Iowa Agriculture Summit features national contenders

By Joseph L. Murphy

Nine potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates met at the first-ever Iowa Agriculture Summit last week in Des Moines to discuss agriculture issues important to the Iowa and national economies.

  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie answers a question during the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie answers a question during the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

The candidates were interviewed one-by-one for 20 minutes to answer questions by Bruce Rastetter, the CEO of The Summit Group, and organizer of the event.

Topics ranging from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and Country of Origin Labeling were all discussed by the candidates during the day-long event.

“Every four years, Iowa becomes an epicenter of American politics, often shaping and almost always reflecting national policy movements. Unfortunately, until now, there has not been a forum solely dedicated to matters that directly affect Iowa farmers who feed and fuel not just the country, but the world,” said Rastetter. “The 2015 Iowa Ag Summit highlighted and promoted agriculture. It allowed elected officials and public policy leaders to have a public discussion on issues that are vital to the Iowa and American economy.”

  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush talks with Bruce Rastetter during the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit. (Photo Joseph L. Murphy)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush talks with Bruce Rastetter during the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit. (Photo Joseph L. Murphy)

The candidate forum also featured speeches by Iowa representatives including Governor Terry Branstad, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst and former Lt. Governor and ag secretary Patty Judge. Judge was the only Democrat to speak during the event.

Ron Heck, an Iowa Soybean Association director, attended the summit to listen to the candidates and gauge their positions on issues impacting his farm and agriculture in the state.

“Energy policies that incentivize all renewable energy sources and implement flexible, market-based mechanisms will allow farmers nationwide to be part of the solution in a manner that is good for our bottom line as well as the natural resources we depend on,” Heck said. “I urge the participants of the Iowa Ag Summit to recognize the importance of renewable energy to a strong and vibrant farming future — both at the summit and on the campaign trail. Finding solutions that support clean energy development should be a priority for policymakers and presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said that they support the RFS. Florida Governor Jeb Bush said that the market would decide the RFS and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Texas Governor Rick Perry and former New York Governor George Pataki all opposed energy mandates.

Christie gave the shortest answer to a question during the summit when asked if GMOs should be included on food labels simply saying “No”. All of the candidates in attendance echoed Christie’s thoughts about GMOs saying in their own words that there is no scientific evidence that GMOs negatively impact health so they shouldn’t be included on nutrition labels.

  Senator Ted Cruz answers questions from a group of national journalists after his appearance at the Iowa Ag Summit. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

Senator Ted Cruz answers questions from a group of national journalists after his appearance at the Iowa Ag Summit. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

About 1,000 people attended the summit and 250 media credentials were issued to cover the event according to event organizers.

“I was impressed by the preparation of all 20 speakers,” Heck said. “Of course Grassley, Branstad, and many others are always prepared for ag issues, but I believe the most important success of the summit was that the national figures had all obviously taken the time and effort to educate themselves on ag issues. The Summit was a success before it even started, because the national speakers had taken note of issues that are important to agriculture.”

Originally published for the Iowa Soybean Association. Find more great stories at: www.iasoybeans.com/news