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Guest Opinions

Agriculture, Small Business Issues Similar

Written by Gary Trauner
    I thought I’d take this opportunity to approach agriculture and ranching from a perspective that might be a bit different.
    In my travels around the state, and especially talking with ranchers, I have been struck by the similarity of their concerns to many of the concerns I have had during the course of my career.
    No, I’m not a rancher or land manager. I am a businessman. I start and manage new companies in different industries (mainly here in Wyoming), helping them grow into successful small businesses.
    As I’ve gone to ranchers’ doors and met with livestock producers at various forums, it’s become clear that, like me, you too are small businessmen and women grappling with many of the same issues that impact the companies I have run. I’d like to take this time to touch on a few of these issues and provide my views on how government should, and should not, be involved.
    Surprisingly, the issue I hear about most when talking to ranchers is not agriculture specific – it’s not drought, eminent domain, wolves or foreign competition. What I hear about is the lack of access to affordable healthcare and insurance. Like many of you I don’t have the time or patience for political pandering. So here is some straight talk on healthcare in this country that you won’t hear politicians say. We already have a “national” healthcare system; we just don’t admit it or manage it properly. Because there is no free lunch. Those of us with coverage pay higher premiums to cover those who don’t, and we all pay higher medical bills and higher prices on everything else to cover those who can’t pay when they are sick.
    Some people want the “free market” to solve the healthcare crisis. Well, having been a businessman all my life, I know something about the free market. It runs on competition and information so we consumers can make rational choices - like when we compare two cuts of beef or two pieces of machinery. That doesn’t exist in America’s healthcare system – when is the last time you took someone to the ER, then asked the doctor how much it was going to cost to make them better?
    We have listened for years to folks in D.C. who tell us why we can’t have the healthcare they have because somehow it would be a bad thing. Well, I don’t care about labels or cheap slogans – I only care about solutions. We need a system that provides for basic, quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans. Period. This is both the morally and the economically right thing to do.
    Government can play a role – not by providing health insurance – but by setting the rules for insurance pools, providing a level playing field so insurers have to truly compete for our business, and making sure all Americans have access to the same coverage our members of Congress receive by making the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program available to all.
    Another issue is that of government regulation and interference. As a small businessman, I know the amount of time, effort and money it takes to comply with sometimes useless government regulation. It’s frustrating. As a rule, I want less government rather than more, and we Westerners don’t stand for government telling us how to live our lives.
    But there are times here in Wyoming where a properly run federal government can do good. For example, the latest Farm Bill’s Permanent Disaster Relief Fund, Country of Origin Labeling and federal regulators taking on meatpacker concentration. Also, there is spirited discussion right now about Radio ID and testing for BSE. All issues that either already have or somehow will see direct government involvement.
         On the flip side, the mortgage crisis and our spiraling national debt are prime examples of the incredible costs we all pay when government does not do its job responsibly. Most ranchers I talk with want to provide a legacy for their children and their children’s children; they also provide immeasurable benefits to the rest of us by their responsible management of the land, maintenance of open spaces and provision of habitat for wildlife. Irresponsible government that results in a deteriorating economy hurts the ability of ranchers to pass those benefits on to future generations, which is why we don’t need more career politicians up in D.C.
    Finally, I would like to talk about energy. We are all plagued by the exploding price of gas and groceries. Ranchers are feeling the pinch with the rising cost of feed and fuel for their machinery. The search for energy independence is the issue of our time; it affects our national security, our economy and our environment.
    However, letting oil companies and foreign countries decide which sources of energy we develop is like letting the cattle run the ranch. Nearly every form of energy in use today has had involvement from our government in its early stages of development. It’s time we stop having our national priorities set by other nations and OPEC. It’s time our government let America do what America does best - innovate and create. Government is not the answer, but a government that let’s our greatest natural resource – the American spirit – get stifled, is not holding up its end of the bargain.
    We need a well run and effective Government. Smaller? You bet. More efficient? Absolutely. However, the truth is we cannot solve issues such as healthcare, market oversight and energy independence without all of us working together and making sure we have representatives who look for solutions, not someone to blame. My wife and I have provided for our two sons by successfully working with others, no matter their views, to build successful businesses. I’ll do the same for our state in Congress.
    The founding fathers of this great country were skeptical of government power, yet they clearly believed the federal government had a role to play. What we simply cannot afford today is a country run by people who are determined to see government fail, who do not understand the role government should and should not play, and who express disdain for the very institutions our founding fathers put in place to serve and protect the citizens of the United States of America.
    Gary Trauner is the Democratic candidate for Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. His campaign can be found online at www.traunerforcongress.com.