- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Agriculture Secretary

Duties of agriculture secretary: Oversees department of about 340 employees responsible for water quality and soil conservation initiatives and inspections of meat, dairy, grain, feed and fertilizer operations. Serves as the voice for Iowa agriculture in state government and nationally.

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Candidate: Bill Northey

Age: 55

Political party: Republican

Residence: Spirit Lake

Occupation: Agriculture secretary, farmer

Education: BS, Iowa State University; MBA, Southwest Minnesota State University

Professional Experience: Iowa Secretary of Agriculture 2007-present; farming since 1981

Political Experience: County soil conservation district board, 1998-2006

Top Goals If Elected:

-Wants to continue to implement the state’s nutrient reduction strategy, the state’s voluntary water quality initiative that encourages farmers to use practices that will prevent erosion and minimize runoff of fertilizer and manure. The department received $22.4 million for water quality and conservation work.

-Wants to promote innovation in agriculture by promoting technological advances to help farmers obtain the tools that help them better raise crops and livestock while caring for the land. Northey said technology allows farmers to be more efficient by producing more using less fertilizer and other inputs. Technology is coming quickly in plant sciences, weed control, fertilizer, and in equipment.

-Wants to continue to tell Iowa’s agriculture story to residents and those outside Iowa. Northey travels to each of Iowa’s 99 counties each year to talk agriculture with local communities and farmers.

Quote: “We’ve managed the department through some challenging times as we had budget cuts in the department but also created an initiative around water quality that is forward-looking and engaging agriculture in water quality issues in a way that will make a real difference.”

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Candidate: Sherrie Taha

Age: 60

Political party: Democrat

Residence: Des Moines

Occupation: Sculptor

Education: BS, University of Minnesota; BS, AIB College of Business; MPA, Drake University.

Professional Experience: sculptor, private commission; teacher, Portland, Oregon, 1990s

Political Experience: Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District commissioner, 2012 to current

Top Goals If Elected:

-Wants to include everyone interested in agriculture and the environment in agricultural policy discussions. That includes farmers, environmental groups and consumer organizations in an effort for a balanced approach that doesn’t give too much weight to one point of view.

-Wants the department to think about the long-term impact of policies and practices. While current titleholders of land are very important, those interests also must be balanced for those who will hold the title 50 years from now or 150 years from now.

-Wants the department to focus on redeveloping the state’s local food system. Iowans spend billions of dollars a year on food from outside the state, which means Iowa is missing a lot of opportunities by not keeping those food dollars recirculating in local communities.

Quote: “I think we can do a much more effective job,” Taha said about soil erosion and its effect on water quality in Iowa.

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