Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

October 14, 2019 GMT

Des Moines Register. October 10, 2019

‘The small go out’: Ag secretary’s comments about dairy farmers’ troubles were insensitive

A thistle to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for his flip, insensitive and unhelpful comments about dairy farming.

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out,” and even 100 cows might not be enough to turn a profit, he recently told a gathering of dairy farmers in Wisconsin, according to Iowa Public Radio reporting.

Such remarks from the Trump administration official rub salt in the wounds of an industry that continues to face losses and bankruptcies. Farmers should remember Perdue’s words when they cast ballots next November.


A rose to everyone who participated in the 13th annual NAMIWalks Iowa event at Terra Lake Park in Johnston. They raised more $117,000 for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Iowa. The nonprofit organization’s mission: advocate, educate, support and raise awareness so everyone affected by mental illness can lead better lives. It also lobbies for mental health legislation and works to break down stigmas.

“The more we talk about it, the more we’re gonna be able to eliminate stigma,” said executive director Peggy Huppert. “And when we eliminate stigma, then people are going to seek help.”

A rose to Josh and Colleen Byrnes for providing shelter and food for monarch butterflies migrating through Iowa. The rural Osage family has an acre of land planted with milkweed and flowers. It is designated by the nonprofit Monarch Watch as one of more than 26,000 way stations in North America.

Monarch eggs usually have a 1-in-100 chance of making it to the butterfly stage due to predators, herbicides and the weather. The family collects eggs and takes them into the house so they can hatch into caterpillars and go through their chrysalis stage. When they emerge, they are released outdoors.

The Byrnes have released 114 monarchs so far this year, up from 10 monarchs four years ago when they started. They are also tagging the butterflies to help scientists track flight patterns.

A thistle to Iowa lawmakers for their failure to start the process to amend the Iowa Constitution to automatically restore voting rights to felons. The constitution’s language punishes and alienates people who have served their time for wrongdoing. It also creates inconsistencies and confusion for Iowans, including election officials.

A recent Des Moines Sunday Register investigation was yet another reminder of the mess Iowa has fostered on this issue. Stephen Black was convicted of mail fraud in Illinois nearly a decade ago and served prison time. Our neighboring state then rightly and automatically restored his voting rights. Though Iowa is supposed to recognize voting restoration rights by other states, Black is among dozens of people on a list of felons ineligible to vote here.


Neither the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office nor the governor’s office answered the Register’s questions about why some but not all of the out-of-state voter restorations are recognized by Iowa.

A rose petal to the governor on this issue: Her aide came forward after the Register article and offered to help Black get his voting rights restored. But individuals who have paid for their crimes should not need to get the governor’s OK to vote. Do newspapers need to write about every single disenfranchised person to prompt action?

Last legislative session, Reynolds called on lawmakers to address this serious problem that strips people of their constitutional rights. But the GOP-controlled Legislature ignored her request. Reynolds is right that the better, more permanent solution is a constitutional amendment. But in the face of legislative intransigence, she should sign an executive order to automatically restore voting rights — just like former Gov. Tom Vilsack did before former Gov. Terry Branstad rescinded it.


Fort Dodge Messenger. October 11, 2019

Making Iowans healthier is the goal

When our nation’s states are ranked on various criteria, Iowans are accustomed to learning our state is near the top of just about any list of positive attributes. That’s certainly the case on such measures as high school graduation rate, well-managed state government and low unemployment rate. When it comes to the health of our residents, however, the picture isn’t quite as impressive.

According to the 2017 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Iowa is No. 21 in the nation when it comes to its residents being physically, emotionally and mentally healthy. That’s not an awful ranking, but the simple truth is that on this dimension we Iowans need to do better.

To help Iowans improve their health, the Healthiest State Initiative was created. It is a nonpartisan, nonprofit entity that partners with a broad array of other organizations to move toward an ambitious goal: To make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation.

The project seeks to mobilize individuals, employers, community groups and others to help Iowans identify ways they can live healthier lives. The organization seeks to both educate and motivate.

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation making October 2019 the Healthiest State Month in Iowa. This month the Healthiest State Initiative is teaming with other groups to help spread the word that being healthier is a worthy and achievable goal for just about everybody.

“Good health enriches the lives of Iowans and strengthens our communities, and it starts with each one of us creating our own healthy habits,” the governor said.

The month kicked off with thousands of Iowans taking part in the Healthiest State Annual Walk. Nearly 1,000 walks were held all across Iowa. In Fort Dodge, enthusiastic participants showed up on a rainy day for the local walk, sponsored by the Webster County Health Department. In Des Moines, Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg joined the walk there outfitted with umbrellas and rain gear to confront similarly inclement conditions.

The Healthiest State Initiative seeks to remind Iowans that improving their health can be accomplished by eating right, getting regular exercise and avoiding unhealthy behaviors.

The initiative has broad support. Its “investors” include: Hy-Vee, UnityPoint Health, HealthPartners UnityPoint Health, MercyOne, Mid Iowa Health Foundation, United Way of Central Iowa, Delta Dental of Iowa, Amerigroup, Wellmark, Bankers Trust, Des Moines University, Bank of America and Advocare Foundation.

The Messenger applauds this undertaking. We urge our readers to spend some time this month reflecting on the steps they can take to live healthier. A good place to start is by visiting the Healthiest State Initiatives website: www.iowahealthieststate.com.


Sioux City Journal. October 11, 2019

Embrace caution on state budget in face of ag uncertainties

Iowa closed the books on fiscal 2019 with an ending balance of $289.3 million, more than double its general fund surplus for the year before. According to the Legislative Services Agency, tax collections were some $99 million above what was estimated for fiscal 2019 and some $521 million more than the total for the year before.

That’s good news and evidence this state is, largely, in strong fiscal condition.

Still, no one in state government should forget looming uncertainties within the agriculture sector crucial to the economy of Iowa.

As a result, embrace of a conservative approach to the state budget in the next legislative session is warranted. Talk of additional tax cuts (in Cedar Rapids last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds said her administration is assessing whether the state is in position to reduce taxes again next year) and what we anticipate will be calls by some state lawmakers and state agencies for increased spending are, in our view, premature.

On Monday, the Revenue Estimating Conference will issue its October revenue forecast. In December, the REC will issue the report on which the Legislature’s budget will be based. Those reports will paint a clearer picture of what to expect for the balance of this fiscal year.

Even if the REC estimates predict growth, however, Reynolds and lawmakers should exercise caution in the face of stress and unpredictabilities within the agriculture sector.

One of the biggest factors negatively impacting farmers in Iowa is the Trump administration’s continuing trade war with China. Our suggestion to Iowa leaders: For today, put thoughts of tax cuts and spending hikes aside and make ratcheting up pressure on the Trump administration for an end to the China trade fight priority No. 1.