ELY, Iowa — USDA Secretary, and former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack stopped in Iowa Tuesday to tour a creamery in Ely run by Dan and Debbie Takes. Vilsack has known the couple since he visited here in 2014 and has seen the operation grow from a dairy farm, to a creamery and milk production plant, and now a retail store serving ice cream. 

Vilsack said this family is doing what more Iowans want to do, get more value-added from the farm, and keep the dollars close to home

“So we are today announcing the $10 million grant under the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” said Vilsack. “The idea is how can we take crop residue and other feed stocks and how we could convert them and change them into bio base products for consumers, and construction.”

Vilsack said the USDA grant would go to land grant and research universities to develop a road map for producing more value from a farm.

“It is a future that is focused on adding value creating an economy that is really bio-based and what does that mean, it means basically taking everything that’s grown and raised and produced on a farm and turning it into something more valuable,” said Vilsack. “That includes not just a corn and soy beans and meat the livestock process but it also includes all the waste product.”

Vilsack introduced a representative of Cargill who explained efforts to take corn syrup and produce spandex for athletic wear, instead of using an oil based product.

“It’s a chemical intermediate that today comes from fossil fuel and so it is used in a wide variety of products one of which is spandex,” said Jill Zullo, of Cargill. “So there’s a wide variety products the one that that now is been very important to us is this spandex.”

Vilsack will also be in Iowa on Wednesday to visit a farm near Minburn.