Republican Gov. Terry Branstad visited Ames Monday to give a brief address at the 87th annual Iowa FFA Leadership Conference, touting his past support for the future farmers organization and the importance of education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
He spoke alongside Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds to a large crowd of young FFA members seated at Hilton Coliseum on the second day of the three-day conference, which was expected to draw an estimated 5,000 FFA members and guests to Ames.
Extrapolating national figures from a 2010 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, Branstad said that an Iowa farmer today produces enough food to feed 155 people around the globe, up from 73 people in 1973.
That production demand, he said, would only continue to grow.
“As the world population continues to grow, farmers will continue to face pressure to produce more with the same amount of land,” Branstad said.
“That is where my challenge to you lies. As youth, you are the future. As your governor, I want you to help achieve our great potential in this great agriculture heartland of America to feed the world and to be able to provide safe, quality food, fuel and fiber.”
Branstad also claimed that his upbringing in rural Winnebago County helped provide him the necessary life experience to become governor.
“The work ethic and responsibility that I learned on the farm prepared me to be governor of Iowa,” Branstad said. “Farming is not a stress-free occupation, and you don’t work 9-5.”
Before the governor spoke, Reynolds touted her efforts to bring global attention to Iowa’s economy, recalling trips she had made to Vietnam and Thailand and meetings she has attended with the presidents of China, Iceland and Kosovo.
On Saturday, Reynolds said, she planned to depart on a trade mission to Brazil.
“Since the governor and I took office in 2011, Iowa’s economic exports have grown by nearly 39 percent and have created jobs here at home through international companies using Iowa for their new location or expanding our products to countries all around the world,” she said, referencing an Iowa Economic Development Authority figure on Iowa exports since 2011.
FFA, an acronym for Future Farmers of America, is a national youth organization that helps students prepare for careers in agriculture.