Gaesser touts his years of farm experience
By BILL SHEA
Ray Gaesser wants to put lessons he’s learned during a lifetime of farming to work for all Iowans as their next secretary of agriculture.
“My life has been about farming,” the Republican who farms near Corning in Adams County said during a phone interview with The Messenger Thursday afternoon.
“I understand the ups and downs of agriculture because my family and I have lived through them,” he said. “I think it’s important that a secretary of agriculture feels the same joy and the same pain that the rest of agriculture feels.”
He said pushing forward with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy will be a priority for him if he’s elected. That strategy is intended to clean up the state’s water through responsible use of fertilizers.
“Yes, it’s voluntary,” Gaesser said. “But in the long run, it’s not an optional program because we have a responsibility there.”
In January, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a new water quality program into law which provides millions of additional dollars for projects to clean up Iowa’s waterways.
“It’s an important start and it sends an important message,” Gaesser said of the new law.
He said it would require $5 billion over 20 years to properly implement it.
He added that about 13 million acres of cover crops are also needed to address Iowa’s water and soil health needs. Gaesser said he plants cereal rye as a cover crop in between his corn and soybean rotation.
He said he supports the sale of E15 ethanol all year long. Currently, that ethanol blend isn’t sold during the summer months because some cars built before 2000 could have a vapor lock if the fuel is used in hot weather.
Gaesser said he is not in favor of overhauling the rules governing the location of confined animal feeding operations.
“First of all, I want to protect animal agriculture in Iowa,” he said. “There’s a lot of concern among friends in the industry that if you open up the master matrix you may really restrict animal agriculture’s ability to operate.”
“I believe in animal agriculture,” he said. “It’s our livelihood in a lot of cases.”
He said owners of such facilities must communicate with owners of nearby properties when deciding where to build them. He added that even sites that meet all the requirements of the matrix may not be good locations for a confinement.
Gaesser said he’s talked with farmers who are worried about the impact of tariffs on farm exports.
He said a full-scale trade war would not be good “for anyone in the world.”
“We need to have cool heads as we negotiate,” he said.
The candidate has served as the president of both the Iowa Soybean Association and the American Soybean Association. He was also the co-chairman of the International Soybean Growers Alliance.
Gaesser faces Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig plus Craig Lang, Chad Ingels and state Sen. Dan Zumbach in the June 5 Republican primary election.
Tim Gannon is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
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