Senator Mike Enzi addressed the joint Woolgrower/Stockgrower meeting being held in Casper recently at the Parkway Plaza. Enzi was unable to attend in person, but was able to speak to the Ag community via taped video and answered questions on speaker phone after his presentation.
The following transcript is an excerpt from his video presentation:
Hello, I'm pleased that I can be with you today through the miracle of technology. I'm disappointed that I can't be with you personally. I know that it is advantageous not only to be able to speak to you, to be able to answer your questions, but to be able to talk to you individually. That's where we pick up the common sense ideas that we take back to Washington. Our form of government doesn't flow from the top down, or at least it's not suppose to. It's suppose to come from you on up. We need your ideas. We need to be there to collect those ideas and to discuss those ideas in detail with you.
I want to talk with you just a little bit about some of the issues that I see coming up, some of the issues that we've been grappling with. One of the crimes in this country is that the people taking the greatest risk, the people working most directly with the products that we use, the people in agriculture are hurting the most. They are taking the most risk, they are getting the least. I see that as one of the biggest problems that this country faces. I know that it's not only the potential end of the family farm and the family ranch, it's the potential end of this country as we know it. I remember when I was in the shoe business in Wyoming and I know that a lot of years the reason that our business was able to make it was because of the loyalty of the ranchers in the Campbell County area. I appreciate that. It's that kind of loyalty that ranchers throughout our state are generating with small business, that are keeping small business in business. Now it is time for us to return the favor to the ranchers. It's time for us to be more concerned about making sure that the money that is spent on agricultural products gets back to the actual producer. As I said, the one that's taking the risk. I've looked at some of the different ways of being a help instead of a hindrance on this kind of a problem. One of the things that we're deeply interested in doing is getting some labeling, labeling of country of origin. I know that it's opposed by some of the major firms in this country because I've talked to them and told them why it's important that we get labeling of country of origin. We'll be working on that.
Pricing transparency, we had a provision in the last appropriations bill that would have been a pilot project on pricing transparency. Let me tell you what that taught me. That was opposed so strongly by the three packers that have the concentration, that I know that there is a packer concentration that is affecting the pricing of your products. They kept that from being approved in any kind of conference committee. They kept that from happening. That was just a pilot project. If there wasn't a problem they would have let the pilot project go through. If it wasn't a big problem they would have let it go through and said if a problem showed up at all that it was too small of a sample to show anything. They wouldn't even let a pilot project go through. I am working with Senator Thomas and Senator Burns of Montana on a bill that would provide for allowing instate inspection on meat for interstate sales, so that you can sell your product across the border of Wyoming into any other state with an instate inspection. That would make it less expensive to start packing plants. I suspect that will be highly opposed by the three packers that now have the concentration. Just as the transparency and pricing has been opposed. I have to tell you right now, Canada gets to have their inspection by having a plan and that plan follows more of the state plan than it does the federal plan. So, they are getting to do what our packers in Wyoming would not be able to do. We've got to change that.
I recently ran into a book called Wrestling the Elephant, and no it's not about Republicans and Democrats. It's about Canada and the United States. You might want to get this book because the book was written by the Dick Morris of Canadian politics. One of the fellows that negotiated the NAFTA treaty. One of the people who has now written a book to show how he took the United States to the cleaners. This book becomes some prime evidence that NAFTA needs to be revisited, that it needs to be made fairer and more U.S. friendly, that we need to have better negotiators involved in any kind of a process like that. We are being hurt by the NAFTA agreement at the present time. I think that we have an opportunity and an obligation to try and revisit that.
I will mention a few other issues that I'm sure that we will be working on as we get into the new session. One of the prime ones that I want to see is a biennial budget. I want us to be working a budget, like Wyoming does, every other year. Making those decisions every other year and on the in between year having the opportunity to do oversight. What we have to keep asking government is 'what are you doing and how do we know if you got it done?'
I also want to make sure that we save social security. That has to be a top priority. I was pleased a year ago when the president said that was going to be the most important thing in 1998, and then of course he forgot about it until about a month before elections when he accused the Republicans of spending social security to give tax cuts, which we didn't do. He turned around and spent social security to do new government programs. New programs that we'll have to continue, that will have to be ever increasing and that we'll emphasize some more. That's not where this country needs to go. It's not where the people of this country, particularly Wyoming, tell me they want to go . They tell me that they want a strong social security.
Another one I want to mention is education. That's the future of our country as well. We are going to have to do something to get more federal dollars back to the actual classroom. That's going to be a priority of this Republican congress, to see if we can't get 95 percent of the federal dollars back to the actual classroom, with local control.
There are a lot of other issues that I should mention jobs, jobs through small businesses. In Wyoming you're a small business. I was in small business. That's where the bulk of the jobs are in Wyoming, about 90 to 95 percent of the jobs. In the nation it is 85 percent of the jobs. It is the opportunity for growth. It will fit in with economic development that needs to be done and still maintain Wyoming the way that it is.
Those are a few of the issues. Again, I apologize for not being able to be with you in person today. However, I'll be there in person on the telephone in just a few minutes to answer any questions that you have and I'm looking forward to those questions. I appreciate all the good comments that I get from visiting with you on the phone, through the mail, and in person. Diana and I are back in the state almost every weekend. We travel to six to eight cities usually during that weekend and that's our opportunity to gather those good common sense ideas. We'll continue to do that. We'll continue to represent you in here in Washington.
Thank you for your support of the Wyoming team. Your delegation in Washington gets together. Other states don't do that. We get together on a regular basis and finish our meeting with a call to the governor. I am really pleased with the people that I get to work with in Washington. Thank you so much.