He is one of five Republicans running to become Iowa's secretary of agriculture.

As a farmer, trade and agricultural policy expert, Ray Gaesser wants voters to know he is best suited to be Iowa's next secretary of agriculture.

Gaesser, a Republican from Adams County in southwest Iowa, is one of five in his party running to replace former Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who left Des Moines in March to take a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.

Mike Naig, Northey's deputy, was appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds to fill the vacancy.

"I'm running because I really do believe in Iowa and I believe in agriculture and I really want to be able to share not only my experience in farming, but my experience in agriculture policy and my experience in trade around the world," Gaesser said last Thursday in an interview with The Hawk Eye. "I want to be able to share those experiences and make sure that Iowa agriculture is successful and that we have strong and healthy farms and a strong and healthy Iowa."

Gaesser has served as chairman and president of the American Soybean Association, president of the Iowa Soybean Association and co-chairman of the International Soybean Growers Alliance. He also worked closely with Northey on the Iowa Conservation Infrastructure Initiative to identify ways to meet goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, aimed at minimizing pollutants in the state's waterways.

"The other (candidates) don't have that trade expertise, close relationships that I've made over the last 25 years with our customers. I've been on 50 or so trade missions, developed relationships with not only those who are regulatory agencies in the countries we deal with, but are actual customers. In a lot of cases, we're friends."

Gaesser noted the threat of tariffs between the U.S and China as a potential conflict Iowa's agriculture secretary might face, an issue he believes could be helped by someone who already has relationships with some of the stakeholders.

If elected, Gaesser's priorities include a focus on "stewardship of land, air and water quality that also grows profitability;" open trade so farmers can sell their goods around the world; and "ensuring food safety while protecting farmers' rights."

He has prioritized water quality and conservation initiatives on his own 6,050-acre farm near Corning, practices he wants to see championed by officials in Des Moines.

"We're going to do the research, collect the data, inspire agriculture and urban and rural citizens to move forward on water quality because the rain does fall on all of us, it doesn't just fall on the farms," Gaesser said.

In order to face Democrat Tim Gannon in the November general election he must defeat Chad Ingels, Craig Lang, Secretary Naig and state Sen. Dan Zumbach in the June 5 primary.