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Iowa State loans went to regent's LLC

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The agribusiness owned by Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter was awarded $480,000 in no-interest loans from an Iowa State University center a few months after he joined the school’s governing board, records show.

The loans from the Iowa Energy Center helped Summit Farms LLC finance the $990,000 cost of installing wind turbines at its corporate office and two hog confinements. Rastetter owns the Alden-based producer of crops, beef and pork, which grew out of his family farm. The turbines were expected to generate $44,000 in annual energy cost savings for Summit Farms, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press under the public records law.

Iowa State officials said they didn’t give special treatment to Rastetter’s company and that the turbines met the criteria for a longstanding renewable energy loan program. Rastetter said Friday he had no regrets about seeking the assistance, saying he should have the same opportunity as every other farmer even if he faces “additional scrutiny” due to his powerful state position.

“It didn’t have anything to do with me being a regent,” he said. “Those application processes were exactly the same thing for everyone. I think wind energy is a good thing for Iowa and we participated with it.”

But the disclosure gives new ammunition to Rastetter’s critics, who have scrutinized his ethics after he became financially entangled with Iowa State in an investment in a controversial Africa land deal.

“It’s definitely a questionable venture at best, if not a full-fledged conflict of interest, that he’s utilizing this loan program for his personal gain,” said Adam Mason, of the liberal activist group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.