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Why should you care who the Secretary of Agriculture is in Iowa if you don’t live here?  

Do you want locally-grown healthy food at your local supermarket?  Do you avoid meat and dairy products that are saturated with hormones and antibiotics, or do you buy them because the alternatives are three times the price?  Iowa has the most prime farmland, grows the most corn and soybeans, has the most hogs and chickens, and has the most influence on agricultural policy of any state.  We Iowans have led the country in industrialized agriculture, to the detriment of our air, our water, and our warming planet.  And unlike Las Vegas, what happens in Iowa doesn’t stay in Iowa.

Francis Thicke wants to change all that.  Thicke is a Democrat, PhD, organic dairy farmer, educator, and innovative passionate advocate for sustainable, environmentally-sound agricultural practices.  If Francis is elected, it will be a cause for hope for consumers who would like their food without a side of chemicals and lethal bacteria, and for supporters of sustainable agriculture and alternative energy.  

Hope and change.  It started here.  

More below.

One way Iowa has outsize influence on agriculture is through its influence in Washington.  What we do here is the leading edge for what happens in every other state, because of what we grow, because Tom Harkin represents us on the Senate Agriculture Committee, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is USDA Secretary, Chuck "pull the plug on Grandma" Grassley is on the Senate Finance Committee, and Iowa is listened to. Iowa influences agriculture nation-wide through federal policy, regulation and spending, and through the many Iowans who are in government.  

Farmers and state agricultural officials look to Iowa to lead the way in developing standards, practices and regulation.  The USDA looks to the states for model programs to share with other states and to use as a model for federal policy.  

If we elect a progressive Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa, we have a voice that will be heard in D.C. as well as Des Moines.  A voice who says things like this:

We can diversify our cropping systems to make them more resilient and less reliant on oil-based inputs. We can also grow more of the food we eat right here in Iowa to enhance our economy, food security, health and environment.

New technologies are now being developed that will allow farmers to produce biofuels on the farm, using sustainable cropping systems. It’s time to refocus Iowa’s investments in biofuels development to bring these technologies on line so we can make Iowa farms more energy self-sufficient, put more biofuel profits in farmers’ pockets, and increase landscape diversity and resilience.

Consumers are increasingly seeking locally grown foods for their taste, freshness and nutritional value—and to support local farmers. We can take steps to accelerate the development of local food systems in Iowa.

We need to recognize and pursue these and other opportunities to create a more profitable, resilient and stable agriculture and food system in Iowa.

Francis believes that we need to plan for, and create, an agriculture that is resilient, energy self-sufficient, humane, profitable for farmers, and supportive of rural communities.  He walks the talk on his dairy farm, putting his ideas about farm-based alternative energy, sustainable practices, and humane livestock operations into practice.  He also leaves the farm to give talks on sustainable agriculture, warnabout market concentration, serve on state boards and commissions, and testify to congressional committees.  

If Francis is elected, corporate industrial agribusiness will no longer have a death grip on state regulation.  The state will support initiatives to help farmers understand how to change and become more profitable while lessening the impact of farming practices on the environment.

Naturally the big industrial agriculture cartels that control most of what you eat are not fans of change, or of Francis Thicke.  They will give generously to his opponent, a man whose eyes sparkle as he brags about Iowa's status as the factory farm capital of the world.  

We're not only number one in corn, soybean and hog production, we're also number one in egg production in this state.  In fact we have one farm, up in north-central Iowa, that produces all the eggs for all the McDonalds west of the Mississippi, including Hawaii and Guam.  This is one farm, that has two and a half million layers, that produce a million eggs a day, for the egg mcmuffins, the breakfast burritos, and a million eggs a day for the liquid eggs.  And that one farm produces all the eggs.  We have two and a half million layers at that farm, we have 57 and a half million other layers in this state.

What he doesn't mention is that those 57 million hapless birds spend their entire short wretched lives in teeny wire cages, their manure is a threat to water quality, and  they have to be fed antibiotics to keep them from dying.  We can do better than that.  

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Francis is on ActBlue and
Disclosure:  I am a Thicke supporter, donor, volunteer, and shameless fan.  I asked him to write about his ideas here.  He not only wrote and posted a diary that made the rec list, but he stayed for a great extended dialogue about agriculture and alternative energy in the comments.  Did you know that a member of our community owns a sheep dairy? Worth a read.

One of the ladies of Radiance Dairy, with her new calf.  It's a lovely spring here.

Originally posted to 2laneIA on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 06:21 AM PDT.

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