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To the Editor:
When you think of Nebraska, you think of agriculture. Whether it be livestock, grain, processing or manufacturing, they are all major parts of Nebraska's economic fabric. You also think of the unpredictable factors that agricultural producers face each year. Too much rain, too little rain, devastating wind or hail, and frigid winter blizzards are just a few of the uncertainties that we all must take in stride.
Nebraska producers do not need a White House or administration that adds another layer of unpredictability, yet that is exactly what the Trump administration has generated over the past four years with their actions regarding trade, climate, and pandemic response.
Starting with the pullout of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which would have created the world's largest free trade deal which encompassed 40% of the global economy, to the misguided trade war with China. Nebraska producers are left wondering what could have been after years of developing great trading relationships worldwide. Countless producer and government funds, along with years of interpersonal dialogue between Nebraska producers and trade partners led to a robust trade environment for Nebraska and US products. Sure, we were aware of issues with Chinese transparency and market manipulation, but there were options within the World Trade Organization framework working with other trading allies to address those concerns. Instead, the U.S. slaps tariffs on many of those potential allies and China, which may yield short-term success, but risk damaging our reputation as a reliable supplier of agricultural goods. Agriculture needs leadership in the White House that understands that we need to function in a global marketplace and that means reengaging other global leaders on trade access.
Agriculture needs leadership that understands that agriculture can provide meaningful solutions to the climate challenges facing our planet. We in agriculture see on a daily basis the impact of extreme weather events and are implementing practices to deal with erosion, nutrient and water management, and are actively sequestering carbon in our soils. Rural America is also well positioned to provide substantial amounts of alternative energy through solar and wind power generation and biofuels. The Trump administration has shown little interest in any of these solutions that rural Nebraska can offer. Instead, it continues full-fledged support of the fossil fuel and coal industries by granting RFS waivers.
Agriculture needs leadership that has a plan to confront the unique challenges that COVID-19 creates for our industry. While it may be politically expedient to downplay the severity of this disease, we need leaders who understand that challenges like this require a detailed plan and the courage to make hard decisions and be truthful with our citizens. The effects of COVID-19 on Nebraska producers have been substantial, just as they have been for all Americans, but market disruptions at the outset of the pandemic created huge losses for livestock, grain, milk, and ethanol producers. Now that rural areas of the state are seeing exponential increases in positive cases, President Trump claims that "people are tired of hearing about COVID-19" and that "we've turned the corner." What people are tired of is watching loved ones die and their president lie on a daily basis. Clearly, a plan needs to be formulated and communicated about how we roll out a vaccination program, and how we pay for the economic recovery and the bailouts, including nearly $60 billion for agriculture.
As lifelong Republicans, we lament the fact that historical Republican ideals and values have been supplanted by a blind devotion to Donald Trump. We don't believe that our nation, and agriculture, can stand four more years of unpredictability, damage, and drama in the White House. While we may not support every aspect of the Democratic platform, a return to civilized discourse and respect for our old post-WWII allies would be very welcome and why we'll be casting our vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
-- Bart Ruth farms in Butler and Polk counties in Nebraska and is a past president of the American Soybean Association and an Eisenhower Fellow for Agriculture.
Ben Steffen is an employer and owner of a grain and dairy farm near Humboldt, Nebraska.
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