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99 counties in 9 months with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig completed his annual 99 county tour in September with a stop at The Flying Elbow in Marshall County to meet with local cattlemen and taste Iowa’s Best Burger for 2022.

“Every year I have the privilege to travel to each of Iowa’s 99 counties to promote the people, farms, and businesses that make our agriculture community so special. It’s an opportunity for me to see and hear the challenges they face so I can help identify and advocate for solutions,” said Naig.

Here’s a recap of some of his county visits.

January

The tour began in January 2022 with a tour of Bowie International in Calhoun County. The company manufactures mobile veterinary clinics.

Carroll County was officially the second stop on the tour. There, Naig presented a recap of Iowa agriculture in 2021 and priorities for 2022 to the Carroll Chamber of Commerce.

The secretary wrapped up the first day of his tour with a roundtable discussion in Greene County. Topics ranged from crop insurance and young farmer programs to current and upcoming projects in the county.

A mid-January trip to southcentral Iowa included stops at the Kirkpatrick Locker in Madison County and the Revelton Distillery in Clarke County.

The month wrapped up with a few stops on the eastern side of the state. In Cedar County, Naig visited the Hoover Presidential Library. Herbert Hoover was born in Iowa and was elected to serve as the 31st president of the United States.

In Muscatine County, Naig participated in a farm equipment dealership grand opening.

Brownwells Inc. hosted Naig in Poweshiek County for a tour of the warehouse and store. This Iowa family business supports conservation work across the state.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig visits Ebert Honey
Photo credit: IDALS

Naig also visited Ebert Honey in Jasper County. The family business has 1,800 hives.

In Louisa County, Naig visited TriOak Foods. The company, started in 1951 by John and Betty McCulley in Oakville, is a pork producer, feed manufacturer, and grain marketer.

February

February started with a visit to the La Porte City FFA Historical and Ag Museum in Black Hawk County.

The secretary also stopped by the Bremer County Food Pantry. Thanks to donations from a local pork producer and the Elma Locker, the food pantry is receiving three hogs every two months.

While in Hancock County Naig visited Greenfield Nitrogen. The company is working to develop a network of green hydrogen and ammonia facilities that are strategically positioned in the Midwest to serve the emerging renewable energy markets. This location near Garner is the company’s first location.

In Buchanan County Naig met with Brett Vogel of Vogel Crop Services and a few farmers for a small roundtable discussion.

The next week Naig visited Hoovers Hatchery in Floyd County. The company started in 1944 and now offers more than 80 breeds of chickens.

Cerro Gordo County was crossed off the list next with a stop at Bushel Boy Farms. Chuck Tryon led a tour through their greenhouses where the company works to grow vegetables all year long.

Naig also attended the Central States Agency spring meeting in Winnebago County.

The secretary visited Mike and Floy Kenyon of Twin Oaks Elk Farm in Guthrie County later in the month. The Kenyons have about 200 elk and are always looking for new ways to improve the health and genetics of their herd.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig visits AMVC in February 2022
Photo credit: IDALS

Audubon County is home to AMVC, the ninth largest pork producer in the country. Company veterinarians spoke with Naig about foreign animal disease prevention and preparedness when he visited.

Kelly and Christy Cunningham hosted Naig at Milk Unlimited in Cass County. These dairy farmers spoke with him about workforce challenges and liquid milk market obstacles.

Naig spoke in Jefferson County at the Southeast Iowa Farm Show.

Naig paused his 99 county tour at the end of February to lead a trade mission to Mexico. The mission was coordinated by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and focused on increasing exports of manufactured products and agriculture goods. Iowa companies exported $3.1 billion in goods to Mexico in 2021.

“Leading trade missions such as this opens doors for Iowa agriculture, deepens important relationships, and allows us to explore new market opportunities for Iowa,” said Secretary Naig. “Mexico continues to be a critically important export destination for Iowa agriculture as our farmers remain focused on delivering quality, consistent and affordable products to customers around the world.”

March

The month of March began with the Iowa Agriculture Leaders dinner in Polk County. At the event the City of Cedar Rapids was recognized as a leader in conservation. A partnership between Country View Dairy, Field to Family, and the Clear Creek Amana School District was recognized for leadership in market diversification. The Mighty Howard County Fair was recognized for leadership in the community for their unique educational facility focused on youth. Past president of Iowa Farm Bureau, Craig Hill, and former USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation, Bill Northey, each received recognition for outstanding service in agriculture.

Cattlemen were eager to talk about conservation with the secretary at a roundtable event in Taylor County.

In Adams County, Naig spoke with a roundtable group at POET Bioprocessing. He stressed the importance of agricultural product timeliness across our state. “E-15 infrastructure buildup is desperately needed to bolster ethanol access,” the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) tweeted after his visit.

Grant Wells, owner of Wells Ag Supply in Pocahontas County, discussed chemical and fertilizer supply chains with Secretary Naig when he visited the business in March.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig tours the Clarion Locker
Photo credit: IDALS

Establishing an H-2A visa program to ease labor shortages was the topic of discussion when Naig toured the Clarion Locker in Wright County. In the past two years, the company has doubled their business by upgrading equipment thanks to a federal grant and lots of hard work.

Naig spoke about current legislation, conservation, and Choose Iowa initiatives at the Kenny Angus Annual Bull and Select Female sale in Sac County to an audience from Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and New Mexico.

March travels included a trip to Union County to visit the Travis family, owners of Travis Feeders in Creston, Iowa and recipients of a Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award. The operation includes row crop and hay ground, as well as a cow-calf, finishing feedlot and hog operation. To combat soil erosion and prevent nutrient losses, the family uses buffer strips, tile intakes, and terraces across their farmland. The farm is predominantly no-till, and the Travises use the cattle and hog manure to improve soil organic matter in their fields, decreasing the use of commercial fertilizers.

Naig celebrated National Ag Day with a stop at Perry Creek Dairy in Plymouth County. The farm has a rotary parlor for their 4,000 head operation.

He also celebrated the industry holiday with a luncheon in Sioux County.

Stensland Creamery in Lyon County was a recipient of a 2022 Choose Iowa Marketing and Promotion grant. Naig stopped in to see how the business will be expanding their on-farm processing.

Naig visited Sundog Farm, home of Local Harvest CSA in Johnson County. The farm received a Choose Iowa Marketing and Promotion grant as well.

While he was in Johnson County Naig also spoke to the county Ag Committee regarding headwinds and opportunities in agriculture.

In celebration of National Ag Week and Food Awareness Month, Naig participated in a Friend-ly Food Friend-zy at Fareway in Buena Vista County. The grocery gathering mayhem benefited local food pantries.

Dwight Dial receives an award from the Iowa Department of Agriculture surrounded by family and friends
Photo credit: IDALS

In late March, Naig returned to Calhoun County to present a Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award to Dwight Dial. With a goal of leaving the land in better condition than when he started farming in 1978, Dwight has transitioned his corn and soybean fields to 100% no-till and has implemented cover crops, grassed waterways, and terraces. He has also increased organic matter and sequestered carbon by applying hog manure to his ground. Dwight has farmland enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, Farm to River Partnership, Soil Health Partnership, Conservation Stewardship Program, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

April

April was off to a delicious start after a meeting with corn farmers and cattlemen at Victoria Station. The Shelby County restaurant won the Iowa’s Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Contest in 2021 and was a top 10 contestant in the 2022 Iowa’s Best Burger Contest.

Naig spoke to agribusiness students at Iowa Western Community College in Pottawattamie County. In addition to their classroom experience, students there have hands-on opportunities in the lab and field.

Crawford County is home to one of 12 Vetter Equipment locations owned by Glen and Julie Vetter. Naig stopped by in early April.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig tours the greenhouses at Morningside College
Photo credit: IDALS

While on the western side of the state, Naig visited the Morningside University campus in Woodbury County. He talked with students, faculty, and toured their state-of-the-art greenhouses.

In Monona County Naig stopped in to talk with managers at the local New Cooperative. Transportation was a big theme of their conversation.

Secretary Naig took the stage at the 94th Iowa FFA Leadership Conference in Story County. “While everyone’s backgrounds and experiences differ, the blue corduroy jacket is the commonality that brings students together to showcase their projects, foster new friendships, and develop leadership skills,” IDALS tweeted.

Naig met up with Allison Kruse, the 2022 Iowa Mrs. United States Agriculture, at Kruse’s LJ Swiss in Dubuque County. After touring the farm, conversations about challenges farmers face when getting started in the dairy industry were had.

More than 80% of Plastics Unlimited’s business comes from agriculture, and the Jackson County company is growing exponentially. Naig paid them a visit in April.

In mid-April, Naig traveled to Clinton County to visit Naeve Family Beef, a processing plant owned by a six-generation farm family. The family opened their facility to help meet the growing capacity needs and opened a retail store for packaged products.

The secretary visited a drainage water recycling project in Story County in late April. The drainage management system is designed to capture water during wet periods to be used later in the growing season. This practice may improve yields, water quality, and help farmers adapt to weather variability.

Naig ended April talking to Harrison County Development Corporation for their annual meeting.

May

An early May trip included a stop in Story County to celebrate the new Stanley L. Balloun Turkey Teaching and Research Facility at Iowa State University. This facility is the first of its kind and will provide hands-on learning and research opportunities for students and faculty.

The secretary marked the end of the school year by speaking at the Emmetsburg FFA Banquet in Palo Alto County. During the banquet, chapters celebrate and reflect on members’ accomplishments and install new officers.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig speaks at the Iowa Central Community College commencement ceremony in May 2022
Photo credit: IDALS

He also spoke at Iowa Central Community College’s commencement ceremony in Webster County. Naig shared the lessons he’s learned from hardworking Iowans — the value of adaptability, determination, and your ability to impact others.

In mid-May Naig visited the Wilson Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation site in Davis County. There are more than 300 sites like it around Iowa. Prior to 1977, there were no regulations to clean up strip mines once mining operations stopped. If not reclaimed, these abandoned mine lands are often high in acidity and poorly vegetated. The 16-acre site Naig toured will feature two terraces and a wetland when the project is complete.

Naig visited a similar site in Wapello County. The landscape will be enhanced with wetlands and terraces here, too.

Jeff and Jill Burkart started their Dallas County farm and creamery in 1981. Today their Picket Fence Creamery is known for their ice cream, milk, cheese, and heavy whipping cream. Secretary Naig visited the couple and toured their facilities in late May. 

Clark and John Whitaker hosted Naig at their wetland in Van Buren County.

Andrew Kaldenberg, manager of Stuart Egg Farm for Rose Acre Farms in Adair County was awarded a Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award by Naig. The Iowa Department of Agriculture recognized the farm’s practices that include recycling wastewater for cropland irrigation, constructing wetlands to foster natural water purification, processing manure into Grade A compost for local farmers and gardeners, and utilizing broken eggs as a liming agent for farm ground.

Naig traveled to Iowa’s far northwest corner to present a Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award to the Moser family, owners of Idlenot Farms in Lyon County at the end of May. Three generations of Mosers work together to raise corn, soybeans, and pigs. They market 200,000 hogs each year and manufacture feed at their mill using inputs from their row crop operation and corn from neighboring farmers. To combat soil erosion and prevent nutrient loss, the family has incorporated terraces and grass waterways into their fields. They also adhere to a manure management plan and use a nitrogen stabilizer. From internet-connected feed bins to a smartphone app for barn records and more, Idlenot Farms has led the way in embracing and implementing animal husbandry technology.

In Monroe County, Naig attended the Qore groundbreaking ceremony.

On the last day of May, Naig and State Representative John Wills visited the Francis Sites Stormwater Wetland in Dickenson County.

June

To kick off the month of June, Naig spent the afternoon at the Iowa Ag Aviation Association’s Calibration Clinic in Hamilton County. He got to see the calibration process and what members do to maintain and improve the professional aerial application of crop protection products.

In Howard County, Naig visited the new Reicks View Ag Education Center that was highlighted at the Iowa Ag Leaders Dinner in March. This building was completed in 2016 and replaced two structures from the 1920s. It includes a modern swine production area, a modern milking parlor, large show arena with A/V and wifi, along with ADA compliant restrooms and showers. The Center also houses dairy cows, sheep, goats, and bottle calves.  

Naig joined in on a celebration at Lely's North American headquarters in Marion County.

While in Butler County, Naig visited the Butler Logistics Park.

The Ionia Locker was Naig’s stop in Chickasaw County. This family business has been serving northeast Iowa farmers and hunters for more than 50 years.

A crowd of Mitchell County cattlemen welcomed Naig to the area to address questions about foreign animal diseases and trade over lunch in June.

Farmers Coop Telephone Company provides technology services for residents of rural Tama and Benton Counties. Naig visited them in June for continued conversation on rural broadband connectivity.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig tours ADA Enterprises in June 2022
Photo credit: IDALS

ADA Enterprises in Worth County hosted Naig the first week of June to learn about their plastic-dipped hog building flooring, dog kennel flooring, picnic tables, and more.

Naig toured Pioneer’s Reinbeck Seed Production Facility in Grundy County

The secretary participated in an Ag Literacy Foundation Workshop in Franklin County.

A trip to Mills County included a stop at Keg Creek Brewing.

While he was in southwest Iowa, Naig visited the Green Plains biorefinery in Fremont County. The company produces ethanol, DDGs, and corn oil.

Nearby, First Heritage Bank in Page County has been working with farmers and agricultural businesses since 1873. Naig stopped by to talk with bankers in mid-June.

On the other side of the state, Naig visited River Bend Food Bank in Scott County. He toured the food bank, engaged in a roundtable discussion with staff, and helped pack meals for those in need. This food bank distributes over 22 million meals each year.

Naig participated in a roundtable and several media interviews at the 2022 World Pork Expo in Polk County.

June’s travels also included a stop at Sky View Beef for a Calving Under Roof event hosted by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers. The Floyd County farm received a grant for their direct to consumer beef sales.

Naig joined Iowa governor Kim Reynolds at Red Barn Meat Market in Decatur County for the signing of two bills. The new legislation funded the Choose Iowa program, scaled up local foods in Iowa, and supported the state’s meat lockers.

The secretary also visited the Stolee Wetland in Hardin County with folks from the Conservation Districts of Iowa in June.

At the end of the month, Naig made a trip to the Whitetail Valley Farm in Montgomery County. The family was selected to receive a grant to expand the bottling and production of their apple wine and cider.

July

Naig paid a visit to the Bates family in Washington County to present a Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award in mid-July. The Bates family farm includes corn, soybean, and alfalfa production, as well as a black angus herd and, for 33 years, a turkey operation. While the turkey operation recently transitioned to another young farmer in the area, it remains an important part of the farm’s leadership story. In addition to their dedication to high-quality animal husbandry, the family has emphasized the importance of conservation.They’ve incorporated terraces, buffer strips, and no-till practices on most of their row crop acres. Rye cover crops are planted on portions of their land, and solar energy is used to power their house and turkey barns.

Allamakee County is Iowa’s most northeastern county. Naig stopped there at the end of July to speak with fair board members and 4-H exhibitors. 

Later, the secretary traveled to Mahaska County to take in the Southern Iowa Fair and Exposition.

July’s travels also included a field day in Wapello County. Naig was invited to speak at the event highlighting the first saturated buffer to be installed in the county.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig on an onion farm
Photo credit: IDALS

While in southern Iowa, Naig stopped by Rolling Prairie Acres in Keokuk County where they grow garlic, tomatoes, onions, and more to sell at the Fairfield Farmer’s Market.

Naig took in the livestock barns, beef show, and static exhibits at the Henry, Ringgold, and Decatur County fairs in mid-July.

While in Decatur County, Naig took in the fresh summer air and beautiful blooms at Clear Sky Flowers.

The Moravia Meat Locker hosted Naig on his way through Appanoose County.

In Fayette County, Naig stopped at Country View Dairy. Dave and Carolee Rapson moved to the Hawkeye, Iowa, farm from Michigan in 2002 with the dream of starting their own dairy farm. In 2011, the family decided to pursue making yogurt at a larger scale to help build a lasting enterprise.

August

The first week of August included a stop at Wildlife Lakes Elk Farm in Des Moines County. The farm has been raising this heart-healthy, lean protein for more than 30 years.

While in southeast Iowa, Naig toured Hinterland Dairy in Lee County. The dairy milks about 160 cows and produces their own ice cream and cheese.

Naig traveled to Ida County to recognize Jollene Riessen and sons, owners of LeeCorr Inc. with a Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award. The family grows corn, soybeans, and alfalfa, and has a cow-calf operation and feedlot. The farm has implemented conservation practices including waterways, terraces, and no-till. A winter wheat cover crop has also been grown on most of the farm’s acres for the past 10 years and is chopped or baled to use as cattle feed. The family’s strategic nutrient management means they only move manure and apply anhydrous in the fall.

Naig visited Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) in O’Brien County. AMPI is the largest cheese cooperative based in the U.S.

Congressman Feenstra joined Naig in Kossuth County for a Farm Bill town hall in early August.

A trip to Osceola County included a stop at Jake’s Meat Market in Sibley. The business processes beef, pork, lamb, and wild game.

Naig visited K.C. Nielsen, LTD, a John Deere dealership in Humboldt County to discuss workforce challenges and supply chain challenges concerning parts.

While in Polk County for the Iowa State Fair in August, Naig presented Century or Heritage farm awards to 351 Iowa families. The program celebrates farms that have been owned by the same families for 100 and 150 years, respectively. To date, 20,773 Century Farms and 1,685 Heritage Farms have been recognized across the state of Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture also recognized 40 farm families with Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Awards at the state fair. “Iowa farmers have always led on conservation and land stewardship, and continue to do so with more momentum than ever,” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. More than 690 Iowa farm families have been recognized since the creation of the Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award in 2012.

Later in the month, another Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award presentation took Naig to Linn County. “The Martin Family embodies what it means to be a good farm neighbor,” said Naig. “For five generations, they have been dedicated to practicing high standards of animal care and environmental stewardship while also going the extra mile to make a difference in their community. I am proud to present this deserving family with this award.” In addition to raising corn, soybeans, and alfalfa, the Martin family has 30 head in their cow-calf operation and feed out about 70 steers. They market some of their meat directly to consumers.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig visits Veterinary Medical Center
Photo credit: IDALS

Naig toured Veterinary Medical Center in Iowa County to see state-of-the-art equipment used to meet the evolving challenges of animal health.

Naig and agriculture leaders from across the Corn Belt spent a day at Farm Progress Show in Boone County to see the latest innovations in the industry.

A trip to Benton County rounded out the month of August for Naig. The secretary walked around Frazier Nursery near Vinton.

September

In September, Naig traveled to the Froelich Tractor Museum Barn in Clayton County to present a Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award to the Lance and Joanna Schutte family, owners of Jo-Lane Dairy. In addition to managing their Holstein and Brown Swiss herd, the farm grows corn for grain and silage in addition to alfalfa, oats, and rye. They have implemented an array of conservation practices including strip cropping, terraces, grass waterways, and cover crops.

The Cronin family in Cherokee County was also presented a Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award in September by Naig. These row crop and cattle farmers have adopted conservation practices including minimum tillage. To prevent erosion, the Cronins converted steeper crop ground to hay acre. They have installed and maintained terraces on their land and have planted many tree windbreaks. The farm utilizes manure from swine and cattle as well as chicken litter for fertilizer.

Naig was hosted by Tom and Marilyn Johnstone for a tour of the Armstrong Locker in Emmet County. Like many local lockers, business has been booming in recent years.

The Tri-State Ag and Dairy Expo near Calmar in Winneshiek County brought Naig and 400 Iowa FFA students to the northeast corner of the state. While in the area, Naig also toured the Iowa Dairy Center.

Secretary Naig stopped by the Clay County Fair in September.

In Wayne County, Naig visited DairiConcepts LP. The company is a leading U.S. provider of innovative, dairy-based ingredients for the global food industry.

Yoke S Ranch hosted Naig at their free range Corriente cattle operation in Lucas County.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig looking at brewing equipment at Franklin Street Brewing
Photo credit: IDALS

Naig visited Franklin Street Brewing Company in Delaware County this fall. Earlier in 2022, the business received a $25,000 grant from IDALS to purchase a canning line that will increase their production and purchases of Iowa grown hops and grains. According to their website, the brewery also donates all their spent grain to a local farmer to feed cows and chickens.

Dave Lubben farms near Monticello in Jones County and was named the 2022 Conservation Farmer of the Year. Naig stopped by his farm to see the practices Lubben has found to be quite compatible with his cattle.

Naig visited the Milo Locker in Warren County in late September. In 2019, the business built a new facility with a large retail space. The locker employs about 30 people and processes lots of Iowa grown cattle, hogs, and deer.

October

When he’s not traveling the state, Naig and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Julie Kenney often host visitors from around the world in Des Moines. Groups from Mexico, South Korea, and the Republic of Moldova visited in October.

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