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Grassley putting experience to work as new ag committee chair

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 02/05/2013 4:22 PM

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NEW HARTFORD, Iowa —As the new chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, one of Rep. Pat Grassley's top goals is to make it a committee that every legislator wants to serve on.

"Being the backbone of Iowa's economy, agriculture should be mentioned in the same breath with ways and means and appropriations and some of those other committees that seem like they're in the news and the committees everyone wants to be on," Grassley, a Republican, said during an interview at his New Hartford kitchen table. "When I told my grandpa (U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley), I was thinking about chairing the ag committee, he told me that he had chaired the ag committee when he was in the Legislature, and he felt at that time that it wasn't a premiere committee to be chair of. It's not just production agriculture. If agriculture is doing well, companies like John Deere or Unverferth are doing well, and their feeder companies are doing well."

Grassley, 29, farms with his father, Robin, raising 1,700 acres of row crops. They buy 10-day-old Holstein bull calves, bottle feed them for four to five weeks, feed them up to 400 to 450 pounds and sell them. Sen. Grassley is still involved in the farming operation.

Grassley's grandfather was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980, three years before he was born. Some grandfathers take their grandsons fishing, his took him to political events.

"Politics has always been something we shared," Grassley said. "At Thanksgiving and Christmas, that's what's talked about at our table."

Grassley graduated from Dike-New Hartford High School and was ready to farm.

"My dad and grandpa said I needed to go to college," Grassley said. "I graduated from Hawkeye Community College in ag business, and they said they wanted me to go on, so I was working on an education degree at the University of Northern Iowa when the representative in my district retired. Since there isn't much turnover in this district, I decided that if I wanted to run for the Legislature I better take the opportunity."

He called his grandpa and asked if he'd be willing to help.

"At first he was silent, I think he was testing my resolve, and then he said of course he would," Grassley said.

He is starting his fourth term, this year representing House District 50, which contains just a fifth of his old district, which consisted of Butler and the western half of Bremer counties. The new district includes six townships in Butler, all of Grundy and the northern half of Hardin counties.

With family, farm and legislative responsibilities, completing college is on the back burner. When he returns to school, he'll be a political science major. His wife, Amanda, is a nursing student at Hawkeye. They have two daughters, Indee, 6, and Reagan, 3.

Grassley is new to the agriculture committee. He chaired the economic growth committee the past two years.

This session in addition to agriculture, he's on the commerce, state government and ways and means committees, and the agriculture and natural resources appropriations subcommittee.