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National Nonprofit Food & Water Watch Joins Complaint Against Rastetter, Exposes Another AgriSol Executive as Complicit in Tanzania Land Grab

July 19, 2012

Des Moines, Iowa — Today the national consumer advocacy nonprofit Food & Water Watch – with more than 400,000 members nationally and over 5,000 in Iowa – joined Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement’s (Iowa CCI) ethics complaint against Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter for an egregious conflict of interest involving a Tanzania land deal he brokered in partnership with Iowa State University. Food & Water Watch delivered a letter delivered to Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board Executive Director Megan Tooker today requesting to be added to Iowa CCI’s ethics complaint.   

“Rastetter has betrayed the trust of the Iowans he is supposed to be serving on the Board of Regents and has severely compromised the institutional credibility of ISU,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch’s executive director. “His continued presence on the Board sends a strong message that Iowa State exists to serve the political and corporate elite, not the hard-working, honest family farmers and everyday citizens whose taxpayer dollars fund the university.”

In its letter, Food & Water Watch details the ways in which Rastetter may have or may continue to exert influence over the university through the College of Agriculture Advisory Council, a non-transparent, influential body that includes Bruce Rastetter’s business partner Eric Peterson. Though Rastetter vacated his own role on the advisory council following media coverage of the evolving scandal, his business partner Peterson continues to represent the business interests of AgriSol and Rastetter on the council.

“Rastetter’s misconduct is symptomatic of a pattern of cronyism and abuse of power on the part of Branstad appointees,” said Garry Klicker, Iowa CCI member, family farmer, and small businessman from Davis County, Iowa. “The only responsible thing for the state ethics board to do is launch a formal investigation into this matter.”

Food & Water Watch formally joins Iowa CCI’s ethics complaint after conducting several public meetings throughout Iowa discussing its recent report, Public Research, Private Gain, that examines the ways in which private-sector funding corrupts the public-interest research mission of land-grant universities. The report investigates schools across the country and analyzes the millions of corporate dollars going to agricultural departments and professors at Iowa State from agribusiness giants such as Monsanto and Dow. Some departments take close to half of their research funding from private sources, while some individual professors are almost entirely dependent on the millions of dollars they take from industry. Iowa State’s efforts to work with Bruce Rastetter on the AgriSol project is just one more example of the school shifting its priorities from the needs of consumers and farmers of Iowa to the ambitions of corporate agribusiness.

For commentary, futher background or a copy of Food & Water Watch’s letter to the Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board, contact Matt Ohloff, 319-512-7825, [email protected].

Contact: Anna Ghosh, 415-293-9905, aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org