Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds spent time in North Iowa last week as part of the governor's annual campaign to visit all of the state's 99 counties. On April 16, they took a tour of Hagie Manufacturing Company in Clarion. Sam Titus, senior VP of operations, led the group around the Hagie factory, where their workers turn large pieces of metal into specialized pieces of farm equipment. Titus estimated that approximately 80% of a large spraying vehicle, standing high enough off the ground for the governor to walk under, was created in their facility.
"You've come so far in the last few years," said Branstad, recalling the last time he visited the facility.
In 2008, Hagies had 150 employees. Today they employ 495 people and are in the process of opening a "west campus" across the street of their primary location.
"You've been talking about growth, but I think you've even exceeded what you were talking about since I was here the last time," said Reynolds.
Meeting with an informal Q&A with some of the company's employees, Branstad and Reynolds addressed legislative issues that would effect Hagies, such as regulations regarding nitrogen and water management.
The governor explained that he has been collaborating with Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and DNR Director Chuck Gipp to come up with a nutrient reduction strategy.
"We're very interested in trying to be a partner on that and I would just say I think we've got a great Secretary of Agriculture in Bill Northey. He's a farmer. He understands this stuff. He and Chuck Gipp have been great to work with."
The Lt. Governor also commended the farmers that have volunteered to provide data for studying water runoff.
"As long as we continue to have the correct measurements and make sure it's scientifically based, we'll continue to look for ways that we can reduce the runoff," said Reynolds.
Regarding cost sharing efforts towards that end, Branstad anticipated that the state would be able to maintain, or even increase, the amount of cost sharing the state provides the agriculture industry.
On Tuesday morning, Branstad and Reynolds drove to Hampton for a tour of the Omnium chemical plant. Land O'Lakes board member Scot Janssen raised a concern about a push toward GMO labeling requirements, which would force food producers to identify products made with ingredients that come from genetically engineered crops.
"We've gotta fight and push that back," said Janssen.
"We're fighting it tooth and toenail," assured Branstad. "It's so goofy. We don't want to be like the Europeans or the Californians. The land of fruits and nuts you know. They don't get it. They're really hurting their own agriculture, we don't want them to hurt us."
On the subject of foreign affairs, Branstad recalled his close relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who led a delegation that visited Iowa in 1985. Branstad invited him back to Iowa last year when Jinping became president.
"He said when he thinks of America, he thinks of the people he met when he was in Iowa," said Bransted.
"He went to DC, Iowa, and California," said Reynolds. "Flyover state no more."
Read more in the April 24 issue of the Monitor, on newsstands now!