Craig Lang, a candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, visited Muscatine last Thursday.

Lang is looking to take agriculture in the state of Iowa in a new direction. Lang spent ten years as the Iowa Farm Bureau President from 2001 to 2011.   He also served on the Iowa Board of Regents for six years, spending two of those years as president. When he retired from the Board of Regents, Lang thought he was leaving public life. However, Lang’s concern with soil health in the state of Iowa has drawn him out of retirement in an effort to orchestrate change.

A fifth-generation farmer, Lang hopes his grandchildren will be the seventh generation to farm their operation. His campaign focus is soil health, water quality, and rural economic development. He describes healthy soils as having increased organic matter, better water infiltration, and aggregate stability. One of the benefits of healthy soils, among many, is how well they can handle a two to four-inch rain.

Lang believes one way to create healthy soils is through crop diversity, including incorporating cover crops. Cover crops help protect the soil, retaining nutrients and reducing erosion, which in turn helps protect water quality. Cover crops can also be used as a feed source for livestock.

As Lang noted in his visit, studies show that one cover crop will reduce the nitrates leaching into the water by fifty percent. Lang stressed the importance of farmers doing what they can to help prevent the leaching of nitrates into the water. As Lang noted, “Farmers want to do the right thing.”  With depressed market prices for corn and soybeans, he believes farmers need to diversify and explore other sources of income.

Lang would like to see farmers showcase their conservation practices, demonstrating to other Iowans how they are working to improve soil health and water quality. He stated that Iowa is already is beginning to see a turnaround in water quality based on new practices being implemented. He wants to see continued progress utilizing those effective practices. Lang said he doesn’t wish to see farmers forced into mandates they can’t afford; rather, he’d like to demonstrate how healthy soils are beneficial to both the landowner and the tenant.

When asked, if elected, how long it would take to put some of these practices into place, Lang stated that he would like to see five million acres of cover crops planted in five years. He’d like to find one farmer in each county to plant cover crops and demonstrate the value cover crops create for both the landowner and tenant.

Lang said it is key to get everyone involved, county by county, because the practices will differ depending on each county’s landscape. Some best practices will work in every county, but other practices will be more site-specific. He went on to say that the incorporation of no-till practices and the introduction of livestock will help to build soil health.

Lang says building soil health can help rural economic development by reducing the dollars needed to grow a crop. He believes that building rural economic development can in turn help smaller rural towns stay viable, working to create jobs, through low-interest loans and entrepreneurial ventures.

Information on Lang’s platform can be found at craiglangiowa.com