Democratic nominee for agriculture secretary speaks out on soil and water quality – Iowa State Daily

Democratic candidate John Norwood (left) challenges Republican incumbent Mike Naig for Iowa’s agriculture secretary job. (Courtesy John Norwood for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture)

Editor’s Note: The Iowa State Daily attempted to contact Secretary Mike Naig four times and received no response.

Republican incumbent Mike Naig takes on Democratic challenger John Norwood in the race for Iowa’s secretary of agriculture.


Norwood is currently Polk County Soil and Water Commissioner. Norwood holds a bachelor’s degree from Williams College, a master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry, and a master’s degree in business administration from the Yale School of Management.

Naig has served as secretary of agriculture since 2018. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and political science from Buena Vista University. According to his campaign websiteNaig aims to expand markets and trade, protect soil and water quality, and secure a better future for Iowa farmers.

Soil quality

Norwood said the soils in Iowa are not good and he intends to focus on improving soil quality as secretary of agriculture.

“We lead the Midwest in our ground loss, and that’s huge,” Norwood said. “On a per acre basis, that’s over five tons per acre, so over 10 times the sustainable rate provided by Mother Nature.”

Norwood said about a third of the state budget washes the rivers as soil.

“We send something like 145 million tons of soil a year into our rivers,” Norwood said, “and if you put a dollar value on that, that would be about $3 billion a year.”

Norwood said setting county-level soil loss limits would begin to help reduce soil loss in Iowa, but he said cover crops and tillage practices also play a role. key in preventing soil loss.

“It has to do with incentives,” Norwood said. “What are the incentives that we provide to the public sector through things like the Farm Bill, it has to do with tax policy…Do we have some kind of respite, perhaps, for landowners who practice a good soil health, because it both has a positive impact on the sustainability of this agricultural land, but it also matters for what happens downstream.

Incumbent Republican Mike Naig faces a challenge from Democratic challenger John Norwood. (Courtesy of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship website)

Water quality

Norwood said the state of Iowa’s water quality is “appalling.” He said that since the adoption of the Nutrient reduction strategy in 2013, the amount of material found in Iowa water increased by more than 30%.

“So the loading is going in the wrong direction, it’s increasing, and it’s not too hard to see why when you look at what’s happened since this plan was adopted,” Norwood said. “We have added an additional 3 million pigs – one and a half million pig spaces during this period. Each space produces about two hogs a year, so 1.5 times 2 gets you to about three – that’s almost all of Iowa’s population and the hogs we’ve had.

Norwood added that tiling corn and bean crops helps Iowa’s water quality.

“We have 23 million acres of corn and beans, 14 million of which are tiles, and about seven of those 14 are controlled by drainage districts,” Norwood said.

According to Environmental Council of Iowa54% of the waters tested by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are impaired, making them unsafe for their intended uses, which may include fishing, swimming, or drinking alcohol.

“I mean, it’s a crisis, it really is,” Norwood said, “and climate change is going to make it worse because climate change amplifies impacts on water quality and loss of ground – the two are linked, and so just imagine more intense rains more frequently, and that’s when the ground moves.

Carbon pipes

Norwood said carbon pipelines are not a good use of public money, but the power to approve or deny the construction of pipelines statewide rests with the legislature. He said if they existed in Iowa, he wanted them to be built safely and ethically.

Norwood added that he thinks carbon pipelines should not be considered eminent domain, a process in which the government can compensate and seize a landowner’s land for public use.

“And so that doesn’t pass the smell test — it’s not a public service,” Norwood said. “It’s not a right-of-way, as is usually the case in these eminent estate proceedings.”

Norwood said that if there are carbon pipelines in Iowa, they should be implemented with landowner consent; they must be fair to landowners and secure in how they are routed.

“[A] best investment of public money, I think, would be to find how […] drive more biofuels in four markets too hard to electrify,” Norwood said. “It’s planes, boats, trains and long-haul trucks.”


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