The lobbying arm of Nebraska’s cattle ranchers endorsed a pork producer for governor Thursday, saying Republican Jim Pillen knows the value of agriculture.
The Nebraska Cattlemen shared the group’s pick during a press conference where Pillen was joined by Gov. Pete Ricketts and U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.
Cattlemen President Brenda Masek of Purdum, Nebraska, said Pillen understands the “grit and resilience” required to succeed in production agriculture.
Masek said she was confident he would work to address high property taxes, including revamping the state’s formula for distributing state aid to schools.
“We are excited to support Jim Pillen, even though he produces a competing protein,” she said of the University of Nebraska regent.
Pillen described the importance of the state’s beef industry, which generates about $10 billion in annual receipts, including exports of about $1.8 billion.
Pillen said he’d never forget how hard the tough times are in agriculture, recalling low pork prices in 1998, when he said whole hogs sold for about the same $24 as a ham.
“I love to eat steak …,” Pillen said, smiling. “Now I fall on the bacon side early in the morning.”
Ricketts, one of Pillen’s top supporters, joked that Nebraska governors sell beef when they go on trade missions abroad, but they can also sell pork.
Fischer called Pillen a friend and a friend of agriculture. She said he understands the state, because he’s put in the time to travel it.
Pillen faces State Sen. Carol Blood, a Democrat, in November’s general election. She said she has a record of fighting for Nebraska agriculture, including supporting truth-in-labeling efforts and focusing state attention on state mandates on local governments that she said lead to increases in property taxes.
She pointed out her rural roots and said her family still owns a farm in Clay County.
“Although I am not an industrial agriculturist like Mr. Pillen, I understand that ag drives our economy and have shown through both my actions and words that I will continue to champion their causes,” Blood said.
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