Note: This is a work of fiction. Mostly.
After hastily changing their drawers following GM and Ford announcements that they would soon be all-electric, the Ethanolians redoubled their efforts to force corn ethanol down the vehicular gullets of America, and Iowa politicians from one end of the political spectrum to the other were eager to help. So, so eager to help. One politician was heard to remark that if clean water had lobbyists like corn ethanol, well, obviously we would have more of the former and less of the latter. Rebranding E10 as Octane 88 in cartoon videos featuring wealthy-looking, environmentally-conscious millennials was one of the industry's more noticeable propaganda pieces. It fit nicely with their scheme to pipe ethanol-plant CO2 to North Dakota and/or Illinois where it can be entombed or, in the case of North Dakota, force to the surface…yes, believe it or not…fossil fuel where it can be burned with ethanol to emit more CO2. I'm ranking this as 2021's top story.
Other significant stories include:
Against his stomach’s best wishes, Iowa agriculture secretary Mike Naig announced he was running for re-election. After his 638th lunch with Iowa farmers and agribusiness interests across the state over the past 5+ years, Naig was heard to say, “how much pork loin, green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes and apple crisp is a guy expected to eat in one term?” Naig remained silent when a reporter pointed out that Bill Northey and Sonny Perdue were champs when it came to this sort of thing. As to Naig’s opposition, Democrats appeared poised to nominate a guy who seemed like he was practicing for a job interview with the Clinton Administration.
Speaking of politics, the Biden Administration announced the appointments of Matt (pray for clean water because nothing else has worked) Russell as Iowa Farm Services Agency director and Theresa (Octane 88) Greenfield as head of Iowa Rural Development, the top two USDA jobs in Iowa. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said both are well equipped to bring 20th century ag policy to the Iowa landscape.
EPA Head Michael Regan visited Iowa in May, and emphasized that he was committed to Iowa agriculture’s voluntary approach to nutrient pollution. When asked by a reporter how he would rank the strategy’s effectiveness, Regan responded with a brilliant assemblage of meaningless platitudes that included “You know, I haven’t looked at it closely.” (That is not fiction, by the way.) Regan said he might later go take a close look at the Raccoon River, but he wanted to have a couple of Manhattans in the hotel bar first.
In an amazing example of concurrent scientific discovery, NGOs and land grant universities across the country simultaneously announced that plowing the shit out of your soil and repeatedly sterilizing it with petrochemicals might be bad. This curiously coincided with Joe Biden and Tom Vilsack returning to the federal government. Asked by one grad student if this was a coincidence, a famous soil scientist remarked, “inspiration is where you find it.” Conservationists everywhere are promising that this newfound emphasis on “Soil Health” will deliver cleaner water and a cooler climate by the year 2250, give or take a century.
Iowa State University announced a novel conservation strategy they have coined DITCHs: Demonstrable Idea That Could Happen. Groundbreaking research is showing that unmowed ditches can provide bird habitat. Appanoose County farmer Harold Anderson participated in a pilot project and had this to say: “I saved a bunch of money on gas and wear and tear on my mower. Those ditches just filled up with pheasants. I told my brother-in-law Jerry that he could road hunt that section if he wanted to, but he had to give me half the birds. He wasn’t too happy about that last part, or when his son shot out the windshield on his brand-new F150.”
The North Raccoon Watershed Management Authority (WMA) announced that they are sick and tired of the Raccoon River flowing through Dallas and Polk County. With the help of engineer Ron Hetler, they have devised a scheme to reroute the river to the Missouri River basin. One Buena Vista County supervisor, who farms in the river’s headwaters, said, “Look, that water needs to go where people won’t be whining about it all the time. Those liberals down there in Des Moines show no appreciation for all the nutrients we are sending them. When was the last time you heard anybody complain about the (Missouri River tributary) Boyer River? Like, NEVER.”
Iowa DNR unveiled their new smartphone app that sends an alert to individual livestock farmers anytime their manure management plan is pulled out of the DNR area field office filing cabinet. DNR vehicles have also been outfitted with transponders that send signals via the app so farmers can see where field office staff are located in real time. DNR Director Kayla Lyon said “We’re not cops, we’re facilitators. We want to work with farmers so their livestock operations kill fewer fish, in the areas where fish and other aquatic life may indeed still exist.” For the rare farmer that does end up with a fine, Iowa commodity groups have set up a “Go Fund Me” account that enables the public to pitch in with a tax-deductible contribution that helps pay the fine.
Iowa Farm Bureau Federation continued their crusade against EPA’s inhumane Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. “This over-reach is an ongoing human tragedy for the Iowa family farm,” outgoing IFBF president Craig Hill said of the rule, which thus far has claimed zero farms and produced fines totaling $0,000,000. U.S. Congresswomen Ashley Hinson and Marianette Miller-Meeks, along with U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, dramatically drenched themselves in red paint at the Shelby County Farm Bureau meeting to illustrate how much of Iowa the rule would regulate. Finally, two Linn County shopping mall developers implored the Professional Developers of Iowa to grant the association’s 2021 “Carrying the Water” award to IFBF.
On December 30th, Des Moines Water Works CEO Ted Corrigan warned for the 78th time in 2021 that the drinking water supply for 1/5th of Iowa’s residents was perilously close to a crisis situation. Iowa agribusiness and legislature response: meh.
The Iowa Drainage District Association announced a new program targeting elementary school students called “Just Say No To Wet Spots”. Educational materials will be provided to rural school districts that emphasize the importance of tile drainage. Association president Walt Olson said that impressionable minds can’t be led to believe that the pre-settlement wetland landscape was a good thing. “Once you get hooked on clean water and wildlife, there’s no going back,” said Olson.
Finally, Iowa’s oldest corn-soybean farmer, 106-year-old Harold Johnson of Grundy County, decided to call it quits, handing over the farm to his 30-year old great-grandson, Dusty. Harold’s son, Harold Jr., and grandson, Harold III, both died in recent years, apparently out of frustration while awaiting their inheritance of the Johnson place. Dusty said he was thankful his great granddad had faith in him, and that his parents didn’t name him Harold. Perhaps not coincidentally, Harold Sr. was not only Iowa’s oldest farmer, but he also held the lifetime record for most USDA subsidies. 98-year-old Larry Hanson is now Iowa’s oldest farmer, and he also is out to break Harold’s USDA subsidy record. “I figure that record is reachable,” said Larry, “if my cousin Harold Hanson doesn’t get there first.” The other Harold (Hanson) is 96.
So those were the highlights, at least as I saw them. Feel free to send your suggestions for the next edition a year from now if I'm still employed.