Countdown to Victory: 8 Days
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, one of the most powerful voices in American agriculture as the chairman of the Senate Ag Committee for many years, believes Iowa Secretary of Agriculture candidate Francis Thicke is “one of the best candidates we’ve ever had” to lead the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
“I’m very enthusiastic about Francis Thicke. If people knew the difference between Francis and the incumbent (one-term Republican Bill Northey), there would be no doubt in my mind that he woud blow them away,” said Harkin, who headlined a Countdown to Victory rally and fundraiser for Thicke in Dubuque Saturday. “We need to get the word out.”
Harkin said he became impressed by Thicke’s firm grasp on how to move agriculture and food production to a future of sustainability during the two times Thicke testified before the Senate Ag Committee. The dairy and on-the-farm processing business that Thicke and his wife and partner, Susan, operate in southeast Iowa is a model of sustainability and profitability, providing employment for five people (in addition to Francis and Susan) and supplying restaurants and grocery stores within a 5-mile radius of the farm with milk, whipping cream, yogurt and cheese.
Since then, the more Harkin has learned more about Thicke’s vision for sustainable food and agriculture, the more he has become convinced that Thicke’s plan offers a way for younger Iowans to get involved in agriculture. According to the last U.S. Census of Agriculure conducted in 2007, Iowa farmers are, on average, 56 years old.
“There are a lot of young people who would like to get into agriculture, but they’ve been brainwashed into thinking they get get in unless they get in unless they take on a huge debt load,” Harkin said. “You’ve been led to believe there’s only one path by people who have blinders on and don’t see other possibilities. Francis Thicke doesn’t have blinders on.”
Harkin credited not only value-added agriculture ventures – like the Thickes’ ecology-based grazing dairy and processing operation – but also candidate Thicke’s proposals for on-the-farm energy production systems. Such systems not only help farmers hedge the high costs of petroleum-based fuels to power agriculture, Harkin said, but also can create profit centers for farmers.
“There are a lot of ideas that Francis has that we should be pursuing here in Iowa,” the senator said. “And I do think it’s time to stop paying farmers for what they grow, but how they grow it.”
Harkin also said that Thicke’s campaign sends a message to Big Ag that “you don’t get to send soil down the rivers, pollute streams or build CAFOs that are ruining small-town Iowa.”