Area man seeks top ag position

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Mark Leonard of Holstein is a cattleman, farmer and banker who would like to be the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.

He believes his background, combining both finance and direct agricultural experience, provides the perspective needed to lead a department that is crucial to the state.

"Ag policy affects every person in the state and it is the key to our economic development," Leonard said during a recent visit to Cherokee.

The primary election is not until June and the general election is nearly a year away but Leonard began campaigning for the position full time in early summer and has spent only 21 days at home since then.

He has garnered many endorsement from established leaders in the Republican party, including former governor Terry Branstad, who serves on the Leonard for Iowa Advisory Committee. This is the first time since he left office that Branstad has actively campaigned for a candidate.

Leonard would like to see some changes in ag policy, both at the state and federal level. He favors establishing a limit on what one person can receive in farm subsidies. "We give 80 percent of these funds to 10 percent of the recipients. I worry that unless we correct the situation, there will be a backlash that could threaten all payments, even to the small struggling farmer," Leonard said.

Preserving the family farm is a cornerstone of Leonard's campaign. In his campaign brochure, Leonard states, "I believe that without a diverse and populated rural Iowa, our schools, churches and communities, indeed the very essence of Iowa, will suffer, and policy must be designed to maximize our rural population and slow the consolidation of farms and ag industries."

During his visit to Cherokee, Leonard said he believes that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources should be put under the authority of the Iowa Department of Agriculture. He believes the DNR is not currently accountable to the public because it is a stand alone agency headed by someone who is not an elected official.

Leonard believes that the future of agriculture goes beyond the traditional crop uses, into areas that farmers are just beginning to exploit.

"Iowa can be the renewable energy capital of the world," Leonard said. He also said that ag products have tremendous potential for non-ag industries.

Leonard was born in Cherokee in 1956 and grew up on the family farm in the Holstein area, graduating from Holstein High School in 1974. He was the youngest Iowan to become an Eagle Scout. He received a B.S. degree in Animal Science from Iowa State University.

Leonard has served as vice president at area banks and as president of AgCom Financial Services. He is also owner and operator of Leonard Limousin, Inc. He is a member of numerous professional organizations, both in banking and agriculture.

His wife, Sheryl, is a teacher. They have five children - Emily, Erin, Ember, Denae and Austin. They have two grandchildren - David and Daniel.

The Leonard website is


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