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Every dollar donated to the John Norwood campaign will be used to ensure that all Iowans have access to clean water, improved soil health, and upward mobility through diversification of our agricultural economy. Please click the button below to donate.

Meet John Norwood

Elected Polk County Soil & Water Commissioner in 2018, Norwood won a competitive race with a three-priority platform of modernizing Iowa’s ag plumbing, fixing degraded soils, and diversifying what we grow and raise. A Tip O’Neill Democrat, Norwood was born in the Boston area, and is a veteran of a decade in Silicon Valley including a 3-year term as executive director of an agricultural land trust where he protected vital agricultural lands from development. Norwood is a known for his curiosity, ingenuity, and humor. In 2002, John moved to Iowa so his now former wife could begin a teaching career at Drake. While raising two children, Norwood focused his business transformation skills in areas such as Iowa-based food production, specialty animal feeds, and community-based, manure fed renewable energy production. Since 2018, Norwood has mentored more than 30 small business owners via the acclaimed Goldman Sachs 10KSB program. Norwood is known for his independent thinking, drawing the best ideas from across the political spectrum and seeing “people as neighbors, not adversaries.” Norwood operates from a position of empathy and humility. He is a lifelong learner who likes to “connect the dots” and “get things done.”

John’s Vision of a Resilient Iowa

Water Sovereignty is the right of every Iowan – whether farmer, consumer, landowner, fisherman, or recreationalist – to have access to clean, safe, abundant, and sustainable water resources.  Resources that are foundational to human health, crop and animal health, our economy, and our general welfare.  Today and tomorrow.  Among other threats, scaling agricultural systems, increasing weather severity, and even serving foreign interests that don’t align with Iowa values, endanger the foundation of Iowa’s rural and urban economies by altering, degrading and polluting Iowa’s water resources.

As Secretary of Agriculture, John Will…

  • Engage Stakeholders in Transforming Iowa’s Agriculture Plumbing systems from a near singular focus on drainage to a multi-focus on managing water resources for private and public benefit, including water filtration, irrigation, and flood storage
  • Accelerate the emphasis on building health soils which store more water by engaging agricultural landowners and farm operators in targeted, team-based approaches to deliver regenerative agricultural results at scale across Iowa
  • Assess what other improvements or investments Iowa can and should make to maintain its water sovereignty in the face of changing climate and more severe weather.

As Polk County Water Commissioner, John has been staunch defender and innovator of better ways to restore Iowa’s declining water quality. He pioneered the implementation of the state recognized saturated buffer “blitz” in 2021 in Polk County which identified a new approach to targeting, turnkey delivery of water quality practices dozens at a time.  Norwood has regularly led diverse teams from both urban and rural backgrounds to develop new approaches to improving water quality that are team-based, cost effective and easy to implement.

As Secretary of Agriculture, John Will…

  • Norwood will work closely with local, state and federal stakeholders to align water quality goals with local, state and federal funds, including crop federal crop insurance support
  • Help rural counties transform their drainage districts — a primary source of nitrates in our rivers — to become water management districts, managing water for quality, recharge and flood control as well as drainage
  • Create a World Class River Level, Real Time, Monitoring and Management System to Identify and Deploy high ROI water quality investments, starting with Polk County

As a 20-year business advisor and board director in Iowa, Norwood understands the impact of a severe weather events on our farms and our communities. The way forward requires a combination of thinking about soil health, flood zone management, even how carbon markets can help us design and finance a solution grounded in building a sustainable, regenerative ag system as a model for the country and the world to emulate.

As Secretary of Agriculture, John...

  • Be a proponent for expanding flood management lands and assets, and then aligning those assets to support working landscapes including grazing and flood zone suitable working landscapes
  • Will bring focus to our strategies for flood control that build off of carbon and ecosystem service markets being funded by Fortune 500 companies
  • Bring more focus to Urban planning efforts that seek to avoid flooding impacts by NOT building in flood plains or expanding development without integrating forward-thinking flood management needs

Healthy soil is the foundation of productive, sustainable agriculture here in Iowa. Think of dirt as the physical and chemical properties and add the biology to get soil.

Soil health has been defined as the "the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living system, within ecosystem and land-use boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, promote the quality of air and water environments, and maintain plant, animal, and human health." (Pankhurst et al., 1997)

Managing for soil health allows farm operators to improve the natural capacity of the land to reduce soil erosion, maximize water infiltration, improve nutrient cycling, save money on inputs, and ultimately improve the resiliency of our working lands.

As Secretary of Agriculture, John Will…

  • Make Soil Health a State priority and work collaboratively with landowners, farm operators, and soil health experts to accelerate healthy soils using team-based strategies and learning from successful programs
  • Seek equity for ALL farm operators and ag landowners in the carbon markets regarding soil health practices: “It shouldn’t be the last ones to the party are the only ones that get paid!”
  • Work with leading Universities, carbon market makers, legislators, and other stakeholders to establish sensible soil health metrics for monitoring and managing to soil health standards and attracting carbon capital that efficiently and effectively supports soil health and water quality goals

Iowa is a leading producer of biofuels which are critical to managing climate change as we transition to an electric future. The industry delivers more than $5B annually to our economy. What’s the connection to our soils? The annual row crops which we use to produce biofuels are very hard on our soils. For example, for every pound of corn we use to produce ethanol, about two pounds of topsoil ends up in the river. This is not sustainable. We need to build resiliency into the system with new crop rotation strategies that include no till, reduced tillage, cover crops, small grains, grasses, perennials, even more livestock on the land which are important to soil health. This will require aligning the economic interests of farm operators with absentee landowners to drive forward and accelerate soil health goals with sustained practices. Absentee landowners like “Martha from Florida” now represent more than 60% of Iowa farmland ownership.

As Secretary of Agriculture, John Will…

  • Fight for Biofuels place in key transportation markets including aviation, marine and class 1 railroads
  • Identify new pathways to prosperity for the time when our Nation and the World moves beyond the internal combustion engine
  • Work with Industry to Expand our Ethanol Infrastructure to support new market development from algae-based animal feeds to greenhouse production of table foods for urban markets across the Midwest

Soil health is closely linked with what we grow, how we grow it and the markets we serve. Because of the heavy emphasis on serving biofuels markets, Iowa’s tremendously productive agricultural system has become “unbalanced.” It’s too dependent on serving a few global markets that are leading to poor soil health, water quality impacts, and community decline because the diversity of what we used to grow and raise is largely gone. The way forward is to build on our biofuels legacy, but to diversify what we grow, raise and service with a renewed focus on higher value markets. This means taking a small percentage of our 23 million acres of corn and bean ground and providing new support, access to land and capital, to serve new markets. There are 3.1 million Iowans and 80 million people within a day’s drive of Iowa. We all want to eat healthy.

As Secretary of Agriculture, John Will…

  • Work to help diversify our rural and agricultural economies in ways that support soil health as we broaden what we grow, raise and service in response to changes around the world – severe weather, healthier diets, animal and insect pandemics and infestations
  • Work with urban and rural communities, the private sector, and state and federal partners to identify barriers to growth and key drivers that can help develop producers to serve these consumer markets
  • Vision, Engage and Build toward a Regenerative Agriculture Economy – Iowa should lead the World in Sustainability

Community health is the collective well-being of community members as defined by human health, animal health and economic well-being. A fundamental measure of a community’s health is its population. While a growing or even stable population may be described as healthy, communities in decline are decidedly not. In Iowa, nearly 70 of our 99 counties are suffering from population decline. This is true, in part, because of overdependence on a commodity agricultural system that is fundamentally driven by productivity. Doing more with less, including growing more corn and beans with fewer people. We export our young people to cities and other states where there is opportunity.

As Secretary of Agriculture, John Will…

  • Share a more inclusive view of the role of Secretary of Agriculture to consider broader impacts and opportunities of the office to positively impact food production, nutrition, and land stewardship
  • Work with local communities, urban and rural, the private sector, and state and federal partners to identify growth drivers that can help restore community health and agricultural productivity that is diverse and balanced.
  • Assist local communities in developing new food and agricultural opportunities that can tap into Iowa’s regional markets as well as the 80 million who live within a day’s drive of Iowa.

While we often talk about jobs from a cost perspective, “labor costs are going up,” it’s the employee that is attached to a new job. If we look across the agricultural sector, some of the most attractive segments of new job formation include small business operators, niche markets like Organic producers, urban farmers and specialty producers that serve local and regional markets.

As Secretary of Agriculture, John Will…

  • John will work across state and federal government agencies to look at how Iowa can combine new food and agriculture jobs with nutrition and community health goals, growing more diverse, healthy foods
  • Help facilitate local community working groups that can customize strategies that may be easier to implement and refine in a small population state of 3.1 million.
  • Assist local communities in developing new food and agricultural opportunities that can generate new jobs by tapping into Iowa’s regional markets as well as the 80 million who live within a day’s drive of Iowa.

Freedom-to-Farm doesn’t mean the taxpayer is on the hook to produce farm products regardless of the harm to the environment, or the future potential of our precious god given natural resources. Freedom-to-farm means Iowa ag landowners and farm operators, new farmers and multi-generation farmers, white, black and brown farmers, have the opportunity to farm and with more choice. More freedom. Choices that allow for a better balance of row crop, small grains, working lands, and natural habitat. In John’s vision, freedom-to-farm means that farmers are financially and technically supported in producing a greater variety of crops, grains, table foods, and livestock that drive the overall health of our communities and environment. This requires a new view of our present farm subsidy system that honors and builds on the productive ag capacity of our state, but more broadly rewards landowner and producers for building resiliency and diversity within the system – small scale organic producers, to year-round indoor growers, to large scale commodity-oriented farm operators. A system that is in balance with production, nature, community and new job formation.

As Secretary of Agriculture, John Will…

  • Recognize and Support the Right for All Americans to be supported in their journey as a farm operator if they so chose this noble profession, regardless of their race, ethnicity, land holding status, etc.
  • Focus more attention on expanding Iowa produced table food, and tying that new production to serving the nutritional needs of our school children by expanding opportunities for Iowa school meals to be supplied by Iowa growers
  • Seek to address and provide access to capital, land and mentorship in concert with each Iowa County and seek to expand access for higher value production opportunities including indoor/greenhouse farming.
  • Support Freedom-to-Farm by Working with Urban and Rural Communities to imagine new ways to grow and expand that build resiliency, diversity, nutrition, and sustainability while serving local and regional markets

Make A Donation

Every dollar donated to John’s campaign will be used to ensure that ALL Iowans will have a voice in transforming our state’s planning and approach to clean water, improved soil health, and healthier communities. We will do this by intentionally building a diverse, resilient agricultural economy, including working lands and natural habitat.

To donate please click the button below or mail a check to:

Citizens For John Norwood
PO Box 65404
West Des Moines IA 50265

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