WATERLOO — Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig paid a visit to Hawkeye Community College and tried out a field spray simulator.

Naig’s visit was part of a trip to celebrate National Agricultural Day. He spoke with the college faculty and AgVantage FS staff about the need for things like the simulator.

“It’s a way for somebody that didn’t grow up operating equipment to get a sense of ‘hey maybe this isn’t as easy as I thought it was’ and that could maybe lead to a career opportunity,” Naig said.

The simulator is a part of a partnership with AgVantage FS and Hawkeye to give students a chance to experience what it’s like to operate the real thing.

“It’s a great example of a partnership with an employer in the area and the community college,” Naig said.

Naig’s visit came in the middle of Iowa’s legislative session, something that impacts his department quite a bit.

His office is watching the appropriations process closely, Naig said.

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“I did ask for some additional funding for animal disease response preparedness,” he said. “I think we’ve had good bipartisan support in increasing the last two years in increasing funding.”

Naig supports the recently passed “ag gag” bill that makes it a crime to take a job at a meatpacking plant, livestock facility or other ag business to investigate working conditions, animal welfare, food safety or other concerns.

“I think that’s a reasonable way to approach that subject,” he said. “No business, no entity would want somebody to come into their business or their operation with the expressed intent to damage them financially.”

The governor signed the bill this week. A previous iteration was struck down by a federal judge as unconstitutional. Lawmakers say the new law was crafted to survive legal challenges.

On Thursday, Naig saw flooded fields around the state.

Impacted farms would get assistance from U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said. “We’ll want to make sure that USDA is aware and has all the necessary information to make good decision.”

The rising water makes it a good time to think about conservation practices, Naig said.

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