Taha visits WC

Sherrie Taha, Democratic candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, said she would like to see farming practices that improve soil and water quality in the state and keep valuable soil on Iowa’s rich farmlands.

Taha visited Webster City this week to meet with Hamilton County supporters. She will face Republican incumbent Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey in the Nov. 4 election.

Taha said the state is at a crisis point with soil loss and water quality.

“That is the primary concern whether you live in rural or urban Iowa,” according to Taha. “What happens on the agricultural landscape has a big effect on everybody.”

Taha was born in Creston and grew up in southwestern and central Iowa. She earned a degree in Art Education from the University of Minnesota, has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and received a Master of Public Administration degree from Drake University. Most recently she served as recording secretary/treasurer for ATU Local 441 and on the board of the League of Women Voters Metropolitan Des Moines. She was elected and currently serves as a commissioner for the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District

The candidate said her experience as a soil and water commissioner will serve her well in the secretary of agriculture position.

“Being a soil and water conservation commissioner is actually what made me decide to run for secretary of agriculture,” she said. “(Conservation districts) are where the rubber meets the road in terms of implementation of the practices that are funded by both state and federal dollars.”

She said as a commissioner she gained a sense of how and where the money flows in Iowa, both through the Department of Natural Resources and through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The position also carries a policy responsibility, she added.

“It puts all of those pieces that I’ve been working on and learning more about together,” she said.

The candidate said she supports bringing more diversity to the state’s agriculture production.

“We need to talk not just about corn and soybeans, but also where consumers are driving the markets,” she said. She pointed to the case of Templeton Rye, produced in Iowa, but the rye used in the product is grown elsewhere.

“We can grow that here so it becomes a real Iowa product in every aspect of production,” she said.

“We need to talk more about and really promote diversification,” she said. “It benefits from a conservation standpoint, but also tying those consumer pieces as well.”

Taha said she would like to see the food system in Iowa rebuilt.

“Most of our food dollars leave the state,” she said. “That’s crazy for the best agriculture environment in the world for that to be happening.”

Helping build on farmers markets around the state and strengthening consumer-producer connections are integral to growing local economies, she said.

“If we challenged every household in Webster City to spend 10 percent of their weekly or monthly food budget on locally grown items, that would be an economic boon for the community,” she said.

“It’s good for consumer, natural resources and economic viability. Those three things have to be in balance,” according to Taha. She said that problems with erosion and water quality may be due to an over-emphasis on economic viability.

“Rebalancing those three pieces will always be what I have in the back of my mind,” she said.

Taha said she would also like to see all of the stakeholders come to the table for discussions about the future of agriculture. Consumers, environment groups, farmers, agri-business and commodity groups should all have a voice in what’s happening in the state, she said.