What Would You Say If You Had 5 Minutes with the Lt. Gov?
“You get 5 minutes to bend the Lt. Governor’s ear on March 4th about an issue of importance to your business,” is the message I got from Annette Sweeney. The meeting was one of the first in Kim Reynolds’ statewide tour, celebrating National Women’s History Month. This year’s national theme for Women’s History Month is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.”
“Every year, during my travels to all 99-counties in Iowa, I witness first-hand how women are making a difference in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities,” said Lt. Governor Reynolds. “Women have played an important role in Iowa’s history and will continue to be trailblazers, who serve as role models for current and future generations of Iowans.”
When I think of trailblazers in Iowa agriculture, I immediately think of April Hemmes. This fourth generation Franklin County farmer is celebrating her 30th year of farming in 2015. (April is the farmer, and her husband works full time in town.) April is a great advocate for our industry and was voted Midwest Farm Mom of the Year in 2011. She has represented Iowa farmers on outreach trips to Brazil, China, and Uganda. In addition, she’s serving her 20th year as a Soil & Water Commissioner.
Like April, the room yesterday at the Farm Credit Services building in Webster City was filled with bold women whose stories could encourage and inspire others to think big. I was honored to be among the select group of ladies invited to share personal stories.
The question remained, “What could I say that would have the most impact?” As a mom, I’m concerned about choosing healthy and safe foods for my family. As a family business owner, I’m concerned about the increased cost of regulations. Obamacare has increased insurance costs for Latham Hi-Tech Seeds by an average of 15% per year! As an advocate for the seed industry, I’m definitely worried about consumer perception of GMOs. A new study shows education is key to consumer appreciation, so I decided to focus on GMOs when it was my turn to speak because I believe our elected officials can help bridge the gap between producers and consumers.
But the truth is, I didn’t need to bend the Lt. Governor’s ear for five minutes about any issue. She already had a grasp of the issues voiced by each woman in the room, from the need for increased high speed internet access in rural areas to water quality, soil conservation and young farmer programs. Each year she travels to all 99 counties, meeting with constituents and learning about their lives. Lt. Governor Reynolds is smart, warm and welcoming.
Sitting down at a roundtable yesterday with that particular group of women, as well as the Lt. Governor, really felt like a lunch date with girlfriends. I hadn’t met everyone in the room before yesterday, but we immediately found common ground due to shared interest in agriculture and love for our home state.
Like those of us in the room yesterday, Lt. Governor Reynolds is a businesswoman, wife, mother and grandmother. She understands women’s concerns about the present and their hopes for the future. As a former county treasurer, she knows first-hand the importance of fiscal responsibility, job creation, education, and technology. I admire how tirelessly our Lt. Governor works to increase students’ access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs. In fact, she was headed to a Women in STEM roundtable discussion in Ames after touring Buckeye Fish Company.
While many folks associate STEM with careers like healthcare and engineering, we know STEM skills are needed for any ag-related career from agronomy and aquaculture to horticulture and zoology. Agriculture continues to be one of the best college majors, and I believe this trend will continue as technology continues to redefine agriculture.