLVING A NUMBER OF ISSUES THAT EXIST.

Glover: IS THIS GETTING INTO THE WHOLE GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROP ISSUE?

O’Brien: WELL, IT IS. YOU'RE TOUCHING ON THAT AND THERE'S ISSUES THAT -- AROUND THIS THAT ALL FARMERS' PROPERTY RIGHTS SHOULD BE RESPECTED. AND THERE'S A NUMBER OF ORGANIC FARMERS IN THIS STATE THAT HAVE BEEN CONTAMINATED BY CROPS AND HAVE LOST THEIR LUCRATIVE MARKETS. AND MY OPPONENT DOESN'T BELIEVE THAT THERE SHOULD BE, YOU KNOW, RESPONSIBILITY ON CONVENTIONAL FARMERS. AND I BELIEVE THAT IT'S A GOOD NEIGHBOR POLICY, THAT YOU WORK WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS ABOUT HOW YOU -- HOW YOU TAKE THIS AND PRESERVE EVERYONE'S MARKET BECAUSE THOSE MARKETS ARE LUCRATIVE FOR THOSE ORGANIC FARMERS.

Glover: MR. NORTHEY, YOUR RESPONSE?

Northey: YEAH, I THINK IT CERTAINLY IS IMPORTANT TO BE ABLE TO WORK TOGETHER. I DON'T THINK IT'S THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A NEIGHBORING FARMER TO AN ORGANIC FARMER TO NOT PLANT BIOTECH CROPS IF THEY WANT TO. THESE ARE -- THESE ARE CROPS THAT HAVE BEEN TESTED NATIONALLY. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS HAVE BEEN SPENT ON THEM. THEY'RE SAFE. THE CONTAMINATION IS JUST A MARKET QUESTION, NOTHING TO DO WITH SAFETY. AND CERTAINLY THEY SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO PRODUCE THE LEGAL CROPS THAT THOUSANDS OF FARMERS ARE IN CHARGE OF.

Glover: DO THEY HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO THEIR NEIGHBOR?

Northey: THEY HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO BE ABLE TO HAVE THAT DISCUSSION AND FIGURE OUT IF THERE'S A CROP ROTATION THAT BENEFITS THAT NEIGHBOR, BUT THEY DON'T HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY NOT TO BE ALLOWED TO GROW A LEGAL, VIABLE, PROFITABLE CROP BECAUSE THEIR NEIGHBOR HAPPENS TO BE AN ORGANIC PRODUCER.

Glover: MS. O'BRIEN, WITHOUT OFFENSE TO EITHER OF THE CANDIDATES FOR SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, IT'S NOT LIKELY THAT MOST VOTERS ARE PAYING REALLY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THIS RACE. THE OUTCOME OF THIS RACE LIKELY WILL BE JUDGED BY THE POLITICAL CLIMATE THIS YEAR. YOU'RE AROUND THE STATE A FAIR AMOUNT. WHAT'S THE CLIMATE THAT YOU'RE PICKING UP OUT THERE?

O’Brien: THE CLIMATE THAT I'M PICKING UP IS THAT PEOPLE ARE REALLY UPSET WITH GENERALLY WHAT'S GOING ON. LOCAL CONTROL IS THE HOTTEST BUTTON ISSUE THAT THERE IS OUT THERE, EVERY PART OF THE STATE. I WAS JUST IN A MEETING IN CEDAR FALLS LAST NIGHT, AND PEOPLE HAD JUST COME BACK FROM A SUPERVISORS MEETING. AND PEOPLE DON'T FEEL LIKE THEY HAVE CONTROL OVER THEIR LIFE AND THEIR QUALITY OF LIFE. AND SO I THINK GENERALLY PEOPLE ARE THROWING UP THEIR HANDS AND SAYING, YOU KNOW, THROW ALL OF THE INCUMBENTS OUT AND GET A NEW BATCH OF PEOPLE TO WORK WITH AND SEE IF WE CAN'T TAKE CARE OF THE ISSUES THAT WAY.

Glover: MR. NORTHEY, THE SAME QUESTION TO YOU. ASSUMING THAT PEOPLE ARE NOT FOLLOWING THIS RACE ON A DAY-BY-DAY BASIS AND IT'LL BE SETTLED BY THE POLITICAL CLIMATE OUT THERE, WHAT'S THE CLIMATE THAT YOU'RE SENSING AS YOU TRAVEL AROUND THE STATE?

Northey: WELL, I THINK THERE'S AN EXCITEMENT AROUND AGRICULTURE WE HAVE NOT HAD IN A GENERATION. I GREW UP IN THE '70S. AG WAS AN EXCITING THING TO BE A PART OF. I WENT HOME AND FARMED. AND THEN WE HAD THE '80S, AND THE '80S WERE TOUGH TIMES. AFTER BUILDING THIS ETHANOL MARKET AND BIODIESEL MARKET AND ALL THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT WE HAVE COMING, WE HAVE FOLKS THAT ARE EXCITED ABOUT AGRICULTURE AGAIN. AND BECAUSE OF THAT, FOLKS WANT TO SEE US FOLLOW THROUGH ON THESE OPPORTUNITIES AND MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE BUILDING ETHANOL PLANTS AND THAT WE'RE FEEDING THE DISTILLERS HERE TO BE ABLE TO GROW THAT INDUSTRY AND THAT WE'RE LOOKING AT THOSE NEXT GENERATION OF PRODUCTS. AND CERTAINLY THERE'S A LOT OF RESEARCH -- A LOT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN. THE SECRETARY IS JUST ONE PART OF THAT. BUT THE SECRETARY AND I SHOULD PULL FOLKS TOGETHER AROUND THESE ISSUES AND MAKE THESE THINGS HAPPEN. WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY OF A GENERATION, AND IF WE DON'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS RIGHT NOW, WE'RE GOING TO FOREVER REGRET IT.

Borg: MR. NORTHEY, MIKE'S QUESTION REALLY IS DO YOU SEE REPUBLICANS BEING ABLE TO HOLD THEIR OWN IN THIS ELECTION OR DO YOU SEE A DEMOCRATIC SWEEP.

Northey: NO, I THINK REPUBLICANS DEFINITELY WILL HOLD THEIR OWN. I THINK RIGHT NOW CERTAINLY THERE'S A LOT OF FLUX WITH THREE AND A HALF WEEKS TO GO, BUT ABSOLUTELY I SENSE ENERGY WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AS WELL. I DON'T KNOW EXACTLY HOW IT WILL COME. WE'LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS IN THESE NEXT THREE WEEKS, BUT I THINK REPUBLICANS CAN ABSOLUTELY HOLD THEIR OWN.

Henderson: I WOULD GUESS THAT BOTH OF YOU WOULD HOPE THAT THIS WOULD BE AN ELECTIVE OFFICE FOR THE NEXT FOUR YEARS, BUT THERE IS A DEBATE AMONG FOLKS AS TO WHETHER THIS SHOULD BE AN ELECTIVE POST OR APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR, SO THE GOVERNOR HAS A GREATER BUY-IN, IF YOU WILL, ON AG POLICY. DO EITHER OF YOU INTEND TO TRY TO UNDO OR GET RID OF THE OFFICE AS A CONSTITUTIONALLY ELECTED OFFICE IN IOWA? MS. O'BRIEN?

O’Brien: WELL, I FEEL THAT WE LIVE IN A STATE THAT AGRICULTURE IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT, AND IT SHOULD BE ELECTIVE OFFICE AND THAT WE SHOULD BE -- THE PERSON WHO'S ELECTED SHOULD BE ACCOUNTABLE TO THE PEOPLE WHO ELECT THEM. AND WHEN YOU HAVE AN APPOINTEE SITUATION, THEN YOU GET INTO -- YOU GET INTO ISSUES ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THAT GO THERE WITH THE APPOINTMENT. SO IT'S VERY VITAL TO THE STATE OF IOWA TO HAVE AN ELECTION. AND PEOPLE IN OTHER STATES ARE REALLY ENVIOUS, THAT I TALK TO, THAT WE DO HAVE AN ELECTIVE PROCESS. AND THERE'S 11 OTHER STATES BESIDES IOWA THAT HAS THIS, AND I THINK IT'S CRITICALLY IMPORTANT WE KEEP IT AN ELECTED OFFICE.

Henderson: MR. NORTHEY?

Northey: YEAH, I REALLY LIKE THE ELECTION PROCESS THIS YEAR, OF COURSE. BUT I THINK IT'S BEEN CONSTRUCTIVE FOR LOTS OF REASONS. I THINK WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO COMPARE VISIONS FOR AGRICULTURE. NOW, ONE OF THE QUESTIONS IS DO ENOUGH PEOPLE PAY ATTENTION TO THIS RACE TO MAKE IT A THOUGHTFUL DECISION, AND WE'LL SEE HOW THAT ALL COMES ABOUT. REALLY, THE ISSUE CAME ABOUT BECAUSE WE HAD SECRETARIES THAT DIDN'T GET ALONG WITH GOVERNORS, AND THAT COULD BE OF THE SAME PARTY OR DIFFERENT PARTIES. I CERTAINLY DON'T WANT THAT TO HAPPEN NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. I EXPECT JIM NUSSLE TO GET ELECTED. I LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH HIM. CERTAINLY IF IT'S NOT JIM NUSSLE, I'M READY TO WORK ACROSS PARTY AISLES THE WAY THAT WE NEED TO, THE WAY WE'VE BUILT THE ETHANOL INDUSTRY AND BIODIESEL INDUSTRY. IT HAS BEEN ACROSS THOSE PARTY AISLES.

Glover: MS. O'BRIEN, LET'S TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT SOME OUTSIDE HELP YOU'RE GETTING. IF YOU HAVEN'T NOTICED -- AND I SUSPECT YOU HAVE -- THERE'S A PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN THAT'S BEGINNING TO GET UP AND RUNNING. HOW HELPFUL IS THAT TO HAVE BIG-NAME POLITICIANS RUNNING AROUND THE STATE ON YOUR BEHALF, AND ARE YOU GETTING A FAIR AMOUNT OF THAT HELP?

O’Brien: WELL, IT'S VERY INTERESTING TO LIVE IN IOWA. AND I JUST SO APPRECIATE THE CAUCUS PROCESS THAT BRINGS THE ATTENTION TO OUR STATE BECAUSE IT MAKES IT -- WE HAVE A VERY EDUCATED ELECTORATE, AND IT BRINGS PEOPLE AND ECONOMIC MONEYS INTO OUR STATE. AND I'VE BEEN WITH A NUMBER OF THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES -- OR HOPEFULS AND ONE WHO JUST DROPPED OUT YESTERDAY. AND THEY'VE ALL BEEN VERY ACCOMMODATING IN INCLUDING ME IN THE TREK AROUND THE STATE OF IOWA WITH THEM AND DOING FUND-RAISERS AND CONTRIBUTING TO MY CAMPAIGN. AND I APPRECIATE THAT HELP AND KNOW THAT -- THAT -- THAT I COULD -- THAT, YOU KNOW, THERE'S ISSUES AROUND THAT THAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT. BUT WE'VE REALLY BALANCED OUR CAMPAIGN WITH -- A MAJORITY OF OUR CONTRIBUTIONS ARE COMING FROM IOWA.

Glover: MR. NORTHEY, ARE YOU GETTING SOME HELP FROM SOME FRIENDS FROM OUTSIDE?

Northey: WE ARE. CERTAINLY -- CERTAINLY THEY RECOGNIZE AGRICULTURE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IN THIS STATE, AND THEY WANT TO BE ENGAGED AND CLOSE TO AGRICULTURE AND FINDING OUT WHAT'S GOING ON. AND SO WE SPENT A LOT OF TIME TALKING, CERTAINLY TRAVELING AS WELL, WALKING AROUND THE STATE FAIR TOGETHER, THOSE KINDS OF THINGS. AND -- AND IT'S A REMINDER OF THE POSITION IN THE ROLE OF SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, THAT IT SPEAKS FOR MIDWESTERN AND IOWA AGRICULTURE, AND I THINK THAT'S VERY IMPORTANT.

Henderson: WE ONLY HAVE LESS THAN A MINUTE LEFT. WHAT IS THE ONE THING THAT YOU COULD DO TO EASE A RIFT BETWEEN AG AND CITY INTERESTS? MS. O'BRIEN?

O’Brien: WELL, I THINK IT'S CRITICAL FOR A PERSON TO COME TO THIS POSITION WITH SKILLS THAT WOULD BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER TO REALLY HAMMER OUT THE ISSUES. AND I'VE TALKED ABOUT ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL THAT IN MY FIRST SIX MONTHS TO A YEAR THAT I WOULD GO AROUND THE STATE OF IOWA HOLDING TOWN HALL MEETINGS, BRINGING ALONG WITH MEDIATORS AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION PEOPLE.

Borg: I NEED -- MR. NORTHEY?

Northey: YEAH, I THINK IT'S -- CERTAINLY THERE'S A GREAT INTEREST IN NON AG FOLKS RIGHT NOW AROUND ALL THESE OPPORTUNITIES, AND THEY REALIZE THEY'RE IMPACTED BY AGRICULTURE MORE NOW THAN THEY'VE BEEN IN A GENERATION.

Borg: HOW DO YOU BRING THEM TOGETHER?

Northey: I THINK CERTAINLY YOU BRING TOGETHER TO TALK ABOUT ETHANOL AND BIODIESEL, TALK ABOUT THE POWER OF LIVESTOCK IN THIS STATE AND THE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES THAT AGRICULTURE IS CREATING IN IOWA RIGHT NOW.

Borg: THANKS FOR YOUR INSIGHTS. WELL, THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEKEND'S EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH NEXT WEEKEND, REGULAR TIMES: 7:30 FRIDAY NIGHT; 11:30 SUNDAY MORNING. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

FUNDING FOR 'IOWA PRESS' WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS.

 


Tags: agriculture campaign 2006 Democrats elections Iowa Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Republicans