Iowa Public Television

 

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey

posted on March 15, 2007

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Borg: RIDING A ROCKET. IOWA'S AGRICULTURAL ECONOMY TIES TO ZOOMING BIOFUELS. THE STATE'S NEW SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, BILL NORTHEY, ASSESSES THE CHALLENGES ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, MARCH 16 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: IOWA'S AGRIBUSINESS ECONOMY HAS BIG STAKES IN THE NEW POLITICAL LANDSCAPE, NATIONALLY AND IN IOWA. NATIONALLY TOM HARKIN CHAIRS THE SENATE'S AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE, WRITING RENEWAL OF THE NATION'S FARM PROGRAM. IN IOWA REPUBLICAN BILL NORTHEY IS SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, REPLACING DEMOCRAT PATTY JUDGE, AND SHE IS NOW IOWA'S LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR. NORTHEY FARMS IN NORTHWEST IOWA NEAR SPIRIT LAKE, AND HE'S NO STRANGER TO COMMODITY GROUP POLITICS, HAVING HEADED THE NATIONAL CORN GROWERS ASSOCIATION. AND THAT'S KEY EXPERIENCE BECAUSE CORN IS NOW FUELING METEORIC OPTIMISM IN IOWA'S OVERALL ECONOMY. SECRETARY NORTHEY, WELCOME BACK TO 'IOWA PRESS.'

Northey: GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.

Borg: AND ACROSS THE 'IOWA PRESS' TABLE: 'DES MOINES REGISTER' POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND 'IOWA PUBLIC RADIO' STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JENEANE BECK.

Beck: MR. SECRETARY, LET ME ASK YOU FIRST ABOUT A LITTLE SCARE WE HAD THIS WEEK FOR SOYBEAN PRODUCERS. WE SAW SOYBEAN RUST IN PART OF THE STATE. THAT CONCERN NOT AS LARGE AS IT MAY HAVE BEEN. BUT TELL ME ABOUT IT AND TELL ME WHAT WE DO IN THE FUTURE ABOUT IT.

Northey: THE SOYBEAN RUST IS A FUNGUS THAT INFECTS SOYBEANS. IT WAS DISCOVERED IN THE U.S. ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO. WE CERTAINLY HAD A SCARE AT THAT TIME: WHAT'S THIS GOING TO MEAN TO SOYBEAN PRODUCERS? WE DO KNOW, FIRST OF ALL, IT'S NOT A FOOD SAFETY CONCERN. SOYBEANS WORK JUST FINE. WE EAT A LOT OF SOYBEANS. IT'S NOT A PROBLEM. IT'S NOT A FEED SAFETY CONCERN, JUST A CONCERN FOR THOSE SOYBEAN GROWERS AND CAN THEY -- CAN THIS RUST IMPACT YIELDS. AND IT'S -- WORST CASE, IT CERTAINLY -- YOU CAN LOSE HALF YOUR YIELD IN A VERY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. SO WE FOUND THIS WEEK AS WE HAD A PLANT MATERIAL THAT WAS TURNED INTO IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY WAS CONFIRMED TO HAVE SOYBEAN RUST. IT WAS REPORTED TO BE FROM AN IOWA FIELD THIS LAST YEAR. WE'VE NEVER HAD RUST ITSELF. WE'VE HAD THE SPORES AND THE SPORES ACTUALLY COME UP FROM THE SOUTHERN U.S. THEY'VE COME UP -- WE CAUGHT THE SPORES. WE'VE NEVER ACTUALLY HAD SOYBEAN RUST IN IOWA.

Beck: WELL, I THINK WHAT'S INTERESTING IS I HAD HEARD THAT THEY ACTUALLY WAITED TO RELEASE THE FACT THAT THEY HAD DISCOVERED IT TILL AFTER THE MARKETS CLOSED ON A PARTICULAR DAY, HOPING NOT TO IMPACT THE MARKETS. BUT THAT TELLS YOU HOW BIG OF AN IMPACT THIS COULD BE IF WE WOULD SEE THAT WIDESPREAD IN THE STATE.

Northey: YEAH, IT REALLY IS A CONCERN, ESPECIALLY WITH THE MARKETS TIGHT LIKE THEY ARE RIGHT NOW. WE HAVE HIGHER PRICES FOR CORN AND SOYBEANS. AND PRODUCERS -- CERTAINLY IOWA PRODUCERS ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IF THEY'RE GOING TO GROW MORE CORN OR SOYBEANS, AND IT COULD HAVE AN IMPACT.

Yepsen: SO WHAT SHOULD A PRODUCER DO?

Northey: RIGHT NOW THIS INFESTATION, IF WE DO FIND THOSE SPORES IN A FIELD, THAT WILL NOT CREATE AN OUTBREAK THIS NEXT YEAR. STILL IT DOES NOT OVERWINTER INTO IOWA. IT STILL HAS TO COME IN FROM THE SOUTH, SO PRODUCERS NEED TO SCOUT THEIR FIELDS AND BE READY TO BE ABLE TO APPLY IF THEY HAVE THE INFESTATION THIS NEXT YEAR.

Yepsen: ON ANOTHER ISSUE, LOCAL CONTROL IS THE BIG ISSUE IN THE LEGISLATURE. YOU'RE A REPUBLICAN. WHAT'S YOUR POSITION ON THAT?

Northey: WELL, I THINK, YOU KNOW, THERE'S A LOT OF FOLKS ON BOTH PARTIES ON BOTH SIDES OF THAT ISSUE. IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS. I BELIEVE WE NEED STATEWIDE STANDARDS. WE MAY SEE SOME TWEAKING OF THOSE STANDARDS JUST A LITTLE BIT AS FAR AS SETBACKS AND THOSE KINDS OF THINGS, BUT I CERTAINLY DON'T BELIEVE THAT WE WANT TO HAVE A STANDARD THAT VARIES ACROSS COUNTY LINES AND THAT INCLUDES A LOT OF FOLKS THAT ARE MAKING THE DECISION IN THOSE COUNTIES THAT MAYBE DON'T HAVE THE HISTORY OR THE KNOWLEDGE OR THE EXPERTISE TO BE ABLE TO MAKE THOSE DECISIONS.

Yepsen: FAIR ENOUGH. BUT YOU ALSO KNOW THAT THIS ISSUE OF HOG OWNER AND WATER QUALITY IS TEARING UP MUCH OF RURAL IOWA, NEIGHBOR AGAINST NEIGHBOR, COMMUNITIES. PEOPLE DON'T LIKE THIS STENCH. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO DO LOCAL CONTROL, WHAT SORT OF STATEWIDE STANDARDS ARE YOU PREPARED TO PROPOSE IN ORDER TO PUT A STOP TO THIS SMELL?

Northey: CERTAINLY IT'S A LEGISLATIVE DECISION. WE SEE SEVERAL BILLS THAT ARE UP THERE NOW. BOTH HOUSES HAVE SOME BILLS THAT ADDRESS THIS, AND WE'LL SEE WHAT THAT IS. I'M VERY INTERESTED IN MAKING SURE THAT WE CONTINUE TO MAKE PROGRESS ON THE RESEARCH SIDE ON ODOR. REALLY RIGHT NOW THIS IS AN ODOR ISSUE AROUND HOG BUILDINGS TO A GREAT EXTENT. IF YOU TALK TO THE DNR AND OTHERS, IT'S NOT A WATER QUALITY ISSUE. CERTAINLY AROUND HOG BUILDINGS -- IN SOME CASES WE HAVE WATER QUALITY ISSUES AROUND SOME OF THE SMALL LIVESTOCK FACILITIES THAT HAVE BEEN THERE A LONG TIME, THE CATTLE FEEDING FACILITIES. THIS IS REALLY AN ODOR ISSUE. IT'S ABOUT HOW CLOSE YOUR NEIGHBOR AND CAN YOU SMELL IT FROM ANOTHER FARM.

Yepsen: TALK ABOUT THIS RESEARCH THING MORE. WHAT MORE DO WE NEED TO DO IN THIS STATE BY WAY OF RESEARCH? AND SECONDLY, WHERE HAS IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY BEEN ON THIS? THIS ISSUE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG TIME. WE CAN PUT A MAN ON THE MOON, BUT WE CAN'T DO SOMETHING ABOUT HOG ODOR. WHAT ARE YOUR ANSWERS TO THOSE TWO QUESTIONS?

Northey: WELL, I THINK -- YOU KNOW, CERTAINLY IT'S HARDER THAN WE THINK. IT'S NOT AUTOMATIC. I WISH I HAD SOME WAY TO GET HOME FOUR HOURS FROM DES MOINES IN FIFTEEN MINUTES. THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN AUTOMATICALLY EASY. THIS IS NOT EITHER. THERE'S PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD LOOKING AT RESEARCH, AND WE HAVE MADE IMPROVEMENTS. THERE IS SOME TECHNOLOGY THAT FARMERS ARE USING OUT THERE, WHETHER IT'S PUTTING TREES UP, WHETHER IT'S ADDING -- ADDING ADDITIVES TO THEIR MANURE ITSELF, WHETHER IT'S THE WAY THEY PLACE -- WE HAVE SOME TECHNOLOGY ABOUT MODELING AND WHERE -- WHAT NEIGHBOR MIGHT BE IMPACTED. SO WE SEE SOME IMPROVEMENT. THERE'S A LOT OF FOLKS WORKING ON THIS. NOW, THE THINGS THAT ARE ACTUALLY HAPPENING, WE'RE HEARING CERTAINLY THERE'S HALF A MILLION DOLLARS THAT IS SCHEDULED TO GO THIS YEAR TO THE DNR TO BE ABLE TO CONTINUE THEIR AIR QUALITY MONITORING PROGRAM. WE HEAR SOME ADDITIONAL DOLLARS POSSIBLY GOING TO IOWA STATE TO BE ABLE TO LOOK AT RESEARCH INTO THIS. WE'RE MAKING INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS, BUT NO ONE HAS FOUND THE SILVER BULLET, JUST AS WE HAVEN'T FOUND IT ON INDUSTRIAL ODORS AND ODORS IN THE HOME. AND THIS IS -- IT WOULD BE NICE IF WE COULD SNAP OUR FINGERS AND MAKE IT HAPPEN, BUT WE HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO. I THINK WE'RE MAKING SOME PROGRESS. IT'S JUST NOT FAST ENOUGH FOR ANY OF US.

Beck: WELL, IT APPEARS THAT YOU'VE WON THE BATTLE ON LOCAL CONTROL AND THAT THAT WILL NOT HAPPEN IN THE LEGISLATURE THIS YEAR. BUT YOU MENTIONED THE OTHER POSSIBLE TWEAKS, AS YOU CALL IT. YOU'RE LOOKING AT GREATER DISTANCE REQUIREMENTS BETWEEN THESE OPERATIONS -- THESE HOG OPERATIONS AND COMMUNITIES AND TOURIST ATTRACTIONS AND SCHOOLS AND THINGS LIKE THAT, ANY SORT OF CITY RELATED ENTITY AND OTHER HOUSES, EVEN OTHER HOG OPERATIONS THEMSELVES ALSO REQUIRING SMALLER PRODUCERS TO FILE MANURE MANAGEMENT PLANS, PRODUCERS THAT HAVEN'T HAD TO FILE WITH THE DNR IN THE PAST. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THOSE PROVISIONS? ARE THOSE ACCEPTABLE SINCE YOU'RE NOT GOING TO HAVE TO DO LOCAL CONTROL?

Northey: WELL, I THINK IT DEPENDS AND I HAVEN'T ACTUALLY SEEN ALL THE NUMBERS ON THOSE OR THE ACTUAL IMPACT, YOU KNOW, HOW MANY ACRES DOES THAT TAKE OUT OF POSSIBLE PRODUCTION AREAS. I KNOW THEY'RE STARTING TO TRY TO DEVELOP THOSE NUMBERS. YOU'VE GOT TO MAKE THOSE DECISIONS WITH SOME ANALYSIS AND FIGURE OUT WHAT THAT DOES TO -- YOU KNOW, MOST OF THOSE AREAS ARE STILL AREAS WE WANT TO PROTECT BECAUSE OF THE WATER QUALITY CONCERN. AND WE CAN DO THAT WITH EXISTING REGULATIONS. WE HAVE SETBACKS THAT ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN. THE CONCERN IS ABOUT ODOR. THERE CERTAINLY IS SOME ODOR MONITORING THAT CAN BE DONE TO BE ABLE TO HELP WITH THAT.

Beck: SO YOU DON'T THINK A GREATER DISTANCE REQUIREMENT WILL HELP WITH ODOR, NECESSARILY?

Northey: WELL, IT CAN, BUT IT ALSO CAN END UP TAKING AN AWFUL LOT OF POTENTIAL AREAS TO BUILD AN OPERATION, ESPECIALLY IF A FAMILY FARMER THAT OWNS THE LAND IN ONE CERTAIN AREA. IF YOU'VE GOT A NEIGHBOR, ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU HAVE NO CHANCE OF BEING ABLE TO GROW THAT OPERATION IF YOU EXTEND THOSE DISTANCES TOO MUCH. SO I WOULD LIKE TO BE ABLE TO SEE THE IMPACT. WE HAVEN'T SPENT A LOT OF TIME OVER THERE. CERTAINLY LEGISLATORS FEEL VERY STRONGLY, AND THEY'RE WORKING ON IT AND ADDRESSING IT.

Borg: IT OCCURS TO ME THAT -- YOU KNOW, I MENTIONED, INTRODUCING YOU, YOU'RE FROM THE SPIRIT LAKE AREA, THAT YOU KNOW THE IMPACT OF TOURIST DOLLARS COMING IN THERE. SHOULD THERE BE SPECIAL PROTECTIONS FOR TOURIST AREAS LIKE THAT, RECREATIONAL LAKES AND SO ON? I KNOW THERE WAS A CASE AROUND THE CLEAR LAKE AREA THAT INVOLVED A LIVESTOCK CONFINEMENT OPERATION THAT OBJECTORS SAID IT'S TOO CLOSE TO THIS RECREATIONAL FACILITY.

Northey: YEAH, ONE OF THE PIECES OF LEGISLATION REALLY ADDRESSES THOSE AREAS. YOU KNOW, AND IT MAKES SOME SENSE. THE HARD PART IS HOW DO YOU PUT IN LAW SUCH THAT IT DOESN'T END UP RESTRICTING LOTS OF AREAS THAT DON'T MAKE AS MUCH SENSE. I GUESS LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS, MANY FOLKS WILL SAY, HEY, WE DON'T WANT TO BUILD IN THAT KIND OF AREA, AND WE DON'T SEE HARDLY ANY CONSTRUCTION GOING INTO THOSE AREAS BECAUSE IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY MAKE SENSE FOR A PRODUCER TO GO THERE. BUT TO ACTUALLY THEN ESTABLISH THE LAW THAT YOU HAVE TO BE SO MANY MILES AWAY FROM THAT AND THEN, THEREFORE, SO MANY MILES AWAY FROM ANY OTHER TOWN THAT HAS AN IMPACT, THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN START RESTRICTING IT SO MUCH THAT YOU END UP WITH HARDLY ANY PLACES LEFT TO BE ABLE TO PUT AN OPERATION.

Yepsen: EXCUSE ME, MR. SECRETARY, NOBODY IS TALKING TO ABOUT RESTRICTING THAT STATEWIDE. THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT LAKE OKOBOJI AND RATHBUN AND VARIOUS MAJOR TOURISM DESTINATION SPOTS. ISN'T LAKE OKOBOJI AS A TOURISM DESTINATION WORTH MORE TO IOWA'S ECONOMY THAN HOG CONFINEMENTS UP THERE?

Northey: YOU KNOW, WE NEED BOTH. WE CERTAINLY DO. I THINK IN THAT AREA, WE DON'T HAVE HARDLY ANY LIVESTOCK LEFT IN THE WATERSHED OF LAKE OKOBOJI.

Yepsen: WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?

Northey: I THINK THAT'S OKAY. I DO THINK THERE ARE AN AWFUL LOT OF OPERATIONS THAT ARE EXISTING JUST FINE, DOING A GREAT JOB, NOT HAVING WATER QUALITY PROBLEMS, NOT HAVING SMELL PROBLEMS IN THAT -- IN THAT AREA FOR THE LAST FIFTY YEARS. AND IT HAS GROWN ALL THE TIME THAT THOSE OPERATIONS HAVE BEEN THERE. I THINK THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO MAKE SURE THOSE OPERATIONS ARE DOING A GOOD JOB. AND JUST BY DISTANCES, WE DON'T NECESSARILY BE ABLE TO MAKE SURE THAT THOSE PRODUCERS ARE DOING A GOOD JOB THAT ARE OUT THERE.

Yepsen: WHY DON'T WE DO MORE IN THIS STATE WITH WASTE TREATMENT? GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZES ALL KINDS OF BUSINESSES. WHY CAN'T -- WHY SHOULDN'T THE STATE GOVERNMENT SAY WE WANT TO HAVE A HOG INDUSTRY, WE CAN'T STAND ALL THIS ODOR IN THE STATE, SO WE'RE GOING TO HELP PRODUCERS INSTALL SMALL MANURE MANAGEMENT PLANS AND TECHNOLOGY, DIGESTORS AND TREATMENT PLANTS RIGHT THERE ON THEIR PROPERTY TO TRY TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM, BUILD LIDS OVER THESE THINGS, LET TECHNOLOGY SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?

Northey: WE'RE SEEING SOME OF THAT. WE'RE CERTAINLY SEEING SOME AREAS THAT ARE LOOKING AT DIGESTORS. RIGHT NOW THAT MANURE IS VERY VALUABLE. WE ACTUALLY DO RECYCLE IT THAT WAY. WE HOLD IT IN THAT FACILITY. WE HAVE WALLS THERE THAT WE INSPECT TO MAKE SURE THERE'S NO CRACKS. THAT'S HELD UNTIL WE CAN USE IT AS FERTILIZER ON THE LANDS. WE'RE DOING EXACTLY WHAT IT IS. AND IN FACT, IN COMPARISON TO EUROPE OR OTHER AREAS THAT HAVE INSTITUTED DIGESTORS, THEY HAVE DONE IT BECAUSE THE MANURE BECOMES A WASTE PRODUCT AND A BLOW VALUE. HERE IT'S STILL VERY VALUABLE AS A FERTILIZER, AND SO IT'S HARD TO JUSTIFY USING IT TO PRODUCE ENERGY WHEN IT'S SO VALUABLE TO APPLY IT AS FERTILIZER.

Beck: YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU ARE DRIVING HOME TO SPIRIT LAKE, DO YOU -- AND YOU TALK TO PRODUCERS -- I KNOW YOU GO TO A LOT OF CHICKEN DINNERS LIKE EVERY OTHER POLITICIAN IN THE STATE. DO YOU WORRY, THOUGH, THAT IF THIS MANURE IS SO VALUABLE -- I'VE TALKED TO PRODUCERS WHO CAN'T SELL IT OR THEY GO TO APPLY IT TO THEIR OWN FARMLAND AS A FERTILIZER. BUT ARE THEY APPLYING IT AT THE RIGHT TIMES OF THE YEAR? WE HEAR ABOUT RUNOFF AS WE'RE MELTING RIGHT NOW AND WE'VE HAD THAT SNOWMELT. I MEAN ARE YOU MAKING THE CASE TO THEM THAT THEY HAVE TO BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT THIS?

Northey: ABSOLUTELY. AND THEY ARE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT IT. I MEAN THE FERTILIZER ITSELF, THE FERTILIZER VALUE IS TWICE WHAT IT WAS ABOUT TWO OR THREE YEARS AGO, SO THERE'S AN INCREASED NEED FOR THEM TO BE CAREFUL. REALLY, 99 PERCENT OF THE FOLKS ARE DOING A GREAT JOB, AND ONE OF THE CHALLENGES IS HOW DO YOU WRITE RULES, EVEN A MANURE MANAGEMENT PLAN MAYBE THAT THICK AND THE PRODUCER SPENT DOZENS OF HOURS AND DNR EMPLOYEES SPENT MANY, MANY HOURS LOOKING OVER THAT. YOU DON'T FIND THAT SPILL IN A MANURE MANAGEMENT PLANT. YOU FIND IT OUT ON THE FARM AND IT ONLY OCCURS ONCE IN A WHILE, BUT EVERY PRODUCER HAS TO GO THROUGH THAT PROCESS OF PRODUCING.

Yepsen: BUT, MR. SECRETARY, WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT? I MEAN YOU HAVE ONE BAD DOCTOR WHO CAUSES PROBLEMS FOR EVERYBODY ELSE BECAUSE THE STATE COMES IN AND HAS TO WRITE REGULATIONS FOR EVERYBODY ELSE. SO IF YOU'VE GOT ONE BAD HOG PRODUCER OUT THERE AND THE STATE HAS TO WRITE SOME REGULATIONS TO REGULATE THE WHOLE INDUSTRY, WHAT'S SO TERRIBLE ABOUT THAT?

Northey: NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING REGULATED. I THINK PEOPLE WANT TO BE ABLE TO PUT THOSE FACILITIES IN THE RIGHT SPOT. THE KEY IS DOES THAT REGULATION HELP YOU FIND THAT BAD ACTOR AND DOES THAT REGULATION HELP YOU GET THAT BAD ACTOR, OR DOES IT JUST MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE PILE OF PAPER AND YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE REGULATING.

Yepsen: JUST SO WE'RE NOT PICKING SOLELY ON HOG PRODUCERS HERE, I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT THE BEEF CATTLE INDUSTRY. I SEE A LOT OF BEEF LOTS BUILT ON HILLSIDES. IT'S GREAT WHEN IT RAINS, YOU KNOW. IT WASHES IT RIGHT DOWN TO THOSE GUYS. WHAT DO WE DO TO PREVENT BEEF PRODUCERS FROM JEOPARDIZING WATERWAYS THAT WAY?

Northey: THE NEW YARDS RIGHT NOW CAN'T DO THAT -- CAN'T DO THAT THAT WAY. IF YOU'RE A PERMIT YARD RIGHT NOW, YOU HAVE TO HAVE A HUNDRED PERCENT CONTAINMENT. AND THOSE NEW YARDS THAT ARE GOING INTO WESTERN IOWA, SOME OF THEM ARE GOING ALL UNDER ROOF. THEY CERTAINLY HAVE TO HAVE BURNS AND OTHER KINDS OF WAYS TO HAVE A HUNDRED PERCENT CONTAINMENT. OUR CHALLENGE IS, ESPECIALLY SMALLER, OLDER YARDS -- THESE ARE YARDS THAT HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR THIRTY OR FORTY OR FIFTY YEARS, SET UP WHEN WE HAD A DIFFERENT SET OF PRIORITIES -- HOW DO WE GET TO THOSE? HOW DO WE MAKE SURE THAT WE CREATE SOME KIND OF SYSTEM THAT HOLDS THAT MANURE THERE BUT ISN'T SO EXPENSIVE THAT IT RUNS EVERY ONE OF THOSE OUT OF BUSINESS?

Northey: AND WHAT'S YOUR OWN ANSWER TO YOUR OWN QUESTION?

Northey: WELL, THERE IS SOME ALTERATIVE TECHNOLOGY THAT'S BEING TRIED. I JUST WAS AT AN EVENT THAT LOOKED AT SOME OF THIS ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY THAT, RATHER THAN A LAGOON, YOU ACTUALLY SET IT UP LIKE A TREATMENT PLANT AND HAVE VEGETATIVE GROWTH, YOU RUN THE WATER THROUGH THAT, YOU MAYBE RUN IT THROUGH THE SOIL, TILE WATER OUT THE BOTTOM. THERE'S SOME OF THESE THINGS THAT ARE BEING TRIED. THEY'RE SLOW. THEY'RE HARD TO SNAP YOUR FINGERS AND MAKE THEM HAPPEN.

Yepsen: I WANT TO SWITCH GEARS AND TALK ABOUT ETHANOL IF WE COULD. EVERYBODY IN IOWA IS FOR ETHANOL, LIKE MOTHERHOOD, APPLE PIE, AND THE FLAG. WHAT MORE CAN WE DO TO PROMOTE THIS PRODUCT? WHEN I SAY WE, I MEAN THE STATE GOVERNMENT. AND SECONDLY, WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING TO GET IN THIS GAME OF CELLULOSIC ETHANOL?

Northey: IN ETHANOL WE'RE GOING TO SEE -- RIGHT NOW IT LOOKS LIKE WE'RE GOING TO HAVE ABOUT A DOUBLING OF THE ETHANOL PRODUCTION IN THIS STATE AND NATIONALLY IN THE NEXT 18 TO 24 MONTHS, SO WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A LOT OF ETHANOL. WE'VE GOT TO MAKE SURE WE'VE GOT PLACES TO GO WITH IT. SO WE CAN USE A LITTLE BIT MORE HERE IN THE STATE AND WE CAN GET SOME MORE E85 PUMPS AND WE CAN GET SOME MORE FLEX FUELED VEHICLES. WE NEED TO DO THAT. BUT WE ALSO NEED TO MAKE SURE WE'RE MARKETING IT OUTSIDE OF IOWA. THIS IS MORE THAN WE WILL USE -- MORE THAN WE CAN POSSIBLY USE IN IOWA. SO PART OF THE DISCUSSION -- WE'RE WORKING WITH SOME OF THE OTHER SECRETARIES AND TALK ABOUT HOW DO WE PROMOTE THIS OUTSIDE THE STATE AND MAKE SURE THAT THOSE AREAS THAT AREN'T NECESSARILY USING ETHANOL NOW START USING ETHANOL.

Beck: AND DAVID MENTIONED CELLULOSIC ETHANOL. I MEAN WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT IT ISN'T ONLY CORN GROWN IN IOWA THAT CAN BE TURNED INTO THIS PRODUCT, RIGHT, THAT THERE ARE OTHER USES FOR THE STALKS AND THE LEAVES AND OTHER EVEN MAYBE GRAIN PRODUCTS.

Northey: RIGHT NOW WE'RE USING THE STARCH OUT OF THE CORN TO PRODUCE THE ETHANOL, VERY EASY, STRAIGHTFORWARD. BUGS LOVE THE STARCH. THEY PRODUCE ETHANOL AND YOU HAVE A CORN PRODUCT WHEN YOU GET DONE. YOU TALK ABOUT CELLULOSE, YOU'RE GOING TO BE PRODUCING IT WITH THAT STALK, WITH THAT TRUNK OF THE TREE. THESE ARE THINGS THAT IT TAKES A WHOLE DIFFERENT BUG TO EAT THAT. IT'S NOT AUTOMATIC. IT'S ALSO -- WE VERY USED TO HANDLING CORN. IT'S VERY EASY TO MOVE IT, TO STORE IT, TO SELL IT IF YOU'VE GOT TOO MUCH OF IT, TO BUY SOME MORE IF YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH OF IT. CELLULOSE IS DIFFERENT. WE DON'T HAVE A MARKET THE SAME WAY. WE DON'T KNOW HOW TO HANDLE IT. SO WE WILL SEE SOME ADDITIONAL DOLLARS GO TO THAT CONVERSION PROCESS IN FIGURING OUT HOW TO CONVERT CELLULOSE INTO ETHANOL. WE'RE ALSO SEEING A LOT OF WORK INTO THE INFRASTRUCTURE PROCESS: HOW DO WE GROW IT; WHAT'S A RESPONSIBLE WAY TO MAKE SURE THAT WE DON'T CAUSE ADDITIONAL EROSION, ESPECIALLY IF WE'RE USING CORN STALKS; HOW DO WE PACK IT; HOW DO WE STORE IT; HOW DO WE -- HOW DO WE MAKE SURE THAT WE HAVE AN EFFECTIVE PRODUCTION SYSTEM FOR CELLULOSE?

Borg: AS WE LOOK AT LAND PRICES, BECAUSE OF THE CORN PRICE ZOOMING BECAUSE OF DEMAND FOR ETHANOL AND LIVESTOCK FEEDING, ARE YOU WORRIED THAT $3,000 LAND MAYBE TWO YEARS AGO MIGHT GO TO $9,000 -- CERTAINLY IT'S ALMOST DOUBLED NOW; IT COULD TRIPLE ACCORDING TO SOME EXPERTS WITHIN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS -- THAT THAT'S GOING TO DRIVE INDIVIDUAL FARMERS OUT OF BUSINESS BECAUSE THEY'RE -- IF THEY'VE GOT $9,000-AN-ACRE LAND, THEY'LL SELL TO A CORPORATION?

Northey: WELL, YOU KNOW, IT'S AN INTERESTING DYNAMIC. I FARMED THROUGH THE '80S. I FARMED THROUGH THE TIME NOW. IN THE '80S WE HAD LAND GETTING CHEAPER. THAT WOULD MAKE SOME MORE OPPORTUNITY FOR PRODUCERS. THE REASON IT GOT CHEAPER IS BECAUSE WE WERE HAVING A HARD TIME MAKING ANY MONEY, AND THAT ISN'T A SOLUTION. WE KNOW. WE'VE TRIED THAT. IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT IT'S EASY RIGHT NOW, BUT THESE LAND PRICES ARE GOING UP BECAUSE IT'S MORE PROFITABLE TO FARM, AT LEAST WE EXPECT THAT IT WILL BE BECAUSE WE EXPECT THE PRICES TO BE THERE. AND WE AS PRODUCERS ARE THE ONES OUT THERE PAYING MORE FOR IT. IT DOESN'T MEAN IT'S EASY. IT DOESN'T MEAN IT'S EASY FOR A YOUNG FARMER TO GET STARTED, BUT AT LEAST THERE ARE PROFITS THERE. THERE'S PROFITS THAT WE'RE CHASING. THIS IS A GOOD THING, CERTAINLY MUCH BETTER THAN THE OTHER. IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT IT'S EASY. IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT IT'S AUTOMATIC TO GET FOLKS STARTED. IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT EVERYBODY WILL BENEFIT FROM IT. THOSE OTHER CORN USERS THAT ARE BUYING $4 CORN TO FEED LIVESTOCK, YOU KNOW, ARE CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS AS WELL, BUT AT LEAST IT'S PROFITABLE. IT'S CREATING JOBS IN OUR SMALL TOWNS. IT'S CREATING DEMAND FOR OUR CORN.

Beck: WELL, ONE OF THE MANY DOWN SIDES OR CONCERNS AS THE ETHANOL INDUSTRY GROWS IN IOWA IS DEMAND FOR WATER OR, SOMEONE JOKED TO ME THE OTHER DAY WHEN THEY HEARD ABOUT SOYBEAN RUST, 'DON'T WORRY, NO ONE IS GOING TO PLANT SOYBEANS ANYWAY BECAUSE THE COST OF CORN -- THE PRICE OF CORN IS SO HIGH.' SO DO YOU WORRY ABOUT CONTINUOUS PLANTING, AND IS THAT BAD FOR THE SOIL? DO YOU WORRY ABOUT DO WE HAVE ENOUGH WATER IN THE STATE? I MEAN WHAT DOES YOUR DEPARTMENT DO TO LOOK INTO THOSE THINGS?

Northey: THERE WILL BE -- THERE'S SOME EFFORTS THIS YEAR. THERE'S CERTAINLY EFFORTS TO FUND A STUDY TO LOOK AT WATER QUANTITY USE, THAT THE DNR WOULD CONDUCT A STUDY TO LOOK AT THAT, SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE OF THE GROWTH IN ETHANOL. AND THEY'LL LOOK AT ALL THE DEMAND, BUT CERTAINLY LOOK AT ETHANOL GROWTH AS WELL. WE WILL SEE PROBABLY A COUPLE MILLION ACRES THAT WAS GOING TO BE SOYBEANS THIS YEAR GO TO CORN. SO LAST YEAR WE HAD ABOUT 12 MILLION ACRES OF CORN, 10 MILLION ACRES OF SOYBEANS. THIS YEAR WE COULD HAVE 2 MILLION ACRES OF THOSE SOYBEANS ACRES BE CORN, SO IT COULD BE 14 MILLION TO 8 MILLION. WE'LL STILL HAVE A LOT OF SOYBEANS. CERTAINLY RUST MATTERS TO US AND THAT PRODUCTION MATTERS. BUT WE'LL HAVE MORE CORN, AND IT'S BECAUSE OF THAT CORN DEMAND.

Beck: AND WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR FERTILIZER APPLICATION OR SOIL EROSION? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Northey: I THINK SOIL EROSION -- ONE OF THE THINGS THAT CORN DOES IS IT PRODUCES A LOT OF ORGANIC MATTER THAT SITS THERE ON THE SOIL. AS LONG AS YOU DON'T TILL IT -- AS LONG AS YOU DON'T TILL IT SO THAT IT'S BLACK, YOU HAVE A GREAT COVER TO BE ABLE TO HOLD THE SOIL IN PLACE. YOU HAVE THE SAME -- SAME ISSUES THAT YOU DO IN REGULAR FARMING. IF SOMEBODY IS DOING IT RIGHT AND KEEPING THAT ORGANIC MATTER THERE, YOU'RE JUST FINE AS FAR AS SOIL EROSION. IT WILL TAKE SOME MORE FERTILIZER. WE DO HAVE PROBABLY MORE BUSHELS OF CORN COMING OUT OF THOSE FIELDS. WE'VE GOT TO MOVE IT. WE'VE GOT TO HAVE ENOUGH TRUCKS TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT. WE'VE GOT TO HAVE GRAIN BINS OUT THERE. WE'VE GOT TO HAVE GOOD ROADS TO BE ABLE TO GO TO THE ETHANOL PLANT. SO THERE ARE SOME ISSUES THAT IT BRINGS UP THAT WE DIDN'T USED TO HAVE.

Yepsen: MR. SECRETARY, WE ALWAYS TALK POLITICS ON THIS PROGRAM WITH OUR GUESTS, SO I'M GOING TO ASK YOU A FEW QUESTIONS. YOU WERE -- THE '06 ELECTION WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR FOR DEMOCRATS. YOU WERE ONE OF THE FEW REPUBLICANS WHO WON. WHY?

Northey: WELL, YOU KNOW, I THINK WE JUST -- WE TRAVELED THE STATE, WORKED VERY, VERY HARD AT IT. PUT ON 90,000 MILES DRIVING AROUND THE STATE FOR 18 MONTHS. OUR RACE WAS NOT A PARTISAN KIND OF RACE. CERTAINLY EVERY RACE IS TO SOME EXTENT, BUT WE TALKED A LOT ABOUT DIFFERENT VIEWS THAT EACH OF THE CANDIDATES HAD ABOUT AGRICULTURE AND WHERE WE WANTED TO GO AND THE OPPORTUNITIES AROUND RENEWABLE ENERGY. AND SO IN SOME WAYS I THINK OUR RACE KIND OF TRANSCENDED THE REPUBLICAN/DEMOCRAT SPLIT A LITTLE BIT. WE HAD A LOT OF DEMOCRATS THAT WERE SUPPORTING US AND TOLD US THEY WERE SUPPORTING US. THEY THOUGHT THAT WE HAD THE RIGHT VISION, AND I THINK YOU CAN SEE SOME OF THAT ON THE HILL. YOU HAVE THE SAME STORIES COMING OUT OF THE REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS IN REGARD TO AGRICULTURE. YOU NEED TO INVEST IN RENEWABLE ENERGY. CERTAINLY THE NEED TO DO THINGS RIGHT IN THE LIVESTOCK INDUSTRY AS WELL. SO, YOU KNOW, I THINK WE'RE ABLE TO SEPARATE SOME FROM THAT WAVE AND JUST HAVE OUR WAYS BE A LITTLE DIFFERENT.

Yepsen: WHAT LESSONS IN YOUR RACE ARE THERE FOR OTHER REPUBLICANS? HOW DO YOU -- HOW DID YOU GET PEOPLE WHO WERE VOTING FOR CHET CULVER TO THEN SWITCH AND VOTE FOR YOU? WHAT LESSONS ARE THERE FOR OTHER REPUBLICANS IN THIS?

Northey: WELL, YOU KNOW, I THINK IT'S -- THERE'S SOME SIMPLE THINGS AND THEN THERE'S A LOT OF COMPLEX THINGS. EVERY RACE IS DIFFERENT. EVERY RACE IS A FUNCTION OF ITS OWN PERSONALITIES. IN THAT RACE IT'S A RACE OF WHERE YOU'RE RUNNING FROM AND WHAT DISTRICT IT IS THAT YOU'RE IN AND THE PERSONALITY AROUND THAT RACE. FOR US, FOR A STATEWIDE RACE THIS LAST TIME, IT FELT VERY, VERY IMPORTANT TO GET AROUND AND MEET PERSONALLY LOTS AND LOTS OF PEOPLE, MEET IN THE PRESS LOTS AND LOTS OF PEOPLE, AND TALK ABOUT OUR VISION AND THE OPPORTUNITY THAT WE HAVE IN RENEWABLE ENERGY. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE NEXT DYNAMIC WILL BE IN TWO YEARS AND IN FOUR YEARS. THAT -- EACH RACE AGAIN WILL HAVE ITS OWN DYNAMIC. I CAN CERTAINLY WORK HARD AND GET THE WORD OUT.

Beck: MEETING ALL THOSE PEOPLE, YOU MIGHT HAVE LAID THE GROUNDWORK FOR SOMETHING IN THE FUTURE. DO YOU HAVE OTHER INTENTIONS? DO YOU WANT TO BE GOVERNOR SOMEDAY? MAYBE A CONGRESSMAN IN THIS STATE? SENATOR?

Northey: RIGHT NOW I REALLY AM SO FOCUSED ON -- I'M TWO AND A HALF MONTHS INTO A FOUR-YEAR TERM. I'VE GOT PLENTY OF TIME TO LET THE FUTURE TAKE CARE OF ITSELF. BUT WE'RE GETTING OUT TO THE COUNTIES. WE'RE TRYING TO BE ABLE TO HEAR WHAT FOLKS' CONCERNS ARE, BUT OUR FOCUS IS STRICTLY ON BEING SECRETARY OF AG.

Yepsen: YOU'RE GOING TO VISIT ALL 99 COUNTIES?

Northey: WE ARE.

Yepsen: EVERY YEAR?

Northey: WELL, THIS YEAR ANYWAY. WE'LL BE IN -- WE CERTAINLY LOOK TO BE ABLE TO DO IT IN THE FUTURE, BUT RIGHT NOW WE'RE ACTUALLY HAVING A LISTENING SESSION IN EVERY COUNTY.

Yepsen: AND YOU'RE TELLING US YOU'RE NOT GOING TO RUN FOR HIGHER OFFICE? [ LAUGHTER ]

Northey: THERE MIGHT BE A SECRETARY OF AG RACE AGAIN TOO SOMEDAY. [ LAUGHTER ]

Borg: DOES THAT -- DOES THAT GIVE YOU TIME TO RIDE THE TRACTOR, THEN?

Northey: WELL, I HOPE SO. IN FACT, WE'RE TAKING MAY OFF SO THAT I CAN BE ABLE TO GET HOME AND RIDE THE TRACTOR. SO WE WON'T BE HAVING TOWN HALL MEETINGS IN MAY.

Yepsen: REAL QUICKLY, ARE YOU GOING TO ENDORSE ANYBODY FOR PRESIDENT ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE?

Northey: I DON'T THINK THAT I PROBABLY WILL.

Borg: THANK YOU, MR. NORTHEY.

Northey: THANK YOU.

Borg: ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS,' WE'LL ANALYZE THE CURRENT LEGISLATIVE SESSION AND THE PARADE OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES THROUGH IOWA. IOWA POLITICAL JOURNALISTS PROVIDING THEIR INSIGHTS DURING OUR REGULAR TIMES: 7:30 FRIDAY NIGHT; 11.30 SUNDAY MORNING. SO AS I SAID, NEXT WEEK WE'RE BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAM TIMES, BECAUSE RIGHT NOW WE'RE IN THE FINAL WEEK OF OUR ANNUAL FRIENDS FESTIVAL. AND THIS IS IMMENSELY IMPORTANT TO US. WE WANT YOU TO KNOW JUST HOW MUCH WE'VE APPRECIATED AND, FOR THAT MATTER, DEPENDED UPON YOUR PAST SUPPORT. 'IOWA PRESS' COULDN'T HAVE CONTINUED FOR SOME 35 YEARS NOW WITHOUT YOU, BUT THE NEED FOR YOUR SUPPORT IS ONGOING, AND ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE A NEW VIEWER. SIMPLY STATED, WITHOUT YOUR PLEDGES THERE WOULD BE NO 'IOWA PRESS' OR ANY OTHER LOCAL PROGRAMMING HERE AT IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. YOUR CALL IS ESSENTIAL. AND IT'S NOT STRETCHING A POINT TO SAY IT'S AN INVESTMENT IN IOWA'S FUTURE. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.


Tags: agriculture Iowa politics