- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A major Iowa agriculture entrepreneur is inviting presidential hopefuls to a summit that will focus on industry issues such as renewable fuels and modern farming techniques.

Bruce Rastetter, a Republican donor and agricultural business owner, announced Tuesday that he is sponsoring the March 7 event at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines.

“Every four years, Iowa becomes an epicenter of American politics, often shaping and almost always reflecting national policy movements. Unfortunately, until now, there has not been a forum solely dedicated to matters that directly affect Iowa farmers who feed and fuel not just the country, but the world,” Rastetter said in a news release.

Rastetter is a former hog production and ethanol executive who now serves as CEO of Summit Farms LLC, which produces crops, beef and pork. He is a major GOP donor in Iowa and serves on the Board of Regents for the state universities.

Potential Republican and Democratic 2016 presidential candidates are invited to the forum. Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he had personally reached out to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Rick Perry, whose tenure in the Texas governor’s office ended Tuesday. He also spoke to an aide for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“Obviously, that’s very important to Iowa, being a leading agriculture state, so we’re very hopeful we’ll get that kind of broad-based participation,” Branstad said.

Attendees will appear individually with Rastetter on stage for 20 minutes to discuss a variety of topics, like renewable fuels and land conservation.

Iowa Farmers Union President Jana Linderman said she welcomed any effort to bring attention to farming issues.

“It can be overlooked and the population of farmers is smaller than it used to be,” said Linderman, whose union represents family farmers. “I really look at issues around agriculture as rural economic development issues. So it is a very important issue for any potential presidential candidate to be thinking about.”

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