Senators and farm leaders work together to raise a strong voice for agriculture.
When Nebraska Farmer editor, Don McCabe developed the idea of surveying farm leaders and legislative veterans around the state about the strength of the voice of agriculture in shaping farm policy, he didn’t know how these folks would answer. With a shrinking rural population in much of the state and with redistricting looming large over this session of the Unicameral, it is a sure bet that “rural” Nebraska will lose districts to more metropolitan areas.
If you read the front page story of the January issue of the magazine and the quotes from ag leaders on page 8, you’ll notice that no one disputes the fact that rural districts are losing representation. However, I thought that the answers given by our state’s leaders were refreshingly positive.
I particularly enjoyed comments from Cap Dierks, the veteran rural senator from Ewing who represented District 40 for many years. Cap, who had served in the Unicameral through two redistricting rounds, knows the statistics as well as anyone. Yet, his remarks were as complimentary to our urban senators as they were hopeful for the future of ag policy in our legislative chamber.
“My feeling always was that urban senators were very aware of the importance of food production for our state and for the nation,” Cap said. He noted that agriculture received the amount of prominence it deserved in the Unicameral, in his opinion, and that he had felt very little negative input on ag issues from urban senators over the years.
Lori Luebbe, executive director of the Nebraska Soybean Association, reminded farmers that they need to help new senators prepare to represent the state by educating them on agriculture issues. She said, "Our efforts need to focus on working with the state senators and their staffs to educate them about agriculture, and what we do and why we do it."
Throughout the comments made, communication seemed to be the key message. Yes, many new senators have taken up office in the Capitol building these days. Yes, rural districts will probably lose some representation. But overall, we should feel pleased to know that our issues are in good hands and that our senators, whether they come from the farm or the city, generally understand the importance of agriculture to the state. They may not always agree on the details or priorities, but we have to remember that their jobs are not easy and there are never easy answers, especially when budgets are tight.
Keep in touch with your local senator. Tell them your story and how it relates to legislation being proposed. That seems to be the advice of the day as the Unicameral session moves forward.
For more insight into the voice of agriculture in the Unicameral, read the January issue of Nebraska Farmer.