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Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Race Heats Up

Candidate Denise O'Brien protests letter sent by Iowa Farm Bureau soliciting support for candidate Bill Northey.

Denise O'Brien, the Democratic candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and several of her supporters last week voiced objections to a letter sent to Iowa Farm Bureau members in which Farm Bureau president Craig Lang solicited donations for her opponent
Several Farm Bureau members joined O'Brien at a news conference to criticize Lang for sending the political action committee fund-raising letter in support of Republican candidate Bill Northey.

O'Brien is herself a member of Farm Bureau. She said the letter was a surprise, and that her campaign has heard from a number of Farm Bureau members who object to Lang's request for donations in a letter printed on Farm Bureau stationary. "It's a tight race," noted O'Brien, "and Farm Bureau leaders want to make sure the candidate they've chosen to endorse in the campaign for state ag secretary has exposure in the media."

Speaks out against appeal for funds

The Northey vs. O'Brien race is a match-up of two very different candidates. O'Brien is from Atlantic in southwest Iowa and is executive director of the Women, Food & Agriculture Network, a nonprofit education and farm advocacy organization. Northey is a Spirit Lake farmer and a former president of the National Corn Growers Association.

Lang's letter describes Northey as a stay-the-course candidate who supports today's agriculture. The letter calls O'Brien an "activist". Lang says this year's election is on of the most important ag secretary elections ever. He said he's never written such a letter before but thought it was necessary because of the differences between these two candidates.

"She has made her name as an activist who has traveled the state speaking against world trade agreements and modern farming techniques," Lang wrote in describing O'Brien. "She feels strongly that the practices of today's farmers are wrong when it comes to size of farm, pest control and livestock issues. She calls herself progressive, but the policies that go with that philosophy are simply not good policies for Iowa."

Biggest disagreement is on livestock

Lang calls Northey "one of the finest candidates for secretary of agriculture we have ever had seek the office. Bill Northey will use this position to carry a positive message that is valuable for farmers." Lang is wary that O'Brien supports local zoning of livestock operations. Northey supports continued state government control of where livestock buildings are allowed to be located.

Northey says he welcomes Farm Bureau support and the backing of farmers who fear O'Brien would harm today's mainstream farming operations. "There is a lot of concern with agriculture that she does have views that would negatively impact livestock and biotechnology," especially when it comes to controlling where new livestock operations are built, says Northey.

Those participating in O'Brien's news conference disagreed. They said Farm Bureau leaders are afraid that if O'Brien is elected this November, she would not be controlled by Farm Bureau.
To find out more about the candidates' positions on specific issues, go to and

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