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Iowa Political Event Puts Spotlight on Ag Policy
Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter put together the Iowa Agriculture Summit for Saturday with a lineup of confirmed speakers oriented heavily around Republican presidential candidates. The ag summit is expected to draw 900 Iowans as well as national media to cover the candidates and event.
For a day at least, issues critical to Midwest agriculture will be a focal point in the early jockeying for the 2016 presidential race
Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter put together the Iowa Agriculture Summit for Saturday with a lineup of confirmed speakers oriented heavily around Republican presidential candidatesThe ag summit is expected to draw 900 Iowans as well as national media to cover the candidates and event.
Rastetter is being dubbed as an Iowa "kingmaker" for creating the event, which also puts a spotlight on his own views as wellRastetter will operate as a moderator and host by sitting down for a one-on-one conversation with each of the speakers and asking their take on particular topicsSo far, 12 GOP presidential hopefuls have confirmed to speak, but no national DemocratsThat somewhat makes sense considering Rastetter is one of the largest Republican campaign contributors in Iowa, if not the largest
In a profile Tuesday of Rastetter and event, the Capitol Hill website Politico described the ag summit as reflecting "the a bold display of the political power Rastetter has amassed — and a reminder to candidates that his endorsement would be a big get ahead of the Iowa caucuses."
Rastetter is a member of the Iowa Board of Regents -- appointed by GovTerry BranstadRastetter also has major ethanol, hog and real-estate interests in Iowa
Profiles in both Politico and the Des Moines Register note donations to the major universities and the Iowa State Fair where a building now has his name
One key point of discussion with GOP presidential candidates will be their stance on ethanol and renewable energy such as windRastetter was a heavy investor in Iowa ethanol facilitiesThe event also is co-sponsored by America's Renewable Future, a group set up by influential Iowa political operatives to help protect pro-ethanol policiesThe group is led by one of Branstad's sonsYet, most of the GOP candidates confirmed to speak have criticized policies for ethanol and wind -- two sectors where Iowans have used federal policies to create major industries in the state
SenCharles Grassley, R-Iowa, will speak at the event as wellOn Tuesday, Grassley praised Rastetter for taking the initiative to push agricultural issues into the forefrontHe too will be touting the importance of agricultural policy at the summit, Grassley said
"I am going to be doing the same thing Bruce Rastetter's trying to do by raising up in candidate's minds agriculture and the importance of agriculture and agricultural issues," Grassley said"The reason an ag summit like this is so important -- I compliment Bruce Rastetter for setting it up -- is that ag issues really don't get the attention that they ought to getSomebody like Rastetter, as a big mover and shaker, that can get the candidates there talking about ag issues and getting greater understanding of them."
Grassley said some of the candidates have asked him to brief them on some of the key issues affecting agriculture, though he declined to say which ones. "If I have to brief them, that means they need more understanding of ag issuesThis is going to raise it so hopefully that (will have) high visibility through the caucuses and to the general election."
The senator said he talked to colleagues about the problems with corn and soybean prices now being below the cost of production, as well as the importance of being sympathetic to the concerns of farmers"Farmers don't need to have a lot of answers, but they have got to know you are going to be sympathetic to their problems when they are getting income below the cost of production."
Grassley also deflected some criticism about Rastetter's role and the personal influence he could play in agricultural politicsGrassley said it takes significant money to put together such an event
"We ought to compliment him for being willing to make that investment for all of agriculture, not just in his own operation."
Speakers confirmed for the event include:
Former GovJeb Bush of Florida
GovChris Christie of New Jersey
SenTed Cruz of Texas
GovJim Gilmore of Virginia
SenLindsey Graham of South Carolina
Former GovMike Huckabee of Arkansas
GovGeorge Pataki of New York
Former GovRick Perry of Texas
SenMarco Rubio of Florida
Former SenRick Santorum of Pennsylvania
GovScott Walker of Pennsylvania
Various officeholders from Iowa
I will be live tweeting from the event on SaturdayYou can follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN
Depending on the logistics, I hope to also update this blog multiple times on Saturday with comments from speakers
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