Iowa Secretary of Agriculture speaks on issues facing farmers at ISU


Daniel Jacobi II

Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig, speaks at Iowa State University’s Block and Bridle Club meeting on April 12, 2023 in the Lush Auditorium in Kildee Hall. Naig speaks to the club about his experience as the state’s secretary and gives words of advice and encouragement for freshman and graduating seniors looking to continue into the field of agriculture.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig discussed issues that face Iowa agriculture today, like soil and water quality, the Farm Bill and other challenges to Iowa farmers to the Iowa State Block and Bridle club in Kildee Hall Wednesday evening.

President of the Iowa State Block and Bridle Club Leah Greiner, a senior in animal science, said the club promotes agriculture through leadership experience and by bringing in industry leaders.

The vice president of the club, Kailen Smerchek, a senior in animal science, said they are the largest club on campus with over 200 members that represents all of the majors within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“We want to really encourage involvement from our members, so having someone as influential and impactful in the agriculture industry as Secretary Mike Naig is something that we really wanted to advertise to our members to not only show a different avenue, but to have someone come in and get people excited about working in agriculture even outside of production,” Smerchek said.

Naig discussed the upcoming nationwide Farm Bill, which is made up of 12 titles. Naig said the bill lasts five years and the current one is set to expire in September and that all 12 titles matter to Iowa.

“This might be the most meaningful piece of legislation that passes this year, and that’s saying something,” Naig said. “Make no mistake, the nutrition program is incredibly important.”

In an interview with the Daily, Naig said while the bill is important, the nutrition program could cause budget pressure on the legislation because of how costly it is.

“The biggest component of the farm bill from a budget standpoint is [the] nutrition program,” Naig said. “We need to help those who need help in our society; that’s an important component of the farm bill.

Naig also addressed Proposition 12, another national agricultural issue that has reached the Supreme Court. He said ballot initiatives in one state should not determine agricultural policy in another.

“We want to see that overturned, the reason being that I think there’s interstate commerce issues,” Naig said. “You really can’t have one state telling another state how they’re going to operate, and so I think there’s some constitutional foundational questions.”

Naig said issues facing farmers in Iowa today include the highest inflation in 40 years, rising interest rates, high crop inputs, labor shortages and supply chain disruptions. When asked if climate change also has an impact on farmers by the Daily, Naig said “weather variability” does.

“Weather variability absolutely, changing weather resiliency in the face of changing weather [and] larger rain events [affect farmers],” Naig said. “We’ve just come through nearly three years of drought […] those are things that farmers need: risk management tools to weather through that.”

Despite the aforementioned challenges, Naig said there was nowhere else in the world he would want to be confronting them.

“What do we have here that makes us so unique?” Naig asked. “We have a world class land grant institution–Iowa State University–we have industry-leading global companies […], we have a thriving and growing start-up sector in places like the [ISU] Research Park, and then we have some of the most productive farms and progressive farmers in the world.”

Naig also discussed soil and water quality in Iowa and said Iowa is leading the way among midwestern states on improving water quality and soil health.

“I say a lot, ‘We don’t have oil in this state. We don’t mine for coal in this state. We don’t have mountains in this state.’ What’s our most important natural resource that we have in this state? What makes Iowa agriculture what it is?” Naig asked. “It’s our soil. Everything is based on our soil, and so we have better be protecting that soil for the long run.”

Naig promoted the launch of Choose Iowa, a new program that Naig said is about promoting products grown, made and raised in Iowa.

“I really believe that this may be one of the things that help with […] giving folks an opportunity to start small and be able to capture more margins [and] sell the right to the consumers,” Naig said.

While giving advice to students, Naig encouraged them to be lifelong learners and said they are not done learning just because they walk across a stage.

Additionally, while Naig did not attend Iowa State, he said he is a fan of the university.

“I’m a Beaver,” Naig said. “I went to Buena Vista, but I’m a huge fan of Iowa State University, absolutely.”