May 30, 2018

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says his on-the-job experience separates him from the rest of a talented five-candidate Republican primary field for his position.

“There’s no doubt there are some good folks with some credentials, that’s for sure,” Naig, 40, said in an interview with this newspaper. “I think what makes me unique is that I bring the experience of being on the job today.”

Naig noted in a conversation at The Daily Times Herald that he has the experience of being the deputy ag secertary for Iowa since 2013.

“Campaigns are a lot about telling folks what you would do or could do,” Naig said. “I’ve had the chance to show folks what I am doing. I do bring, I think, a broad perspective to this race.”

Iowa is celebrating the fifth anniversary this year of the nutrient reduction strategy. The state now has dedicated funding to from demonstration to implementation phase in the strategy in some targeted watersheds across Iowa, Naig said.

In his campaign Naig stresses careers in agriculture, some on the farm, many connected to them.

He supports a beginning farmer tax credit and sees livestock as a point of entry for young farmers. But it doesn’t stop there, Naig said.

“But we also know there additional needs in the community around that,” Naig said.

Ag careers demand an in-flow of talent from outside of the state and involves a host of disciplines.

“I like to talk to folks about that need,” he said.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture, with an annual budget of $120 million, is staffed with 330 people — with about half of the positions in Des Moines.

Naig said he is open to more decentralization.

“There are now ways to telecommute,” he said, noting that the department is considering filling a position traditionally in Des Moines with a person outside of the capital city.

Naig grew up on a crop-and-livestock farm near Cylinder. He joined the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in as deputy secretary to former Secretary Bill Northey. He was appointed to the position of secretary by Gov. Kim Reynolds on March 5 when his predecessor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as a USDA undersecretary.

Northey endorsed Naig in his election bid.

“I think we are on the right track on a lot of different things,” Naig said.

Naig is a graduate of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake with degrees in biology and political science. He and his wife, Jaime, have three boys: Mitch, 11; Zach, 9; and Joe, 4.

The family attends Zion Lutheran Church.