CEDAR RAPIDS — Dairy farmer and former president of the Board of Regents Craig Lang wants to tap the knowledge of Iowa’s universities to help farmers lead the country in agriculture diversity and improving water quality.
Lang, who also was the longest-serving president of the Farm Bureau Federation — serving in that capacity for 10 years — has filed a statement of organization with the Iowa Ethics and Campaigns Disclosure Board to raise funds for a 2018 campaign to oversee the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. It appears he is the only one to have filed.
The public universities have wealth of information that could be utilized by the agriculture secretary, said Lang, who served on the Board of Regents, which oversees the three state universities, from 2007-13, including two years as president.
“You take the work the University of Iowa is doing on water, Iowa State University is doing on soil health, the research University of Northern Iowa on native prairies, all of that is really important,” said Lang, an ISU graduate. “I think we could bring all of that together to create value for Iowa.”
Lang, 66, farms 1,200 acres with his father, brother and sons near Brooklyn, including land that has been in his family since 1860. For the past 15 years, Lang said, they used cover crops to protect and enrich the soil between harvest and planting.
“I’ve seen the tremendous increase in soil health because of the diversity of our agriculture with livestock, rotating crops of legumes, meadow, corn and beans,” Lang said.
Cover crops also help keep capture nitrates and phosphorous from running off into waterways, he added. There are steps farmers and landowners can take quickly in a voluntary manner to avoid mandated changes in farming practices.
He estimated cover crops are planted on about 600,000 acres of Iowa farmland. His goal would be to increase that to 5 million or more.
“We know that will increase productivity of the soil and be cash back in our pockets,” he said.
Lang plans to wait to formally announce his campaign until third-term Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey’s presidential nomination to be an undersecretary at the USDA is approved by the United States Senate.
When that happens, Gov. Kim Reynolds will appoint someone to fill the position until a new secretary is elected in 2018. A number of people have been identified as possible replacements, including State Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, whose grandfather, Sen. Chuck Grassley, has said he wants to see him in that post.
Lang is not positioning himself to be appointed and thinks whoever serves out the remainder of Northey’s term will be at a disadvantage in the 2018 election. Lang expects a crowded primary field.
In addition to his farm operation, Lang is president of The Prairie Strategy Group that describes itself as being “engaged in identifying and solving complex challenges in food production, policy and logistics.”
His previous experience also includes serving as chairman of the Grow Iowa Values Fund and vice chairman of the Iowa Economic Development Board.
He and his wife, Mary, a nurse, have four adult children.
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