WATERLOO — Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig was the guest speaker for the Waterloo Rotary Club’s Rural Urban Day luncheon on Monday.
He discussed the current state of agriculture in Iowa along with some of the challenges facing it. Having returned from a trip to South Korea and Japan, Naig explained that overseas trade remains strong, with Iowa being No. 2 in the nation in regards to value of exported goods.
“California is No. 1, Iowa is No. 2,” he said. “How many people live in California? Thirty-three million people. How many people live in Iowa? 3.3 million. I think we’re doing alright.”
As far as the issues facing Iowa farmers, Naig listed many of the same problems plaguing other industries, including inflation and snags in the supply chain. However, he identified the workforce shortage as the biggest threat to the agricultural sector.
People are also reading…
“I still think perhaps the most important issue that we will deal with in the coming years will still remain the work that has to be done around people – the people that it takes to do the work of agriculture,” Naig said. “We need more people working, we need more people working in agriculture and we need more people in Iowa.”
Naig also spoke on the new “Choose Iowa” initiative aimed at promoting and marketing locally grown produce. The federal farm bill was an additional topic of discussion, including how both U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-California) want it passed.
“In all seriousness, I believe we will have a farm bill this calendar year. I don’t think we’ll have it by the end of September – there’s a lot that has to get done – but I think we’ll have it by the end of the calendar year.”
Naig explained that farm bills usually have bipartisan support, which will be especially important now with Republicans in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. After speaking, Naig took time to answer questions from the audience, with topics ranging from immigration to CO2 pipelines and eminent domain.
On the latter topic, Naig expressed hesitation about invoking eminent domain in large amounts. But he said that the reduction of carbon emissions is now a part of the conversation, whatever the impact the pipelines may have, noting that it was brought up by potential Korean and Japanese investors.
“Whether you like it or not, or agree with it or not, that whole conversation about carbon intensity and agriculture is happening – and it’s not all government-driven,” Naig said. “Some of it is very much private sector/market-driven.”