The Iowa skies looked beautiful Saturday morning as roughly 900 or so people opted to forego the best weather in months to attend the Iowa Ag Summit throughout the day at the Iowa State Fair.
As many as 11 potential Republican presidential candidates and national speakers were slated to speak at the event.
Iowa agribusinessman Bruce Rastetter, who put together the ag summit, opened the day by highlighting the growing need for food consumption and Iowa's role in that production. He pointed to the radical changes that have come from better technology such as precision planting, seed technology and nutrient management.
Rastetter also pointed to the looming population challenges in the world and the need to produce food for nearly 10 billion people by 2050. Countries also have growing middle classes that will demand more protein as well.
"The need for more pork, more fish and more cattle are going to put demands on row-crop agriculture," Rastetter said.
It's easy to talk about that we need to double food production, but the big question is how are we going to do that, Rastetter said.
"Will government policy allow us in a positive way, in this country and around the world, to meet those demands?" Rastetter said.
Rastetter and the ag summit in general focused on protecting the Renewable Fuels Standard and also touting Iowa's other renewable energy production such as wind power. Rastetter said the ethanol is a critical "renewable resource made in the U.S.," leading to applause.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie kicked off the national speakers. Rastetter asked Christie early about his support for the Renewable Fuels Standard and biofuels. Christie said the president has to understand the executive branch needs to implement the laws passed by Congress.
"The law requires that, Bruce, so let's make sure we comply with the law," Christie said.
Regarding Trade Promotion Authority, Christie questioned letting the Obama administration make a major trade deal. "If any of us have seen the president negotiate over the last six years are concerns about how the president negotiates --- Christie said.
Christie said he had concerns about opening up trade and relations with Cuba. He talked about the family of a New Jersey police officer who was killed by a woman who fled to Cuba. Christie said the Obama administration should negotiate to hold criminals accountable. Still, Christie left open the idea of working with Cuba.
"I have a number of issues with it, but if they are willing to play ball, we should be."
Regarding water-quality and the waters of the United States rule, Christie said he knows about the top-down mindset of the Obama administration because the WOTUS policy came out of EPA that had been run by Lisa Jackson, who was New Jersey's top environmental regulator under former Gov. Jon Corzine. Christie called WOTUS, "a power grab."
"These kind of programs should be voluntary, but not optional," Christie said.
Rastetter noted immigrant workers are critical to ag. In dairy, the estimates are that 80% of workers are immigrations. Christie said current immigration laws should be enforces to make them work. That would include improving the H2A guest-worker program and making sure employers use the E-Verify system. "This is the uncertainty that has gone on because our national leaders have not beena able to deal with this issue head on," Christie said. He added, "We should have a clear, reliable guest-worker program that people in agriculture can rely on."
Christie called E-Verify a great tool. However, agricultural groups have opposed mandating E-Verify on farms.
Regarding labels for foods with ingredients from genetically-modified crops, Christie said, "We don't need it."
Calling this the worst economic recovery in history, Christie said taxes need to be made flatter and fairer. He criticized the Tax Code and opposed the estate tax.
"The fact is we tax too much in this country already and we tax in a way that is too complicated," Christie said. Regarding estate taxes, he said, "It's crazy and it's not good for families and it's not good for our economy."
Christie also said he supports crop insurance and thinks it provides the right type of safety net. "Let's face it, if we don't do that, the government will step in anyway in that kind of disaster and all the costs will be paid by taxpayers."
"Washington DC can help provide the safety net, but they shouldn't dictate the terms."
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