Category: Food, Energy, and Agriculture Commentary

Leadership You Can Count On

Countdown to Victory: 11 Days One of the qualities those of us working to elect Francis Thicke Iowa Secretary of Agriculture respect most about our candidate is his temperament for leadership. It not only serves the campaign well, but offers Iowans a snapshot of the kind of advocate he will be for our shared values [...]

The Local Economics Of CAFOs

Many of us in rural Iowa grew up saying “Smell that money!” as we passed family farms with sows and pigs after a big rain. Agriculture was more diversified then, and many farms had pasture-farrowed pig operations – “mortgage burners,” they were called – that could always be counted on for cash flow twice a year.

That’s not money you’re smelling now when you drive past row after row of barns jammed with pigs and chickens – at least it’s not money in the pockets of family farmers.

‘Agri-prenuership’ Can Revitalize Rural Iowa

Countdown to victory: 13 days Francis and Susan Thicke’s 80-head dairy and on-the-farm processing operation is a strong example of how“agri-preneurship” can revitalize Iowa’s rural communities. The Thickes targeted their market to strong local demand for organic foods, and now supply milk, yogurt and cheese grocery to stores and restaurants within a 5-mile radius of [...]

Thicke: Local control over CAFO siting is ‘democracy in action’

Secretary of Agriculture Candidate Francis Thicke responded by saying “Bill Northey is wrong and Terry Branstad is selling Iowan’s short,” and that “It is clear they don’t want you to have a say in what goes on in your community.”

Listen To The Secretary of Agriculture Radio Debate

Learn more about the key differences between the candidates. Listen to the debate between Francis Thicke and Bill Northey, recorded on October 7th. Moderated by Kerry Cathcart, the debate was originally webcast on KMGO. Listen to the entire debate: [audio:] Listen to each candidate articulate their vision for agriculture: [audio:] Francis Thicke has accepted four [...]

Food Policy

Chapter 34 – Food Policy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has formally recognized the economic and many other benefits of local food production in a new program called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food,” which is encouraging the expansion of local food production across the country.

Connecting Farmers and Consumers

Chapter 33 – Connecting Farmers and Consumers

The opportunities for consumers to buy food directly from farmers have been increasing. In Iowa, there are now 223 farmers markets, and farmers market sales have increased 92 percent over the past five years. Farmers markets give consumers the opportunity to meet the farmer who produces the food they eat and to ask questions about how their food is produced.

Healthy Foods Make Healthy People

Chapter 32 – Healthy Foods Make Healthy People

In 1960, we in America spent 5.2 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care. By 2008, our health care expenditures had more than tripled, rising to 16.2 percent of our GDP. On the other hand, our food costs over the same time period followed the opposite trend, falling from 17.5 percent of our disposable income in 1960 to 9.6 percent in 2008.

Economic Development

Chapter 31 – Economic Development

Iowans eat $8 billion worth of food annually, but about 90 percent of that food is imported from out of state – another ironic statistic from the “Food Capital of the World.” Growing more of our food right here in Iowa represents a potential multi-billion dollar economic development opportunity. This potential economic activity could create thousands of new jobs and help revitalize rural communities in Iowa, as well as provide Iowans with fresh, nutritious food. It would also increase the biodiversity on Iowa’s landscape.

Because It Tastes Better

Chapter 30 – Because It Tastes Better

Imagine a tomato picked green in Mexico, boxed up and shipped to Iowa. By the time it gets to the grocery store shelf, it begins to turn pink and even a little red. Now, imagine picking a red, vine-ripened tomato in your back yard. You can practically “taste” the difference in your imagination.

Beyond its superior flavor, produce ripened on the plant can be nutritionally superior. For example, the Vitamin C content of tomatoes will increase to some degree after picking, but it will not reach levels found in tomatoes allowed to vine ripen. Also, local fruits and vegetables generally get to consumers more promptly after harvest and at the peak of freshness, which contributes to retaining their nutritional value.