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Governor celebrates Agriculture Week
March 24, 2011 Jerry Purvis    Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen

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Nebraska Gov. David Heineman made a brief stop in Gering last Friday to help the state celebrate Agriculture Week.

The breakfast stop in Gering was part of a three-city tour across the state to emphasize the importance of agriculture to our economy.

“Agriculture is the number one industry in the state,” Heineman said. “One in three jobs is related to agriculture when you take into account food processing and biotechnology.”

He added that agriculture is a main reason why Nebraska is in better shape than a lot of other states. A contingent of ag-related specialists are also planning to visit somewhere in the world within the next 18 months to open further opportunities for promoting and exporting Nebraska ag products.

Heineman also took a few minutes to talk with local media about what’s going on in state politics during the current legislative session.

The 2010 census revealed that more of Nebraska’s population is moving to the urban areas in the eastern part of the state. That has an impact on how the state is redistricted for future representation in both state and federal government.

“The good news is that our population grew by 6.7 percent and we’ll keep all three of our Congressional districts,” the governor said. “There’s no question that Congressman Smith’s Third District is going to get bigger in size. It will probably go from border to border. And for the state Legislature, the districts will get bigger because of population losses in the western and central parts of the state. But I think that Scotts Bluff County will be its own legislative district.”

Tourism was another topic the governor addressed. He said that with increasing gas prices, more tourism business will come from within the state. That’s why he opposed a push by the Legislature to raise fees at state parks.

“We need to keep our park fees down if we’re going to attract more visitors,” he said. “We don’t need to increase taxes or fees and this is something I won’t support.”

Earlier this legislative session, Heineman requested the introduction of LB 387. The bill would invest nearly $7 million in state to help small, start-up companies in economically distressed areas of the state, primarily rural Nebraska.

Although only 40 percent of those funds would go to rural parts of the state, several urban senators objected. One said all counties should be considered the same. Another urban senator from Omaha said the bill would give his constituents “a smaller piece of the pie.”

“I’d ask the urban senators to remember we’re one state,” Heineman said. “This is a good bill and we need to do everything we can to promote and develop central and western Nebraska.”

The governor said that when it comes to hiking taxes and fees, he’s listened to what Nebraskans are saying. “When people’s income is down, they reduce their expenses. They keep telling me that’s exactly what the state needs to do. So the state needs to do its part.”

Heineman said he has a very positive outlook for Nebraska agriculture into the future. “The farmers and ranchers are feeling very good. Livestock prices are up and commodity prices are strong. Input costs have been increasing, but 2011 looks to be a good year.”
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