Government

Independent canadidate for governor, Gary Siegwarth, sees ag, water quality as key to Iowa's future

DNR biologist running for governor says simple solutions exist

Gary Siegwarth is a “No Party” candidate for governor. A former farmer and now a Department of Natural Resources biologist, he says simple ideas can improve water quality and farm profit levels. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Gary Siegwarth is a “No Party” candidate for governor. A former farmer and now a Department of Natural Resources biologist, he says simple ideas can improve water quality and farm profit levels. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Gary Siegwarth, who’s running for governor, has a vision for Iowa that starts with the land and water, but he believes that it can be applied to all parts of Iowa government.

A Department of Natural Resources biologist for the past 26 years, Siegwarth, 52, has formed the Clear Water Party — clearwaterparty.com — as a vision of what Iowa could be.

Despite its name, the Clear Water Party is a non-party political organization under Iowa law.

“Our land and water connects us all,” said Siegwarth, who is stationed at the Big Springs Trout Hatchery near Elkader, which he calls a “barometer of the landscape past and present — everything that has ever happened on the land is reflected in the water.”

“Clear water means something on the landscape is working properly, and it also represents transparency,” he said, adding there’s too little transparency in state government and too little being done to protect the landscape.

“I’m running because I’ve become so frustrated over time,” the former Jackson County farmer told The Gazette Editorial Board. “It’s frustrating to go to Des Moines to tell them about the simple things and watch it fall on deaf ears” because of the pressure from “big money.”

A 25-year member of the Farm Bureau, Siegwarth said the Iowa Farm Bureau “runs the show” at the Capitol.

Since no one listens to the DNR, Siegwarth decided to run for governor “because all of the sudden you have a voice, you can educate from the top, inspire, you can motivate, you can draw attention to things,” he said.

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“You can show the simplest solutions that aren’t going to cost taxpayers a dime for improving water quality while at the same time improving the profit levels for farmers.”

Iowa’s $40 billion agriculture industry is the key to the state’s well-being and future, according to Siegwarth.

However, he said, that will require changing a system that uses tax dollars to “prop up a system of chronic overproduction and chronic low prices.”

“The only way to bring young people back to the land, to our rural communities, back to our communities, is by diversifying agriculture,” he said.

As a model for his vision, Siegwarth points to microbrewing in Iowa.

In 2012, Iowa breweries and brewpubs employed fewer than 150 people. After the Legislature tweaked a few laws, production has increased by $100 million, generating more than 1,500 jobs and increasing personal income by $42 million, according to a study for the Iowa Wine and Beer Promotion Board.

“It’s community-supported, community-thriving, but the best part is it’s community sharing,” Siegwarth said.

“Apply that model to the agricultural landscape, that diversity, that sharing,” he said. “That’s going to bring people back to the community.”

As an independent not controlled by a political party or by special interests, Siegwarth believes he will be able to work with people on all sides of issues to bring about the change he believes is needed.

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“Here’s a chance for Iowa to become the middle coast, to set the trend not only for the United States, but for the whole world,” he said.

“Shouldn’t that be what a governor is from the top, inspiring people, motivating people, bringing people and ideas together, not taking one side against the other,” he said.

For more on Siegwarth, visit https://garyforgov.org/.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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