Naig: ‘I hit the ground running’

As Secretary of Agriculture

Naig

TIMES-REPUBLICAN

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said he is eager and prepared to serve a full term and continue the legacy of former Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

Naig, 40, spoke confidently about his preparedness and abilities in a recent Times-Republican interview.

He served as Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for Northey beginning September 2013, and held that position until March this year, when Gov. Kim Reynolds nominated him to complete Northey’s term.

The top spot became available when Northey resigned, and was later sworn in as United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary in Washington, D.C.

As deputy secretary, Naig was responsible for department operations, specifically policy, budget and personnel, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship website. He also traveled across the state on international trade missions,

“I learned from someone I consider a mentor and friend,” Naig said of Northey. “And I am on the job today. I know it very well, having seen first hand what it takes to get it done.”

And that experience Naig believes separates him from four other Republican candidates vying for the job.

They are Ray Gaesser, Corning; Chad Ingels, Randalia; Craig Lang, Brooklyn; and Dan Zumbach, Ryan.

All are competing in the June 5 primary.

Voters will decide who will carry the Republican banner into the Nov. 6 general election against Democratic candidate Tim Gannon of Des Moines.

“It has been a busy eight weeks on the job,” Naig said. “I was sworn in March 5, and I hit the ground running, having plenty of time to prepare. I am excited about being in the race. And the number of candidates running proves the importance of the position.”

If he wins the primary and general election, Naig said he would work to maintain the department’s focus on soil and water conservation. Additionally, he would continue efforts of expanding domestic and international markets for agricultural products and livestock.

“Promoting our state’s agricultural products nationally and internationally, articulating the needs and concerns of Iowa agribusiness, and being an advocate for agribusiness, are key tasks of the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture,” he said.

Naig discussed President Donald Trump’s proposed plan to place tariffs on import products, such as steel and aluminum, to protect American companies manufacturing those products.

Additionally, the president wants to use tariffs as a means to motivate other countries to negotiate more favorable terms for American manufacturers and others.

China and other countries have retaliated by threatening to place tariffs on American pork and soybeans, among other products.

“Iowa is a leader in corn, pork, ethanol, biodiesel production and ranks second in soybean output,” Naig said. “We are number two in the value of ag products we export. If we don’t advocate for ourselves, who will. We do have a loud, cohesive voice coming from Iowa on the importance of agribusiness. The administration needs to know loud and clear how we feel about things.”

Conversely, Naig said, there are significant concerns the United States has with China’s current trade practices, and those need to be addressed.

Strengthening the state’s ag workforce would also be a priority, he said.

“In my travels across the state, I have listened, and learned we need more workers in the agribusiness industry,” he said. “From dairy farmers who need more employees to assist with production to software engineers for high-tech companies, we need to do more to make agribusiness careers attractive. That involves promoting the industry to Iowa residents as well as to those living outside of our borders. There may be opportunities to make agribusiness careers attractive to those who currently do not have an agribusiness-based job now. The future of agriculture depends on this.”

Naig said he grew up on a family farm near Cylinder. Over the years, he helped his dad and uncle run their crop and livestock operation. He continues to be involved.

Before joining the department, Naig had been active in agribusiness for more than 13 years, having served in public policy roles for state and national trade associations and private industry, according to the IDALS website.

He is a graduate of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. He and his wife Jaime have three boys, ages 11, 9, and 4.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com