March 9, 2015

1. Best one-liner ever on immigration reform: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina: “Strom Thurmond had four kids after age 67. If you’re not willing to do that, we need immigration.”

2. Former New York Gov. George Pataki grew up on a farm in that state. He showed remarkable fluidity with ag issues, weaving in and out of topics with depth. But he is an opponent of the Renewable Fuel Standard — and he thinks wind energy is mature enough to flourish with no government support. Any takers for that?

3. Don’t bully the big man. A protester — whom Gov. Chris Christie identified as being from New Jersey — interrupted Christie’s ag-summit session. “I’ll deal with you here the same way I deal with you in New Jersey,” Christie said. Are there any horse heads missing is Asbury Park or Trenton this morning?

Christie hammed it up during the episode. “My people follow me everywhere, Bruce. I’m magnetic, Bruce. They can’t stay away from me,” Christie told 2015 Iowa Ag Summit host Bruce Rastetter.

4. Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds has made great strides as a public speaker. Can she exist outside the protective Branstad shell? Republicans may want to see that soon — if she’s going to be the money horse for 2018.

5. An intriguing idea: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has suggested a weighted food-stamp system. $1 in food stamps could buy $1.25 in fruits and vegetables, but 80 cents of “junk food.”

6. A time and a place? U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Dubuque, is blowing it. Period. The beneficiary of a rare confluence of political winds (sitting Congressman Bruce Braley running for Senate, voter anger with Obama, mid-term angst) Blum continues to run to the right in a Democratic-leaning district. It likely will be a short run. How does someone so politically deaf win an election? “Unlike the president of the United States, I believe in American exceptionalism,” Blum said, recycling tired barbs in the wrong venue.

7. Jeb Bush is big on free trade. Tearing down trade barriers, Bush says, will do more for the rural economy than anything. Keep this in mind: Agriculture is the second-largest industry in Florida, trailing only tourism.

8. Big prediction: Iowa State University President Steven Leath says central Iowa will be the “Silicon Valley of ag biosciences.”

9. State-level Renewable Fuel Standard or wind-energy tax credits? Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is opposed to the federal government intervening in markets. But at the state level? It’s fine, Perry says. Does he support renewables incentives? “I do if a state wants to do it,” Perry said. “I don’t at the federal level.” Would your position change, governor, if your suggestion about Texas seceding becomes a reality, which would make the Lone Star State government, well, “federal.”

10. Reading Reagan’s mind? Is Mr. Big Christian Oil holding seances? Or does Rick Perry have some other channel to the late Republican president? Would Reagan handle a 1986 immigration plan differently? “If he had to do it again, he wouldn’t sign that piece of legislation,” Perry said. Based on ...

11. Ted Cruz doesn’t speak much Spanish. A Republican with Cuban heritage, Cruz joked with La Prensa Spanish Newspaper Editor Lorena Lopez that the only Spanish he learned is “Donde esta el control del televisor” — which translates as follows: “Where is the television remote control?”

12. Another good line from Graham: “Have you ever met an illegal Canadian?”

13. U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, seemed to realize a Grand Canyon-sized hole in one of his own favorite lines, just as he said it. “All new wealth comes from the land,” King said. Except, of course, fish, King quickly corrected. Then he made some points about algae from the sea and biofuels.

14. King can find some religion in big government. Usually Mr. Bash Bash on any government involvement in American life (except wars other people fight in) King refers to the Renewable Fuel Standard as the “Holy Grail.”

15. Who made the most-detailed and persuasive case for that standard? Patty Judge, the former lieutenant governor and secretary of agriculture in Iowa, and the only Democrat to speak at the summit on Saturday.