Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey’s roots are grounded in the soil of a north Iowa farm, but his pursuit of ag markets and opportunities has him traveling his home state and the world. As he points out, “Iowans have more passports per capita than the residents of any other state.” Northey uses his to be an ambassador for agriculture.
Northey is the Past President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), and like his ag counterparts in government, business, and on the land, he knows that trade and innovation are keys to a vibrant ag economy. With a recent trip to Europe already stamped in and a trade mission to Asia next up, Northey speaks enthusiastically about the current boom and the vast possibilities for American agriculture. He emphasizes research, development, and international relationships as keys to promoting agriculture, both for Iowa and for the United States in general.
On September 4, Northey made time on his itinerary for a conversation with two CAST staff members, EVP Linda Chimenti and Managing Communications Editor Dan Gogerty. Chimenti described recent CAST publications, with a special look at the organization’s new series, Ag quickCASTs. Northey and his department have been dealing with issues that relate directly to the research CAST publications provide. Topics such as water quality, nutrient use, and herbicide-resistant weeds are on the agenda for Iowa and many other states. Chimenti also provided a copy of the recent CAST Issue Paper regarding the precautionary principle. With trade negotiations and debates about such topics as biotech crops under way, this paper has been drawing close attention from scientists and agriculturalists around the world.
Northey has long recognized CAST’s significance in agricultural circles. During his NASDA leadership, he helped with the production of a special video about CAST. He pointed out CAST research on such topics as food safety and water quality, and he noted that CAST material is “by scientists for nonscientists.” Northey explained to other state ag leaders that CAST relies on “input, impact and investment,” and he urged them to get involved in that valuable process.
In August, Secretary Northey spent a day at the Iowa State Fair where he helped present certificates to farm families receiving Centennial and Heritage awards–and coincidentally, Gogerty’s home farm was among the Heritage recipients. Farms that have been in the same family for 100 or 150 years qualify for the honors. Northey shakes hundreds of hands and smiles for scores of photos, but he said he appreciates the opportunity to honor those at the foundation of the state’s farming. Even though his job often takes him off the land, Northey knows that American agriculture grows in the fertile soil of the family farms at home and in the rich opportunities that lie in the markets around the globe.
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