By John Butters, The JOURNAL
Craig Lang, a Republican candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, describes himself as an activist.
?I?m running because I want to change Iowa?s landscape. I want to provide the kind of agriculture that works to clean our water and make our land more sustainable through healthy soils,? he said.
Lang stopped in Washington Tuesday as he campaigns throughout the state to improve his chances of emerging first in the June primary elections.
June primary ballots will also include political party candidates for the governor?s office and other state and county officials.
Lang, who farms near Brooklyn, said his activism is rooted in a long history of family farming.
?My grandfather came to Iowa in 1860. We have three generations now working on the same farm, all making daily decisions. My 92-year-old father and my two sons help run the operation,? he said.
Lang said that as a former president of the Farm Bureau, he learned how the agricultural department can bring Iowans together to improve soil health, water quality and the rural economy.
While sustainable agriculture is one of his primary concerns, he is also interested in the sustainability of Iowa?s small towns. The rural economy is important to farmers, he said, because it affects the communities where they live and educate their children.
He believes the Secretary of Agriculture should accept responsibility for strengthening Iowa?s rural economy. That includes helping local businesses survive.
?I believe one of the roles of the Secretary of Agriculture is to provide opportunity to established businesses to be passed on to the younger generations. We can do that through tax incentives and abatements, just as we do it for large corporations,? he said.
In regard to sustainable agriculture, Lang says farmers must do a better job of demonstrating that they care for the land and the water.
?It?s not enough to say that the water is better today than it was 20 years ago. We need to show the metrics that demonstrate the water is better and that we are improving the water quality,? he said.
Lang says Iowa farmers have embraced new technologies for improving soil health and controlling nitrate infiltration. The use of cover crops and other conservation methods are showing results that the public might not know about.
Recent lawsuits filed against agricultural producers have brought the issue to the forefront, he said. Farmers need to let consumers know about their progress.
?Farmers will have to continue to make practice changes to avoid increasing government regulation,? he said.
To get started in farming, young entrepreneurs might need to change the way they look at things.
?They don?t need to own everything. They can lease land and share equipment. Young farmers can work together,? he said.
In regard to trade, Lang said he is for free and fair trade. However, farmers make their investments based on the existing markets. Government changes to existing trade agreements increases the risks for the producers. He said the Secretary of Agriculture would need to actively seek out new markets when the landscape changes.
?There is a large opportunity in the world for things we can grow. We can encourage investments in Iowa that would benefit our farmers,? he said.
As an example of active leadership, he said, beef producers helped a Chinese processing company build a packing plant in their home state of Montana.
Lang is also an advocate of finding new crops to add to the traditional corn and bean rotation.
He said there are local markets for oats, wheat and rye and he would like to pursue those as well as international markets for Iowa?s produce.
?Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids gets their product from Canada. Barilla in Ames gets its wheat from Montana,? he said.
?We?re all in this together, as Iowans, and I believe our best opportunity for success is by working together to get things done,? he said.
In addition to holding office in the Farm Bureau, Lang has also served on Iowa?s Board of Regents and held a chair position on the Iowa Economic Development Board.