Offenburger: The Time Is Right For Christie Vilsack

The following is an article excerpt by former Des Moines Register columnnist Chuck Offenburger outlining his reasons why Christie Vilsack would be good for Iowa farmers.  You can read the entire article at

Why farmers in Iowa’s new fourth district should cast their votes for Christie Vilsack

By Chuck Offenburger
Cooper, Iowa

“Do you really think she’s got a chance against Steve King?” Chuck Kauffman asked me.

“I sure do,” I answered. “It’s a new day across northwest and north central Iowa. The time is right for Christie Vilsack. She’s going to win it.”

Chuck Kauffman smirked and said, “Well, what could she possibly tell Iowa farmers out there?”

“Good question,” I assured him. And then I gave him what I think is a good, long answer.

Steve King himself asked the same question in a different way, in his closing comments in the debate with Vilsack on Oct. 9 in Sioux City. “There’s a reason why we have at least 60 agricultural organizations that support me. And I can’t find any that are supporting my opponent. Why?”

And now the State of Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, another Republican, is appearing in a new radio add, endorsing King. Here’s part of what Northey says: “Congressman King has the full backing of the agriculture industry, winning the support of 60 ag organizations, including the Farm Bureau and Corn Growers. Sixty ag groups! That speaks volumes.”

Here is something else that speaks volumes: Let’s check the gender balance in those 60 ag organizations.

Some of you will say, “So what? That’s just the way it is.”

I recall that back in August at the Iowa State Fair, Clay Masters of Iowa Public Radio spent time on different days following Vilsack and King around the fairgrounds with an open microphone. When he was with King, they ran into a man identified as Lyle Fraizer, of Denison, who said he was fully supporting King. “He’s been there doing the job,” Fraizer said right on the air. “And I don’t like the lady. It’s a man’s world.”

That may well be how it is in Lyle Fraizer’s little world.

But the real world isn’t that way.

And neither is real agriculture.

Roughly 55 percent of the land is owned by females in one way or another. Those are from 2007 statistics. Back then, “approximately 20 percent of the land was owned solely by a female; another 20 percent of the land had multiple owners, and 40 percent of the owners were spouses. The rest (20 percent) was single owner male.”

I suspect the percentage of female farm land ownership is now higher than that 55 percent figure.

Gender is indeed a significant factor in this Congressional race, in my view. This new fourth district has an opportunity to make Vilsack the first woman ever from Iowa to hold a seat in the U.S. House or Senate. It is embarrassing that in this enlightened state – and I believe Iowa is just that – we’ve never elected a woman to the U.S. House, Senate or to the governorship. Mississippi is the only other state with such an abysmal record. I may have more to say about that in a later column.

Yes, from all her experience and opportunities, Christie Vilsack has developed a real vision of how farmers, ag-related businesses and whole communities across this new fourth district can benefit and grow from value-added agriculture. You’ve probably heard her talk about it by now, how this district is really “one of the most productive agricultural spaces in the world.”

King, like Christie Vilsack, grew up as a town kid. What he knows about farming came from his years in the earth-moving business, doing a lot of farm field adaptations and terrace building for farmers. And, of course, he’s learned from being around ag policy-making as a member of the Iowa Senate for six years and the U.S. House for 10 years.

But to argue that he has been a great voice or great leader for agriculture, especially in his Congressional years, is hooey.

He’s mostly been a voice for himself and for a right-wing agenda that has almost nothing to do with agriculture. He has been such a firebrand – with one outrageous statement after another over the past decade – that few in Congress are now willing to work with him and, as a result, he has been wholly ineffective in getting anything done for his home district.

And in recent months and weeks, his failure to advocate effectively for the new Farm Bill is just stunning. U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and U.S. Congressman Tom Latham, who are the two other Republicans in Iowa’s current Congressional delegation, have been right out front in Farm Bill advocacy, and so have all the Democrats in our current delegation.

I haven’t actually counted, but I’d bet nearly all of those 60 ag organizations – you remember all the ones that have endorsed King – have also been demanding Farm Bill passage.

“He had an opportunity to lead on the Farm Bill, but he has not,” Christie Vilsack said of King during that debate in Sioux City. “What has he done? He hasn’t done anything in Congress. If you send him back and expect any difference, why would you?”

And that is why, in my view, farmers in Iowa’s new fourth district should vote for Vilsack.

(click here to read the entire article at



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