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Mike Naig in front of soybean field
ON BALLOT: Mike Naig (pictured) is running for Iowa secretary of ag. Other candidates are Dan Zumbach, Craig Lang, Chad Ingels, Ray Gaesser and Tim Gannon.

Iowa ag secretary forum March 27

Five Republicans and one Democrat are running for state post.

Three more candidates who want to be Iowa’s next secretary of agriculture made it official last week. They filed nomination petitions with the state of Iowa for their names to appear on the June 5 primary ballot. That brings the total number who’ve filed and are officially running to six candidates: five Republicans and one Democrat.

The three who filed last week are Republicans Mike Naig, Dan Zumbach and Chad Ingels. Ray Gaesser and Craig Lang, also Republicans, filed previously. The lone Democrat running is Tim Gannon. The deadline for filing was March 16. The Republican and Democrat who win the June 5 primary election will face each other in the November general election.

First public forum
The Farm Bureaus of Clayton and Fayette counties in northeast Iowa along with the Iowa Corn Growers Association are sponsoring a candidate forum for the six candidates. The forum will be at Arlington Community Events Center in Arlington March 27. Dinner is at 5:30 p.m., followed by the candidate forum. All six candidates have been invited to tell the audience why they are seeking the position of Iowa secretary of agriculture.

Naig, Iowa’s current ag secretary, was appointed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds recently to fill the position of former Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, who resigned March 5 to become undersecretary of agriculture at USDA in Washington. Naig was Iowa’s deputy secretary of agriculture under Northey.

All 6 candidates gather signatures
Naig filed his papers with the Iowa secretary of state on March 13 to qualify for the June 5 primary election. So did Zumbach, a farmer from Ryan in northeast Iowa who is a member of the Iowa Legislature and is chairman of the Iowa Senate Ag Committee. Ingels, a farmer from Randalia, also in northeast Iowa, filed a couple days later and is now also officially running.

The two other Republican candidates, Gaesser and Lang, had previously filed. Gaesser farms at Corning in southwest Iowa, and Lang farms near Grinnell in east-central Iowa. The Democrat candidate, Gannon, farms near Mingo in central Iowa.

Naig submitted 3,500 signatures from people from over 90 Iowa counties. Each candidate was required to secure a minimum of 1,000 signatures statewide, with over 50 coming from at least 10 counties in Iowa.

Zumbach decided to officially throw his hat in the ring last week because “my passion is agriculture. I’ve farmed for 40 years in northeast Iowa. I grew up milking cows and farrowing sows and when I began farming on my own I continued to raise hogs and feed cattle. As Iowa secretary of agriculture, we need someone who has a deep understanding of agriculture. That’s me. I look at where Bill Northey has taken our state’s ag department on water quality issues and soil conservation. I will continue that track, continue the progress.”

Candidates’ strong ag background
Ingles raises crops and livestock, also in northeast Iowa, and says he’s running because he wants to continue making progress on water quality and other issues. He is chairman of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission and was an Iowa State University Extension watershed specialist for 16 years. He’s farmed with his family for 20 years near Randalia.

Ingels says he would work to make sure E15 ethanol blend is allowed to be sold year-around, and he wants to see stronger efforts made to bring more young people into production agriculture.

Lang is a dairy farmer and past president of Iowa Farm Bureau. He’s a strong believer in using cover crops and adding diversity to Iowa’s dominant corn and soybean rotation to help address the state’s water quality issues. “I want farmers to lead the discussion about cleaner water, working with our urban friends,” he says. Iowa growers need to find other crops, in addition to corn and soybeans, that bring value, he says.

Lang, a former president of the Iowa Board of Regents, says that will require tapping into the expertise at Iowa’s universities. “I believe diversification in agriculture is the real answer,” he says. “I don’t believe rotating half our state to soybeans and half to corn every year is sustainable. I’d like to create wealth through healthy Iowa soils.”

Seeking ag solutions
Gaesser farms 6,000 acres in southwest Iowa at Corning. He’s farmed there for 40 years. In addition to serving as past president of the Iowa Soybean Association and American Soybean Association, he has participated in many trade missions around the world. He’s outlined a platform calling for ensuring farmers’ rights and profitability while promoting land and water stewardship, international trade and food safety.

“Farming to me is more than a job. It’s my passion,” Gaesser says. “Running for the office of Iowa secretary of ag is a culmination of decades of experience and years of planning so I can give back even more to this great state of Iowa.”

Gannon is a fifth-generation Iowa farmer who worked for eight years at USDA on the staff of Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor who served as U.S. secretary of agriculture. Since returning to Iowa, Gannon is now farming 900 acres near Mingo on his family’s century farm. If elected Iowa ag secretary, Gannon says he will focus on trade and export promotion and identifying new markets for Iowa ag products while protecting soil and water and encouraging economic development in rural Iowa.

“As Iowa secretary of agriculture, I will strengthen support for farmers and will fight to expand markets so producers of all types and sizes can thrive,” says Gannon. “In places like my hometown of Mingo, we need to do more to give young people hope for the future and that means expanding Iowa agriculture and supporting value-added products that can be tested, grown and manufactured right here in Iowa.”

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