Although I am driving back home to Kansas City tonight for Thanksgiving, I have never felt more like an Iowan than I did last Friday.
Fellow Daily News staff writer Zach Johnson and I drove up to Nevada to cover the “Don’t Mess With the RFS” rally put on by Gov. Terry Branstad and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. There I was, freezing my butt off in a giant metal barn with DDG cascading from the ceiling and a ton of angry farmers and politicians from all over Iowa surrounding me.
IT WAS GREAT!
I’ve always heard so much about Iowa politics growing up, but up until this point living here, it seemed to be all talk. Friday, I got my first dose of hardcore Iowa politics and it tasted like a quote-infused ear of delicious Iowa Sweet Corn.
I got to see the fired-up 1980s versions of Branstad and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and I got to see so many concerned and angry Iowans rallying behind them and the other speakers. The collective rage focused on the EPA in that room was inspiring.
In fact, the man I was sitting next to, James Boyt, of Persuasive Communications in Des Moines, told me he had never seen Grassley this fired up and he had been attending events like this for decades. (James, by the way, was hilarious and made it hard me for to keep up my serious reporter face with his side comments).
When I got back to the office Friday, my boss and I compared Branstad and Grasseley’s passionate speeches to “The Mega Powers.” The Mega Powers was an ’80s WWF tag-team that took two of the biggest names in the industry, Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Hulk Hogan, and let them run havoc on the rest of wrestling world.
Ooooooooooooooh yeah, brother!
Watching these two Iowa political titans, in such rare form mind you, was an absolute treat and gave me one of the greatest gifts any reporter could have: too many good quotes. I mean, you had Grassley referencing the farmers in attendance as an army that was only missing their pitchforks and Branstad saying the EPA has declared war on corn.
In Iowa, heck anywhere, that is what we like to call “journalism gold.”
As much as I enjoyed the political process at work for something positive for a change, that wasn’t what made me realize my attachment to Iowa — and its unique slice of Americana — was becoming very personal. It was the fact that I can’t really remain impartial on the RFS issue.
The very day I got back to the office from vacation, my boss told me about the EPA’s RFS proposal and it stirred up two big emotions in me: dread and anger.
I dread the amount of jobs that could be lost, I dread the impact on farmers and I dread the impact this could have on Newton.
We have a biodiesel plant, REG, right in our backyard. I’ve toured that facility, I’ve met the good men and women who work there, and I’ve probably even talked to their children and other friends and family.
I know how important it is in this town that we retain industrial jobs. The thought of REG or any of other states’ ethanol or biodiesel plants shutting down scares me to death.
It also angered me a great deal.
I voted twice for Barack Obama. I’ve been a staunch supporter of his since his days in the U.S. Senate. I once stood in line for four hours and then stood for another three just to watch him speak at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.
I brought my little cousins with so that they could see the first potential Black President, something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, and yet I now feel betrayed by him on this issue.
As a reporter, I’m supposed to remain neutral on this matter, but I just can’t. I’ve been in Iowa for nearly a year and I love Iowa. I want to see us continue to grow as a state and I know how much renewable fuels help spur this growth for not only our state, but for our country.
The RFS proposal would be crippling to this industry. I can’t believe that “My President,” the man I spent a day interning for (not a fan of knocking on doors) could not only turn his back on green industries, but turn his back on Iowa.
Iowans helped get him in the White House. Although I wasn’t an Iowan at the time, I am now.
I’m the type of person who puts his whole heart into anything I do. This includes my job, my city (Go CARDS!) and my state.
If I had his ear, I would urge President Obama to reverse course on this proposal and think about America’s best interests. Renewable fuels are among them. So, I encourage everyone to visit www.protecttherfs.com and sign the petition.
It’s funny. A year ago, I had no interest in covering agriculture or politics and I had a vague idea of what renewable fuels were. Now, I’m rallying for Iowans to stand together and protect our nation’s renewable fuel industry.
Because of this kind of growth I’ve experienced, in addition to all the usual things I’m thankful for, I want to thank Iowa for continuing to mold me as both a man and as a reporter.