Tim Gannon, Democrat for Iowa Secretary of Ag, wants to increase research funding at Iowa State


Tim Gannon is the Democratic candidate running for the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.

Devyn Leeson

Tim Gannon, Democratic candidate for the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, has a long list of policy goals relating to research, conservation and empowering farmers.

Gannon grew up in Mingo, Iowa, on a century farm his family had owned since 1888. Growing up, Gannon said he learned the importance of agriculture to the state of Iowa, especially as he saw first-hand what the farm crisis of the 1980’s did to the state’s economy.

“That ripples out to Iowa’s economy,” Gannon said. “Those small towns suffer, manufacturing suffers because we build so much for agriculture and also our state budget ends up suffering.”

This idea, centric to his platform, is why Gannon said he wants to improve Iowa’s farm economy.

“I’m excited because I think there is a lot of opportunities in Iowa agriculture and its economy, but we have to make sure our economic opportunities are there for people to want to live in rural Iowa. We have got to figure how we can add value so people will farm knowing they can make a living doing it,” Gannon said.

Gannon said although Iowa is growing in population, it is not growing everywhere, possibly because of a lack of opportunities for Iowa farmers.

“Iowa has grown by 90,000 people, but 71 of 99 counties lost population partially due to the state of our rural economy,” Gannon said.

Gannon said investment in research institutions like Iowa State and putting priorities on conservation efforts could ensure Iowa has a strong economy for years to come.

“In the past we had increased funding for ag research, but for the last five years our funding has flatlined,” Gannon said. “I would support raising our funding to the ag research station so that by fiscal year 2023 we would be spending 35 million at the ag experiment station.”

“If we did that, it would send a very strong message that we want to be involved in the next generation of research that we are very much open for business when it comes to research,” he said. “That would help us bring in the top research talent and also make us much more competitive for grants.”

In 2001, the funding for the ag research station was at its peak at around $37 million. Today that number is slightly less than $30 million.

This research is what keeps Iowa farmers productive and effective, Gannon said. 

“The claim that we feed the world is largely due to our productivity,” Gannon said. “But to increase that productivity and stay at the top we need to continue investing in research.”

Investment in conservation efforts, specifically protecting Iowa’s topsoil, is another focus Gannon says will support Iowa’s farmers.

“Voters in the state of Iowa in 2010 supported by over 60 percent the creation of a trust fund that would take ⅜ of a cent on sales tax money and put it towards conservation efforts on soil and water,” Gannon said.

This fund was never created as the legislature never approved the fund.

“Many voters believe that trust exists when, in fact, it doesn’t,” Gannon said.

A sales tax increase of that kind would create an additional $200 million, of which 60 percent, or $120 million, would go to conservation efforts, Gannon said.  

“If we spent $120 million as a state on conservation efforts, folks I worked with at USDA have said they would match that amount,” Gannon said.

In addition to that investment, Gannon said many Fortune 500 companies, especially those in the food industry, would also look to invest in conservation efforts if Iowa was “serious” about them.

“They want to be able to tell their customers or shareholders they are working to keep the air, water and soil clean and healthy,” Gannon said. “If you get those fortune 500 companies who are looking to invest in sustainability efforts, especially in their own supply chains, if they see the state, federal government and local farmers all make efforts towards sustainability we could see between $400 and $500 billion in new investment.”

Gannon said believing in raising the sales tax by a penny was one way he sets himself apart from his Republican counterpart, in addition to differences on biofuel and trade policies.

Trade barriers, Gannon said, create market uncertainties which can be “devastating” for investment.

“People don’t know if it’s going to be a good investment,” Gannon said. “They are nervous about trade policies and that means less investment.”

When it comes to biofuels, Gannon would ask for a waiver from the EPA to allow for ethanol and biodiesel to be sold year round.

“A lot of retailers don’t want to take on the expenses of carrying some parts of the year and not others, having to change pumps as the seasons change,” Gannon said. “The EPA said it was close to signing that waiver back in May and now here we are, nearly four months later, with nothing to show. It doesn’t seem we are any closer.”

Gannon said other industries have gotten waivers that are impacting biofuels negatively.

“They have given these waivers to oil refineries and that has reduced demand for ethanol by 2.25 billion gallons and biodiesel demand by 300 million gallons,” Gannon said. “If they relocated that demand it would mean nearly 1 billion bushels of corn, nearly half of the carryover from last harvest, could be used.”