Agriculture as we know it is in the midst of rapid change. On Monday May 22nd, 2017, we saw yet another change to the Ag sector that will have an impact on the state of Iowa and many other agriculturally-centered states. On Monday, Governor Terry Branstad (R – Iowa) was confirmed by the Senate as the United States’ newest Ambassador to China. Governor Branstad has spent much of his time in his role as Governor being a continually outspoken advocate for Iowa agriculture. With his departure from his post, the question begs, what is next for Iowa Agriculture and the Ag sector of the United States?
Governor Branstad will be handing the reigns to his Lieutenant Governor, Kim Reynolds, who has held the position since 2011. Reynolds, a farmer’s daughter from Southern Iowa who is married to a soil conservationist, has built a reputation as a leader of expanding the economy of Iowa and has stated her intentions to use that reputation to create a plan of action to further advance Iowa agriculture. In her time as Lieutenant Governor, Reynolds built her economic agenda by assuming a large amount of responsibilities from Ambassador Branstad that typically were designated for the Governor himself. Reynolds had the responsibility of co-chairing the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress board as well as partaking in many economic trade missions to countries like China, South Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines. When asked what she intends to build upon as Governor, she stated that her goal is to continue her focus on strengthening Iowa’s economy, specifically in rural areas. As Reynolds said in a 2017 interview with the Des Moines Register, “If Iowa is going to grow and be successful like I believe it can, we need economic opportunities in every corner of the state.” With that mindset being a pillar of her Gubernatorial agenda, It may be a strong indication that Iowa’s farmers will remain as a spotlight in the state’s economic planning and expansion plans.
Another interesting element in the transition of Iowa’s Governor is the potential of strengthening our country’s agricultural ties to China. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, China remains the second biggest importer of U.S. Agriculture products only behind Canada and remains the largest importer of U.S. soybeans. Branstad has taken multiple trips to China in the past and has used those opportunities to build relationships with members of China’s agriculture leadership, specifically with China’s President, Xi Jinping. In a May, 2017 interview with Successful Farming, Ambassador Branstad cited two main issues he hopes to tackle as Ambassador in which he will rely on these friendships to accomplish. The first goal Branstad spoke of was his hope to expand the exports of U.S. ethanol and Dried Distillers Grain to China. As he said in the interview, “Both products make a lot of sense for China. They (China) have a big air pollution problem and ethanol can help address that problem.” Branstad also stated his hopes to create a more transparent relationship between U.S. farmers and China, which would create a more efficient system of buying U.S. goods. While the future of Iowa agriculture government leadership enters a period of uncertainty, many signs point to former Iowa leadership and new leadership having an ambition to make Iowa farming even stronger.