Gov. Pete Ricketts praises Nebraska ag

Matt Lindberg
Columbus Telegram, Neb.

Gov. Pete Ricketts once again lambasted U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) while touting the future of Nebraska’s agriculture industry on Feb. 9 during an address to more than 120 people in Columbus.

Ricketts spoke to a crowd made of those from around the state with ties to agriculture inside the Ramada Hotel and River’s Edge Convention Center during the final day of the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference.

Early on, Ricketts spoke harshly when addressing a proposal being labeled a “Green New Deal” from Cortez and Sen. Ed Markley (D-Mass) that calls for several measures to slash carbon emissions across the economy, from electricity generation to transportation and agriculture. It’s aiming to address climate change, among other things. The deal mentioned working collaboratively with U.S. farmers and ranchers.

But it would, in essence, eliminate cattle production, the governor said.

Ricketts, who on Feb. 8 released a statement that denounced the proposal and said it would destroy the state’s No. 1 industry, numerous jobs and many family businesses, reiterated his feelings to the crowd at the conference.

“(She) put out what she called a new Green Deal, which really is more like a new raw deal because one of her goals is to get rid of the beef industry,” Ricketts told the audience about the proposal released Feb. 7. “It demonstrates really shocking ignorance of the beef industry in general ...”

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson on Feb. 8 also criticized the Green Deal proposal.

“Yesterday’s announced ‘Green New Deal’ is totally unrealistic. It is clear its authors and supporters have spent no time in rural areas or even have a basic understanding of how food is produced. The proposal is a blatant and unscientific attack on livestock production as well an assault on Nebraska’s agricultural economy due to our sensitivity to even slight energy price increases,” Nelson said, in a provided statement. “When the House of Representatives attacked agriculture in 2009 with ‘Cap and Trade,’ Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers fought back. We intend to do the same thing again.”

Jason Perdue, York County Farm Bureau committee co-chair, said he and others at the conference viewed the “Green New Deal” proposal as an opportunity to enlighten others. He noted NFB members spend a significant amount of time advocating for the ag industry and teaching others more about it. The “Green New Deal” had been a discussion point among members over the weekend, he said.

“It’s now on us (to) educate people like (Cortez) on what the Green New Deal would actually mean, especially for agriculture, for livestock production, and try to help them understand while some of their ideas may be well intended, they’re not necessarily practical as a blanket statement,” he said. “And how it could really hurt our economy, especially in Nebraska, as well as the food source for the nation ... We need to tell our story ...”

Perdue’s sentiment was similar to Ricketts’ in his address that came later that day. The governor first repeatedly emphasized a need for those in the crowd to collaborate together.

“That is so important. We need to make sure, especially for agriculture as our No. 1 industry here in the state, that you’re making those connections with folks all across the state in agriculture,” he said. “To make sure that we can work together to address the issues that we have here.”

Educating those outside of the industry is also extremely important, he said, like Perdue, calling young people the future of the state.

“We have to continue to educate people about what agriculture means,” he stressed.

Ricketts then discussed what he and other Nebraska leaders in Lincoln are doing to help and promote the state’s ag industry, which he said is essential to Nebraska’s growth.

“We have a great legacy here in our state with our No. 1 industry,” Ricketts said. “One in four jobs in Nebraska is tied back to agriculture.”

He highlighted the many trade missions he has taken to places like Japan, China, Canada and Mexico over the years that have helped promote Nebraska, noting “30 percent of everything we grow here is going to be exported.”

He then talked about “added-value agriculture,” noting that modern-day technology and innovation are helping the industry add value to Nebraska’s traditional commodities.

“We have to do more to promote things (that) add value to Nebraska,” he said, adding that livestock is one of the many things that can boost the state’s economy. “We want to make sure livestock has a place here in our state where it can expand and grow because that is a great example of how we can create more economic activity in our state ...”

He cited Costco breaking ground on its first-ever chicken processing plant, calling it a massive investment that will have a huge economic impact on the state by creating hundreds of new jobs in Fremont and opportunities for more than 100 farmers through a poultry grower network.

“You may be in the beef industry and the pork industry, but we all have an interest in making sure all of livestock is successful,” he said. “And so supporting those types of operations where we can put up those poultry barns is very important. We all need to be part of that ...”

He later reiterated one of his main goals for 2019: Property tax relief. Ricketts said he and others continue to look for ways to provide more property tax relief by doing things like increasing the property tax relief fund and controlling state spending, among other things, noting it’s especially important for ag land in the state. He stressed he’s hoping to hear ideas from others in the Legislature and work with them on how to achieve more property tax relief for Nebraskans.

Ricketts’ address was only one portion of a busy two-day conference. Participants toured Jindra Angus in Clarkson, ADM, Duo Lift and Behlen Manufacturing on Feb. 8, heard a keynote address from Matt Lohr and had time to sit in on discussions about various topics.

The conference also featured a Feb. 8 Cornhole tournament, which saw entry fees donated to local nonprofit Sammy’s Superheroes.

“It’s great to get involved with a local group within Columbus to donate to and help their cause,” Perdue said.

NFB, which put on the conference with sponsor Aurora Cooperative, was appreciative of Ricketts for being part of it.

“It just shows the importance of not only the farm bureau, but especially the young farmers and ranchers within the state when the governor recognizes how important this group is to the economic future of this state, whether through traditional farming and ranching or through ag business,” Perdue said, noting most attendees were in the 18-35 age range. “... The governor being here really shows that.”

The 28th Annual Governor’s Ag Conference is set for March 4-5 at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney.