Saturday, September 23, 2006

Agriculture Instead of Military

Although I commit much of my time to research and writing in support our troops, their mission, and our national security, my involvement with agriculture commands most of my time. That commitment to agriculture afforded me the opportunity to work with Pete Ricketts and his staff to develop Pete’s platform on ag related issues.

I am an agronomist, a Certified Crop Adviser who has the privilege of providing consulting services to over 30 Nebraska farmers, all with different farm sizes, needs, and challenges, both for the short term and long term. It’s a very personal job that often transitions from business into friendship. To me, it’s not just the success of my customers I care for, it’s the success and prosperity of my friends I care about.

That’s the approach I take when providing Pete with input as he develops his agricultural platform. Several Nebraska farmers and other ag professionals have also been working with Pete from the beginning of his campaign, giving him direct input and providing feedback from our communities. Pete also solicited input from Nebraska growers associations. I’ve seen Pete and his staff approach agriculture, and all other issues important to Nebraskans, with the appropriate personal care.

I have been and continue to be involved with the development of his ag policy positions. That’s why I know the radio commercial Ben Nelson released last week about Pete’s ag policy is absolute rubbish.

Ben weaves his lie this way “Pete Ricketts proposes to phase out farm subsidies. Ricketts supports a risky plan of farm savings accounts that ends farm support payments and jeopardizes our rural way of life. It’s a clever way to boost income for mega farms and their investors while short changing family farms and main street Nebraska.”

When I heard these accusations, I found them so absurd I went right past being angry to being openly amused.

For starters, Pete does not propose phasing out farm subsidies or ending farm support payments. I’ve never detected that position in any of his published material, during the many conversations I’ve had with Pete, from his debates, or listening to him answer questions from groups of voters.

Pete does not believe in dumping farm support payments. He does support farm savings accounts, but not as a means to end farm support payments as Ben is trying to scare everyone into believing. Pete has proposed farm savings accounts as a complement to farm support payments, but not to act in lieu of those payments.

What Pete supports are ag savings accounts that would allow farmers to save money tax-free as an additional risk management tool. Nelson supported this approach in 2001 and 2003 when he co-sponsored Senator Grassley's bills on this topic, but Pete's approach is better because it also calls for federal matching funds for money contributed to these accounts. But, he does not propose elimination of support payments and replacement with these ag savings accounts. Ben Nelson is not dealing with the truth by stating otherwise.

When giving Pete input for his ag platform, I felt I was representing my customers, my friends, and their future; they are not mega farmers or their investors. As such, I gave advice and input based on farm sizes from 400 to 4000 acres with potential for growth amongst all. Pete did not move forward with a plan to specifically benefit only mega farmers, their investors, or anyone on Wall Street. Ben Nelson’s accusations in this arena are also unfounded and invented.

Pete’s positions on agriculture are highlighted by ideas and philosophies for free and fair trade, opening up markets for our crops and livestock, bio-based fuels, as well as value added opportunities for agricultural products. Pete’s vision also provides insight into comprehensive rural development including benefits the Conservation Security Program can have for both producers and Nebraska communities. He details how increased funding for university research can find new uses and markets for commodities while sparking job creation and bringing people back to Nebraska.

Pete understands the importance of agriculture to our state and its significance to our rural communities. He understands the impact year to year variable income has on farmers and the communities in which they live. That’s why he’s proposed continuing support payments, ag savings accounts, and expansion of insurance programs to include revenue coverage for livestock. Pete also supports expanded crop insurance and increased disaster assistance in the next Farm Bill. All programs designed to take risk out of the process and decrease the impact year to year variability has on farm income.

As a businessman, Pete understands the impact all internal and external factors can have on the business of farming and is genuinely committed to making things better for Nebraska farmers and our rural communities, not putting them in jeopardy.

It takes someone with sound ideas and courage to lead. While Ben Nelson continues to focus on negative campaigning, Pete Ricketts is sharing the ideas and showing the courage we need to move our state and this nation forward. Agriculture is just another arena where the difference between the leadership abilities of each has become evident.

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