The caucuses: Iowa’s big chance to make a difference

January 25, 2016

votingtLike many of Iowans, I’ve been checking my caller ID pretty closely this month trying to avoid robocalls from political campaigns. (Sorry Aunt Bertha, if I don’t recognize your number, I’m not picking up.) I’ve also gotten pretty nimble with the mute button on my TV’s remote control. That way I don’t have to listen—again and again—to political attack ads that are jamming the airwaves these days.

Yes, presidential campaigns have shifted into overdrive here in the final days leading up to the Feb. 1 Iowa Caucuses. And, yes, it can definitely get to be overwhelming. I think I’m like a lot of people who are wondering aloud ‘isn’t Groundhog Day, the day when the campaigns will have moved on to other states.’

Still, it’s important to look beyond the robocalls and attack ads and remember the unique opportunity that we Iowans have every four years to have real impact on the national presidential debate. Few Americans, it seems, spend much time thinking about the people in the middle of the country. And they rarely think about Iowa’s prime economic drivers: farmers and others in agriculture who consistently provide them with a mind-boggling diversity of food that’s safe and nutritious; not to mention pitching in on supplying fuel and fiber. So it’s doubtful that presidential candidates would say much at all about issues important to Iowa throughout the long campaigns if it not for the caucuses.

caucus1If you want to check out the presidential candidates’ views on key issues for Iowans, such as trade, taxes, renewable fuels and environmental regulations, visit our Farmers Caucus 2016 site. We’ve also got a lot of useful information on how a caucus works (it’s not that hard once you get the hang of it), on how to find your caucus site and an updated list of announced campaign events around the state.

So read up on the issues, attend a rally and, by all means, show up at your caucus site on Feb. 1. It’s truly Iowa’s big chance to play an important role in shaping the direction of our country.

By Dirck Steimel. Dirck is News Services Manager and editor of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman.

 


Young farmers, rural entrepreneurs full of fresh ideas for today’s problems

January 13, 2016
Dakota Hoben, American Farm Bureau Discussion Meet

Dakota Hoben (pictured right) participates in the 2016 American Farm Bureau Discussion Meet.

A fresh set of eyes can make all of the difference in finding solutions to persistent issues.

Luckily, Iowa has a growing group of young farmers and rural entrepreneurs with the vision and drive to take those challenges head-on.

Take for example, Dakota Hoben, a young agriculture professional from Ames. Dakota won Iowa Farm Bureau’s Discussion Meet and this week advanced to the Sweet 16 of the American Farm Bureau competition, on the strength of a clear and consistent message: let’s push ourselves.

Let’s push ourselves, as farmers and ag professionals, to explore new and better solutions to address existing issues, like water quality and the public’s misunderstanding of beneficial agriculture technology, such as GMOs. Let’s push ourselves and be proactive in addressing potential issues before they become problems because, as Dakota says, “it’s not going to be our dad’s and grandad’s generations that are going to solve these issues, it’s going to be our generation.”

The Discussion Meet is a competition to prepare young farmers and ag professionals for real-world conversations about the tough issues facing farmers and their non-farm neighbors. Last year’s Iowa champion reached the Final 4 of the national competition, and with 400-plus young farmers registered to attend Iowa Farm Bureau’s annual Young Farmer Conference later this month, Iowa is sure to produce yet another standout problem solver.

Speaking of problem solvers, Iowa had two entrepreneurs reach the Final 4 of American Farm Bureau’s Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge this week. AccuGrain of Rose Hill, Iowa won the competition for its use of X-ray technology to inventory flowing grain in real time, which, among other things, creates a safer work environment for farmers by reducing the need to climb into a grain bin.

Iowa’s other Final 4 representative, AgriSync of Dallas Center, Iowa impressed the judges with an app that (what else?) helps farmers solve equipment problems by connecting them with technicians via their smart phones.

Did I mention that last year’s Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge champion also came from Iowa?

It’s easy to point to the growth of our cities and assume that our best and brightest problem solvers hail from Des Moines or Cedar Rapids.

Hopefully, we’re reminded that there’s still greatness in the countryside, and we’re willing to accept our rural neighbors’ genuine invitation to work together on the big issues facing Iowa.

They’ll be ready, with fresh eyes and a vision for the future.

By Zach Bader. Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager.


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