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Mike Naig: Iowa will 'spring forward' from chaotic 2020
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Mike Naig: Iowa will 'spring forward' from chaotic 2020

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Mike Naig

Naig

There's a lot happening across Iowa right now.

Along with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in more than 50,000 positive cases in the state, and the related recession that's caused unemployment in some places to reach heights not seen in decades, a storm ripped through on Monday and did damage to at least 10 million crop acres and caused power outages for an estimated 450,000 households. 

And Thursday morning, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig was on hand, virtually, at the Mason City Chamber of Commerce's annual "Ag Breakfast" to talk about all of it. 

"I don’t need a year in review for 2020," Naig joked at the top. "I think we can just skip that and go to 2021."

Surveying the most recent calamity that residents in the state have had to deal with, Naig said he was particularly struck by how widespread was the damage caused by the derecho.

"This thing crossed the state from river to river ... and it truly did hit the middle third of our state," he said.

According to Naig, when he walked through a cornfield on Tuesday there was all kinds of broken corn that wouldn't produce.

"I think we’ll learn a lot in the next few days of what will make it and what won’t," he said. "This is not going to be a pleasant fall ... This will be a challenging harvest."

Adding to that challenge is the fact that enough grain bins were destroyed during the storm that tens of millions of bushels worth of storage was likely lost. 

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Because of COVID-19, the state's agriculture industry has faced sizable problems even before the storm hit on Monday. 

Naig pointed out that earlier on in the pandemic, when meat processing plants were being severely disrupted by significant viral spread, Iowa livestock producers had problems even getting animals to market. That backup in the supply was such that there is still evidence of it now.

"There are still more pigs on farms in Iowa than there normally would be," Naig said. 

And not just pigs. 

Naig also said during the event that consumer demand for the state's massive supply of liquid eggs fell enough that some producers had to discard their product before it was ever sold or consumed. Similar cases occurred with milk but Naig asserted that such food waste wasn't dramatic. 

Despite such struggles, Naig assured those in attendance that he was still optimistic about the place that the state is in. He said that what was crucial was to not simply seek a reversion to the past mean but to go for more.

"As we think about what happens next, as we think about recovery, the premise here is not that we’re going to try to get back to where we were, we’re going to spring forward," he said. "We are still Iowa and we are still a strong agriculture state. It’s a good thing to be coming at recovery from a position of strength rather than just trying to hang on."

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Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Jared.McNett@globegazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.

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