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Former Lt. Gov. Judge focused on farm economy

Saturday, July 28, 2012

After 20 years of campaigning for herself, former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and Lt. Gov. Patty Judge is hitting the campaign trail for others.

She has helped her son, Joe, campaign for the Iowa House and embarked on President Barack Obama's "Made in Iowa" tour Wednesday and Thursday.

Judge said her priorities are to promote wind energy, address drought concerns and advocate for a new farm bill.

"It's something we've worked so very hard in Iowa to develop and it's going," Judge said of the wind energy industry. "It is fragile. With any new industry, you would expect that. It really depends, in the near term, on the continuation of the wind energy tax credit."

In a March 5 editorial in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote, "In place of real energy, Obama has focused on an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy. This vision has failed."

Judge took exception to those comments.

"Twenty percent of Iowa's energy is from wind energy," Judge said. "This is not imaginary, but dependent on the wind energy tax credit. Barack Obama has said he's intent on doing that and Romney is not."

That tax credit was authored by Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley in 1992.

Judge pointed to Iowa's 7,000 jobs related to wind energy, calling the industry "big business for Iowa."

Agriculture is Iowa's biggest business, and Judge is further concerned about current drought conditions.

"We're going to have to think about what's going to happen here and how we work through this," Judge said.

She applauded U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who served as Iowa's governor from 1998 to 2006, for the actions he has taken.

"The president and Secretary Vilsack are scrambling to piece together help for farmers," Judge said. "Vilsack announced the release of CRP ground for haying and grazing. He's asked insurance agents to wait a while on premium payments to give farmers a chance."

While Judge is in favor of those moves, she believes the recent conditions highlight the importance for a new farm bill.

"I believe, whether you're Republican or Democrat, if you know agriculture, you agree with me that Congress needs to put down the bullets and the guns and pass the farm bill as soon as possible," Judge said.

She referenced her own experiences with droughts in the 1980s, which correlated with the farm crisis, and said something should be done to make sure farmers can continue to make a living.

"We cannot afford to lose more farm families in Clay County or any other county in the state," Judge said. "We have to do whatever we can to make sure they can weather through this natural disaster. ... We need to quit playing politics with people's lives and get this done."

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