WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Iowa Ag Summit Attracts Republican Presidential Hopefuls

Mar 3, 2015

There’s a new stop on the Iowa campaign trail. This weekend, many presidential hopefuls will be in Des Moines for the first Iowa Ag Summit. Republican donor Bruce Rastetter, who is the CEO of Summit Farms and president of the Iowa Board of Regents, is hosting the event.

Though both Democrats and Republicans were invited, the website shows that confirmed speakers are all Republicans. They include: Sens. Marco Rubio (Florida), Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania) and Ted Cruz (Texas) as well as current and former Govs. Jeb Bush (Florida), Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Rick Perry (Texas) and Chris Christie (New Jersey).

Rastetter is a leading Republican financial contributor in Iowa, donating more than $1 million over the last decade.

The program will allow each speaker 20 minutes on stage and Rastetter will conduct a conversation with the group that will cover topics such as “modern agriculture, renewable fuels, biosciences, GMO’s, grain and livestock markets, land conservation, and federal subsidies," according to the event’s website.

Republicans in Iowa’s Congressional delegation, as well as the state’s governor and lieutenant governor, also plan to attend.

Bruce Rastetter, shown during an Iowa Board of Regents meeting, has organized the first Iowa Ag Summit.
Credit Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

“I’m going to be doing the same thing that I think Bruce Rastetter’s trying to do,” said Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, “by raising up in the candidates’ minds the importance of agriculture and agricultural issues.”

Grassley said agriculture often doesn’t get the attention it ought to and this event could change that.

“So hopefully it has a high visibility through the caucuses and into the general election,” Grassley said. “Because when only two percent of the people in this country are producing the food, we need all the help we can get.”

Grassley, who is a farmer, said two politicians planning to attend the Ag Summit have asked him to brief them on agriculture. He said that’s another indicator that farming concerns haven’t yet taken a strong place on the national political agenda.