Lang touts cover crops, beef industry

Former Regents leader seeks secretary of ag nomination

At least 5 million acres of cover crops and a growing beef industry are keys to a vibrant, enviromentally sound Iowa farm economy, according to Craig Lang.

Lang, who was president of both the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and the state Board of Regents, is pushing those concepts as he seeks the Republican nomination for state secretary of agriculture.

“I would be an activist,” he said Tuesday during a visit to Fort Dodge. “I would be very progressive. I would be out there looking for solutions to the problems that we have.”

Lang, who has a dairy farm near Brooklyn in Poweshiek County, is concerned that Iowa has become too dependent on large scale farmers who rotate crops between corn and soybeans. He estimated that there are 20 million acres in that corn/soybean rotation.

“That does not provide for an ecology of healthy soil,” he said.

“We are given a certain resource where we live that no place else in the world has,” he added. “That resource is our soils and the environment that supports our soils, meaning rainfall, a temperate climate, seasons.”

He’s calling for farmers to plant a diversity of crops, including cover crops that would be in the ground during the months when corn or soybeans are not. He said that north of U.S. Highway 20, rye would be an ideal cover crop.

The cover crops would prevent erosion, improve soil health and give farmers a new source of business, he said. They would also improve water quality by using up nutrients that would end up in water in the form of nitrates.

Lang said he approves of the water quality law signed earlier this year by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“That’s a good bill, because at least we have a starting point and a baseline to work from and there is money available to make changes in practices in agriculture,” he said.“What needs to be done is farmers need to take the leadership in saying ‘Is there something I can plant like a cover crop between harvest and spring that reduces the nitrates in water?’ I’m saying, yes, there is.”

He said if he is elected he will start a county by county pilot project, financed with grants from private foundations, to enable the planting of cover crops. He said data from the soil and the water running off that land would be collected and publicized to show that the project is working.

Cover crops aren’t the only thing needed for good soil health, according to Lang.

“You can’t have healthy soil without animal nutrients,” he said.

Growing the beef industry would provide more of those nutrients and give farmers a new business that they would have ownership in. He said in the pork industry, many farmers are feeding pigs they don’t own in barns that they don’t own.

Beef cattle, he said, are easy to keep. They can stay in a pasture surrounded by single line electric fence, he said.

Regarding confined animal feeding operations, Lang said they should be built in sites that provide “the least amount of annoyance to neighbors.”

He said the master matrix that governs the location of confined animal feeding operations was written by the Legislature and the state Enviromental Protection Commission, and the secretary of agriculture must follow it.

Lang faces Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, plus Ray Gaesser, Chad Ingels and Dan Zumbach in the June 5 Republican primary election.

Tim Gannon is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

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