Sweeney chairing House Agriculture Committee
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 01/20/2011 9:15 AM
BUCKEYE, Iowa —Rep. Annette Sweeney said she is humbled by her appointment as House Agriculture Committee chairwoman.
The Buckeye Republican was first elected to the Legislature in 2008 and was re-elected in November. During her first term she served on the ag committee.
"Agriculture is Iowa's number one priority, and I will have that as my number one priority," Sweeney said during an interview in her farm home.
She grew up in the house.
"I'm very blessed with the farm being passed down through my family," she said. "My grandfather bought the farm, and the family has raised horses, cattle and row crops ever since."
She taught English in Peoria, Ill., for 2 1/2 years after college before moving home in 1983 to take over the family's 1,350 acre row crop and purebred cattle operation. Her father died in 1981.
"I was so fortunate, my mom's attorney was instrumental in helping me, and the local co-op manager sat me in his office for three days and taught me to market grain," Sweeney said. "All the farm records died with my father. I had never planted corn or soybeans before."
Her employee at the time helped her hook the planter to the 4020 John Deere and she planted corn and soybeans that spring with the owner's manual on her lap. She also calved 90 Charolais cows.
"I should have been scared, but I wasn't," Sweeney said. "It was just something that needed to be done. I had some very kind neighbors who helped me."
Sweeney married her husband, David, in 1985 and he joined her on the farm. Their sons Jim and Joe attend Iowa state University.
Sweeney ran a cattle catalog business in her home for nine years, and helped her four employees set up home offices so they could stay home with their kids.
What inspired Sweeney to run for the Legislature was her love of agriculture.
"Agriculture is the heart beat of what goes on in this state," she said. "I'm proud of Iowa farmers. They are responsible and concerned about the environment."
Sweeney intends to educate her committee on how important agriculture. She has scheduled an ISU economist and an Ames entrepreneur to talk about the economic benefits of agriculture. She expects environmental concerns will be addressed by the committee as well.
"I hope to follow in the footsteps of Dolores Mertz," Sweeney said. "She was a fantastic ag chair. I have much respect for her. I'll continue the tradition of being very open about my thoughts."
Sweeney has met with commodity groups to let them know she will seek input from every facet of agriculture in the policy-making process.
"My door is open to everyone," she said.
Sweeney is concerned that agriculture received large cuts last year.
"If agriculture is a $77 billion business, shouldn't we take care of our agriculture," she said.