When Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman spoke to farmers at the 98th Nebraska Farmers Union Convention in Grand Island recently, he focused on good news for the state's rural economy and issues where he and Farmers Union have cooperated.
During his keynote luncheon address, Heineman lent some perspective to the recent TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline routing debate. Heineman said that in discussions over the Keystone XL project, the pipeline itself was never the issue, only the initial proposed routing through the sensitive Sandhills. Heineman said that during the heat of the debate, he was consulting with farm groups like Farmers Union and others.
"I don't think the senators were excited about" coming back to Lincoln for a special session which the Governor convened to deal with issues relating to the controversial routing, Heinemann said. "But I had no doubt that our senators would find a solution."
He said that the pipeline routing issue wasn't on anyone's radar three years ago, when early plans were being made for the project through Nebraska. But he was satisfied when TransCanada agreed to change the route away from the Sandhills. "Your input made the difference," he told Farmers Union members.
He also cited Farmers Union leadership on wind development in Nebraska. "In the next four or five years, we will see significant expansion of wind development in the state toward reaching our potential," Heineman said.
He said that business health and budgetary issues are also heading in the right direction for the state. Nebraska has the second lowest unemployment rate in the country, almost half the rates of some neighboring states, he noted. "We are poised for exceptional growth," said Heineman.
Agriculture is a big player in the picture. "We need to feed more people on less land," he said. Agriculture is not only farms and ranches these days, said Heineman. It also means alternative energy in wind and biofuels, and food processing. "One in three jobs in the state depends on agriculture," he said.
He said Nebraska's healthy economy will attract young people to the state. "We want to grow all parts of the state," Heineman said. "We want to keep young people here because they love the way of life."
While Heinemann did not mention a recent agreement between Nebraska Farmers Union and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in development of animal welfare standards for the state in his keynote address to members, he did tell reporters before the speech that this is one area where he disagrees with the Farmers Union stance.