Mike Naig speaking at event

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Ag policy issues beginning to ‘bear fruit’

March 14, 2024 | Kriss Nelson

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig updated state policy affecting agriculture during an Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and Cargill Farmer Roundtable held last week in Fort Dodge.

From water quality to farmland ownership restrictions, many policies that have been in discussions over the past couple of years are starting to “bear fruit,” according to Naig.

Farm ground ownership

Iowa has been leading the pack with its model of existing laws concerning foreign ownership of farm ground.

“I give credit to Governor Ray and legislators that put the law into place foreign entities cannot own farmland to raise crops in Iowa,” says Naig. “We do not want foreign entities competing with farmers.”

Currently, Iowa’s law says foreign owners can purchase up to 320 acres of farmland but must convert it to other uses, such as industrial, within five years.

The legislation passed earlier this year enhances the transparency and disclosure surrounding farm ownership.

“This gives Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird the tools she needs to determine whether or not there has been a violation of Iowa law and increases penalties for those who may want to test our laws,” says Naig.

Priorities around conservation and foreign animal disease

Naig says the second half of the legislative session focuses on budgets.

“The budgets begin to take shape, and one of our priorities is to continue our strong work around water quality and soil conservation,” he says.

There is also a request to continue to support work toward foreign animal disease prevention and response to such diseases as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), African swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease.

Building markets

Naig has set building markets for Iowa’s commodities as a priority, noting the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program set a record last quarter by awarding 73 ethanol cost-share grants.

“Iowa has the greatest biofuels industry in the country. We make a lot of products, but if they don’t end up in fuel tanks, we have not successfully completed that supply chain,” says Naig. “Making this cost share available is critically important.”

Choose Iowa

The Choose Iowa campaign, Naig says continues to be a priority.

Choose Iowa’s vision is to connect consumers to Iowa produce and food products and expand markets for Iowa farmers.

“We will continue to promote Iowa-grown, Iowa-made, and Iowa-raised products at an international, domestic, and local level, and we will ask our legislators to help us with that,” says Naig.

Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy has been in place for a decade, and the focus is shifting to the next 10 years when scaling up and accelerating the progress of conservation practices will be the goal.

“Farmers are doers. It is not because of us or the government. It is because you said yes to conservation and got it done,” says Naig. We need to do more. We are setting records and implementing conservation at a pace that has never been done before. Now, let’s challenge ourselves to go to the next level, and I think we are poised to do that.”