Two Senate terms ago Nebraskans sent our former Governor E. Benjamin Nelson to Washington to represent our interests. Senator Ben, Democrat, campaigned on his intentions to be an independent voice representing the conservative outlook for which our state is noted.
Many conservatives, me included, took him at his word and voted for him back then. The longer he stayed in Washington, which happens all too often, the more liberal his voice became. Rather than standing up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Senator Nelson finagled a shameful deal that became known as the Cornhusker Kickback and sold his soul to pass Obamacare.
Then when Senator Ben came back home to poll the voters as to his chance of being elected to a third term, the "chickens came home to roost." He found that there was no chance in heck that the voters would be fooled again by his promise to be an independent voice and wisely decided to retire from the Senate to "spend more time with his family." Sadly he isn't going quietly into the night. He is now campaigning for Senator Harry Reid's hand-picked Democrat replacement, our has been Senator Bob Kerrey, current and longtime resident of New York.
Senator Kerrey is running against Nebraska State Senator and successful business person Deb Fischer from Valentine. In the primary Nebraska voters weighed the attributes of Candidate Deb Fisher, successful business person and chose her over professional lawyer/politicians Stenberg and Bruning much to the disdain of the power brokers from the Eastern end of the State.
Now the race is on. Deb Fisher and her rancher husband have built a successful ranching operation, part of which includes grazing on government lands. Enter Senator Ben Nelson in the Senate last Tuesday, June 12th.
He introduced an amendment to the farm bill that in the convoluted math of Washington would reduce the deficit by $1.2 billion. To quote Senator Ben "This is about fairness, fairness for America's farmers and ranchers, and fairness to all taxpayers." He continues: "In my efforts to identify areas for deficit reduction, I am proposing an amendment to eliminate a set of government subsidies. An elite two percent of the nation's livestock producers" (enter Deb Fisher here)"receive taxpayer subsidies for grazing on public lands. In the interest of fairness to all ranchers and taxpayers, we need to reform federal grazing subsidies. My amendment would require that ranchers pay grazing fees based on their region's market value, rather than the much-lower price that they currently pay," Nelson stated.
Take that, Deb Fisher, Senator Ben is going to break your operation by raising grazing fees out of sight. How dare you to even think of going to Washington to replace the one who has already embarrassed himself? The temerity of it all! Let's look at what Senator Ben is touting as a subsidy.
From the facts that his staff gathered and citing figures from the Government Accounting Office, Senator Ben notes that it costs the federal government $144 million a year to manage grazing rights on public lands. The federal government collects nearly $21 million each year in grazing fees from ranchers. That leaves a net cost to American taxpayers of over $120 million each year. Incidentally, another chunk of his proposed savings will be from eliminating direct payments which in his math will save $15 billion over 10 years which will be used for deficit reduction. Yeah, right.
Gee, I wonder who sets the price for grazing rights on public lands? Possibly it is the government bureaucrats that work indirectly for Senator Ben. Why don't they raise the fees to cover the whole cost of administering the grazing rights program, instead of reducing those fees by 40 percent as Senator Ben states they have done from 1980 to 2004? Hello, capitalism at work, raise the fees too much and nobody rents the grass. Set the price too high and there will be no $21 million to help offset the costs of the bureaucracy which of course can never be cut at all! There is nothing like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Can you imagine what a hassle it is to rent grazing rights on public lands? First, one has to deal with bureaucrats who are influenced by all sorts of environmental wackos. Streams have to be fenced off so cattle can't erode stream banks when they venture down to drink.
Wolves are the current wildlife du jour and disregard the fact that wolves prey on beef. Oh yes the government does not do fence, as would a private landowner, it is the responsibility of those who lease the grazing rights. Private landowners put down wells and maintain the waterworks for the renter, but of course not the government. The list goes on and on so it is little wonder that the federal government can't compete to receive the same rents that a private landowner would for leasing grazing rights. It is just not fair!
Senator Ben Nelson most likely knows that there is a reason that few ranchers want to face the hurdles involved in leasing federal grazing rights or at least he should as he likes to represent the voice of western ranchers and farmers. I feel that he is just trying to make political points and we are tired of it.
It is time that Senator Nelson back off the electioneering and slip quietly into the sunset. I think that most Nebraskan's would think more highly of him if he did just that. We want to be proud of our hometown boy made good but gee Senator Ben you are making it tough to do so.
That is the way I saw it.