Naig, Jones tour ag business
EMMETSBURG — Approximately one month into his appointment as Iowa secretary of agriculture after succeeding Bill Northey in early March, Mike Naig has been traveling across Iowa, meeting farmers and agriculture professionals throughout the state. His tour brought him to Emmetsburg on Friday, where he toured the Ag Property Solutions facility alongside Rep. Megan Jones, R-Sioux Rapids.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in northwest Iowa this week,” Naig said. “I was up to Lyon County earlier this week, hit Storm Lake, Spirit Lake, Ocheydan, and now, Emmetsburg in making an effort to make sure I’m connecting with farmers and ag businesses across the region, across the state.”
Naig and Jones were guided by Ag Property Solutions staff throughout their facility, which included visiting their offices, warehouse, and an area Ag Property Solutions planned to utilize as part of their business expansion in the future.
The Iowa secretary of agriculture said among the various concerns he’s discussed on his tour, tariffs have been one of the most popular topics of discussion.
“The themes that I’m hearing now in terms of top of mind issues, it is all about tariffs,” Naig said. “(Including) the potential negative impacts on our agriculture markets for Iowa producers and Iowa businesses. Deep concern about that across the state, we’re very much encouraging the Trump administration to work on these issues with the Chinese.
“There’s no doubt that people understand that we have a complex trading relationship with China. There have been issues that should have been resolved over the years, and it would be good to get them resolved. (Such as) bio-tech trade approvals, intellectual property protections, beef (and) poultry exports. These are all important things and impact Iowa. On one hand, we say ‘yes, we need to address these things,’ on the other hand there’s a very real concern about this potential for negative impacts on our markets should China retaliate against ag products.”
Contrasting the worry associated with international trade, Naig said he was excited about new developments surrounding ethanol production.
“Some potentially very positive news coming out of Washington (Thursday), with the prospect of going to year round E-15 availability,” Naig said. “We’re coming up on the summer fueling season here in June, and it would be great if we could continue to sell E-15 throughout the summer.”
Dennis Kollasch, vice president of swine operations at Ag Property Solutions, spoke to Naig and Jones about the current labor pool and the obstacles facing workers who want to immigrate legally to the country.
“We do work with a program that takes college kids that are outside the country and brings them in, but it’s so temporary because they’re only here for a training period of about 10 months,” Kollasch said. “... There’s a lot of those people if they could get the opportunity, would like to stay. But that’s such a long process to actually get them immigrated in, and they’re really good people that have proved themselves, that’s really what’s messed up with it. ... The best people are the ones that want to go through the right route, but we put all kinds of hurdles for them to be able to be legal.”
Naig suggested topics surrounding Iowa’s workforce have been a common concern he’s heard on his tour.
“I think as I’ve visited pretty routinely with ag businesses across the region, we’re talking about workforce and some of the challenges around retaining and attracting good talent around their organizations,” Naig said.
Another topic discussed by Naig, Jones and Ag Property Solutions staff surrounded what actions are being taken to help young farmers.
“One thing that we did a few years ago in the Legislature ... (with) the beginning farmer tax credit program; what was happening is it was limited to three or five years so the people who were involved in the program who wanted to participate, they didn’t have the income to offset it so the tax credit was essentially worthless to them,” Jones said. “So, we were able to expand those years out with a very minimal fiscal impact. ... The department of agriculture was really influential in helping to be able to expand that out and make sure that tax credit was working, so more of our older generation of farmers would participate in that program (and) the younger generation could step up and take that over.”
Naig was grateful for the discussion and interaction at the Emmetsburg facility, saying he would use the knowledge gained during his tour in the future as he is beginning his new role as Iowa secretary of agriculture.
“Over the last six weeks, I’m learning a lot,” Naig said. “And (I) hope then to take that knowledge and try to do something; try to advocate on these issues that are so important to these folks.”