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‘Made in Iowa’ legislation will see broad bipartisan support

Published: Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 12:02 p.m. CST

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One ground. Our ground,

rooting us to every stalk of corn,

every head of wheat sown by sweat and hands,

hands gleaning coal or planting windmills

in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm…

This stanza is from poet Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem titled ‘One Today.’  Blanco wrote the poem and read it at the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol on Monday.   As I listened to the poem, these lines struck me. They describe Jasper County and Midwestern communities like ours where ‘hands’ and ‘sweat’ produce food, products, and strengthen the middle-class.

While too many ‘hands’ are still idle, and the middle-class needs support now more than ever, we are gradually coming out of difficult times.  Agriculture and manufacturing have historically provided Jasper County and much of Iowa with a strong, stable economy. Now, to grow manufacturing opportunities and help put those ‘hands’ to work, we must support manufacturers and small businesses that have chosen to call Jasper County home. Also, to ensure the continued success of agriculture, we must focus on protecting the environment today. 

With this in mind, I focused on Iowa manufacturing and clean water this week.

I sponsored Made in Iowa legislation to help Iowa manufacturers and small businesses hire new employees and grow their business by giving them first opportunity at state and local government contracts. The proposal will give Iowa businesses a boost and keep more of Iowans taxpayer money from going out of the state or to China and India. It’s an idea that many folks I met during the campaign supported and it’s a common sense bill that should be able to win strong bi-partisan support this year in the legislature.

Under current law, state and local governments must accept the lowest bid in any circumstance even if an Iowa business only bids $1 more than an out of state company.  My ‘Made in Iowa’ proposal simply allows for an Iowa-based business to match the bid of an out of state company if it is within 5 percent, or $10,000, whichever is lower, of the lowest bid. Steps like this won’t put everyone back to work, but it will help move unemployment numbers further in the right direction. 

A Nutrient-Pollution Strategy is being promoted by Governor Branstad, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, and Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp. “The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science and technology-based approach to assess and reduce nutrients delivered to Iowa waterways and the Gulf of Mexico,” according to the governor’s office.

I am glad the Governor, Secretary, and Director listened to a variety of stakeholders, including farmers, in developing the strategy.  However, I am disappointed there was not more input from various environmental leaders and organizations, especially local Soil and Water Conservation Boards.  During Environmental Committee discussion, it became clear that these local experts were not consulted.  I am hopeful the governor will seek their input and incorporate their hands-on concepts into the nutrient-pollution strategy.

Our local Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation Board members provide critical leadership on soil conservation and ensuring clean water. I’ve attended several meetings of our elected board.  We should all be proud and appreciative of their efforts. Their work is important to all of us, including, but not exclusive to, farmers. In the Agriculture and Environmental Protection Committees, I made the case that the state should provide more support to our Soil and Water Conservation Boards. Jasper and 20 other county offices are challenged by sharing a secretary with at least one other county.  This is especially burdensome for the Jasper board because we share with Polk County. The secretaries should be called ‘office managers.’  They provide essential assistance to farmers in completing water-management projects while keeping the board and office operating efficiently and effectively. I will continue to make this case as I will soon meet with Secretary Northey to discuss Nutrient-Pollution Strategy, support for County Soil and Water Conservation Boards, and international food trade.

I’m proud to represent Newton, Colfax, Baxter, Mingo, Kellogg, Prairie City, Lambs Grove, Ira, and Valeria. Feel free to contact me anytime at (641) 521-9260 or dan.kelley@legis.state.ia.us. Visit my website at www.electkelley.com and ‘friend’ me on facebook.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

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