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Agricultural issues, renewable energy top discussion during 'Made in Iowa' tour

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

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Democrat Patty Judge, former lieutenant governor and secretary of agriculture, kicked off a two-day "Made in Iowa" tour last week, highlighting President Barack Obama's support of the state's agriculture and renewable energy industries.

"I believe that President Obama has done a good job in his first time in office," Judge told the Pilot-Tribune, during a stop in Storm Lake. "He's put a plan in place that has put us back on a solid road to recovery from the economic crisis we found ourselves in, as well as renewing our standing in the world."

After being involved in politics for nearly two decades, and farming for nearly four decades, Judge said she is pleased to represent the president's stance on pressing state issues, such as drought, the farm bill and wind energy.

Although dry, crops in northwest Iowa look better than most of the state, she said. "The corn along the Missouri River---it's gone, it's burned up. There are areas of the state experiencing a very severe problem."

Following Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's presidential briefing on the dire situation, some relief was allotted: use of CRP ground for hay and grazing, modification of contracts on equipped ground to allow cattle grazing and negotiations with crop insurers.

"They took quick, immediate action; but, unfortunately, that's about the arsenal they have right now, because of the farm disaster relief programs in the 2008 farm bill have expired," Judge said. "It's is really important to our state right now that a new farm bill is passed as quickly as possible so we can get that new disaster program, so farmers will have some certainty in their farming operations."

She continued, "There is only one candidate who is standing up for Iowa farmers: Barack Obama."

Currently, the farm bill has passed the Senate, but has yet to pass the House. According to Judge, Mitt Romney is missing out on a great opportunity to convince Iowans he understands the state's needs.

"He should be talking to his Republican colleagues in Congress, and telling them that they need to get busy and pass the farm bill," she explained. "He could show some real leadership by doing that, but he's not, and I don't understand why."

Politics need to be taken off the table in order to pass the bill, and help farmers out in time of disaster, she added.

During the tour, Judge partnered with Republicans Rob Hach, owner of Anemometry Specialists in Alta, and former Clear Lake mayor Kirk Kraft, in support of the state's wind industry.

When Judge first started out in public office, the renewable energy industry did not exist in the state.

"In the 20 years I've been part of making this happen, I'm very proud of that," she said. "I'm bound determined that it's not going away."

Renewable energy, in all forms, is key to the state's continued success, but with the wind energy tax credit set to expire at the end of this year, Judge foresees the industry grinding to a halt, with jobs drying up or disappearing.

"Barack Obama believes in alternative energy and understands what it means for Iowa," she said. "And then we have Mitt Romney, who says he believes it is not an important industry."

According to statements from candidates, Obama has said he will re-authorize the tax credit, while Romney has said he will let it expire.

"While Romney has said he does not believe that wind energy is a viable alternative to gas and oil, I would beg to differ with him," Judge said, noting the industry provides over 7,000 jobs, $14 million in lease payments to farmers and produces 20 percent of the state's energy.

Once the Rock Island Clean Line, tentatively scheduled for construction in northwest Iowa in the next four years, is complete, energy captured by wind turbines in Iowa will power portions of Chicago.

Judge said she finds Romney's description of the wind industry as "much ballyhooed" offensive, and noted his economic plan calls wind energy an "economic failure," something she believes is an unfair assessment.

Tax credits are critical for the fledgling wind industry, she said. "It's the best tool we have right now to support the industry while it builds out and transmission lines are completed. We've got to get all these pieces done."



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