Iowa voters: Make ag issues election issues

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Bob Bowman and Susanne Kinzenbaw Veatch, guest columnists

Bread-and-butter issues that matter to Iowa voters can easily get lost in the spectacle of the 24-hour cable news cycle this election season. But before heading to the polls this November, Iowans must give serious thought as to how different candidates would support farming and manufacturing in our state.

Together, these industries form the backbone of Iowa’s economy. It’s no secret that both sectors have been hurting. Net farm income has fallen 55 percent in just the last two years. As a result, sales of planters, combines, tractors, and other farm equipment are all down from last year, according the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

Nowhere have the repercussions of a weak farm economy been felt more than in Iowa, which leads the nation in jobs manufacturing agricultural equipment. Machinery manufacturing is our state’s largest manufacturing sector, generating almost $8 billion for Iowa’s economy every year. These difficulties have translated to lower sales and employment for manufacturers, who have suffered along with farmers from the overall difficulties facing the farm economy.

That’s exactly why Iowans must elect leaders in Des Moines and Washington, D.C. who understand the steps we need to take to make sure farmers and equipment manufacturers are able to thrive.

The good news is that lawmakers have a number of sound policy choices available to help them stand up for corn producers and equipment manufacturers. Two of the most important steps congress can take are to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership and take steps to protect and expand the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The Trans-Pacific Partnership will open free markets for U.S. commodities strengthening demand and prices. Every day that goes by without an agreement hurts farmers, ranchers, and the entire ag value chain, which in turn takes away American manufacturing jobs.

For many years the RFS has provided Federal leadership for the growth of renewable forms of energy, like ethanol. The RFS plays an important role in supporting farm income and farm equipment manufacturers. Ethanol generates $2.5 billion in income for Iowa and supports almost 47,000 jobs in the state. What’s more, ethanol helps support over 28,000 full-time manufacturing jobs across the country.

Finally, some members of Congress have already begun talking about the next farm bill. We need elected officials who are committed to protecting crop insurance and market-based tools that help farmers manage their risk and ride out economic uncertainty.

These issues might not rate with TV news producers in New York and Washington, but that does not make them any less vital to our prosperity in Iowa. Our state’s voters could swing the balance of control in Congress, and help decide who wins the White House on November 8. That makes it all the more important that the elected leaders we choose have a proven record of supporting farming and manufacturing jobs.

• Bob Bowman farms corn and soybeans in DeWitt, Iowa, and serves on the Board of the National Corn Growers Association. Susanne Kinzenbaw Veatch joined the family business in 2005 and is now President, Chief Marketing Officer, and a second generation owner at Kinze Manufacturing. Inc. which builds technologically advanced agricultural planters and high capacity grain carts.

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