Staff spotlight: Cody creates change through passion for policy work


When picturing the states in the middle of America, one might conjure up images of rolling, green prairie; vast, tidy rows of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa; or cattle grazing in pastures, standing near creeks, under the shade of cottonwood trees.

With such traditional views planted in their heads, not many people picture wind turbines dotting the land or solar panels resting atop outbuildings on a farm. Or, do they think about the quality of water flowing through the streams, rivers, and lakes that sustain rural communities? To Cody Smith, two of the most important issues facing the Midwest and Plains states today are water quality and renewable energy.

Cody’s desire to improve and implement projects in these areas is so strong he made a career of it.

Policy work is Cody’s passion, and he’s spent over a year at the Center for Rural Affairs taking on different roles in that area. In May 2018, he joined the Center team and has worked as both a policy assistant and a policy writing assistant.

Now, Cody continues his work as a policy associate, and he has big plans for his new position.

“My time with the Center has informed a great deal of my experience in these areas,” he said. “I’m working on renewable energy and water quality policy in Iowa, and my hope is that more rural communities and people will be empowered to pursue renewable energy, like wind and solar, as a viable energy alternative.”

Cody’s work includes research and analysis through publications like white papers and fact sheets. He is also part of coalition-building around certain legislative proposals in the Iowa statehouse, and remains active at the capitol during the legislative session.

The policy associate says he plans to work with the Center’s partners at the state and local level to help improve water quality by encouraging and building strong community involvement in projects.

“I'm really looking forward to getting back to work in Iowa,” said Cody. “Iowa became my home about five years ago, and I'm excited to be in a position where I can help facilitate meaningful change. I’m so glad to have the opportunity to add my voice to the public conversation about the quality of Iowa's water.”

Though Cody considers Iowa his home now, he grew up on a family farm in rural Indiana. It was there where his love of rural America began.

“I've seen firsthand what rural communities can do when common-sense policy solutions are adopted by lawmakers,” he said. “My family has raised sheep on the same plot of land for a century, and I want to help other farmers remain economically stable while adopting practices that help their neighbors downstream.”

Through his work at the Center, Cody hopes to do just that.

“It is my goal to strengthen implementation of projects as prescribed by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” he said. “I also look forward to engaging with stakeholders like farmers, community leaders, and conservationists to encourage more planning throughout all of Iowa's watersheds.”

When Cody isn’t advocating for change, he takes time to reflect on what drives his work.

“My favorite hobby is kayaking—it's a great way to enjoy our beautiful natural resources, and it reminds me of why I care so much about the work we're doing at the Center for Rural Affairs,” he said.

Cody can be reached at the Center’s office in Nevada, Iowa, at 402.687.2100 ext. 1016 or