Source: KAAL

By John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- The freshman senator from Iowa, Republican Joni Ernst, was in north Iowa on Friday for a stop on her 99 county tour.

The visit comes at a time when both avian flu and water protection legislation are on the minds of many in the area.

Friday afternoon saw a small crowd welcome Sen. Ernst to Osage, IA.

About 30 people packed into the Mitchell County Farm Bureau to hear from the freshman senator and ask questions.

The event was part of a 99 county tour for Ernst, a circuit that's become popular among Iowa politicians wanting to meet their constituents face-to-face.

"You name it, we are covering all of those areas," Sen. Ernst said. "It means a lot to be able to hear directly from those Iowans about how the federal government is impacting their business and their everyday lives."

For the rural Osage community, many of the topics came back to agriculture, including a national proposal to increase regulations on U.S. waterways, something Sen. Ernst said should be left to local officials.

"They know more about what's going on in our steams, our rivers than somebody sitting in a cubicle out in Washington, D.C.," Sen. Ernst told the crowd.

Several residents agreed, saying regulators need to get farmers more involved in the process to find solutions that work for their specific situations.

"If it's mandatory, you've got to do it. But if it's voluntary and you get the help that you need to do some of that stuff, it's easier to do it and do it right," said Rodney Koch, president of the Mitchell County Farm Bureau.

Although she didn't address it with the group, Sen. Ernst said she is very concerned with the avian flu which has already hit parts of Iowa.

On Friday afternoon Gov. Terry Branstad announced another four possible cases, and Sen. Ernst said something needs to be done or the virus could soon affect 20 percent of the state's commercial bird population.

“We need to follow this closely, we need to get to the root of the problem,” Sen. Ernst said. “What is causing it? Why is it spreading? And what can we do about it moving on in the future?”

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