By Ron VandenBoom
Dorothy Bradley, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant governor with Joe Mazurek noted in a recent campaign swing through Havre that Montana farmers are in danger of disappearing if they don't get a better deal.
"We need a more positive and more successful national and state policy in a fairly short time or agriculture as we know it will be gone," she said. "Or at least it will be different."
She said she could remember a time when farmers got six cents on a loaf of bread.
"Today they still get six cents," she said, noting that back then a loaf of bread cost 30 cents a loaf and today it costs $2.10.
"A figure like that shows you this thing is out of balance," she said. "Somehow this industry has ended up subsidizing cheap American food."
Bradley said if we want to have a subsidy it's fine with her, "but it can't just be on the farmers' back," she said.
"We have to do much more than we have in the last five years," she said.
Suggestions Bradley gives for turning the plight of farmers around starts with a greater investment in research and development.
She notes that Nebraska has an enormous research budget and it is really paying off for producers in that state.
Bradley sees greater funds being pumped into agricultural research centers primarily using federal money.
Medicaid, highways, and research are the three biggest sources of federal funding into Montana, Bradley said, and of the three, research at about $90 million a year has the greatest potential for financial return.
"You get brain power out there and it comes back to you," she said.
Other things that need to be considered according to Bradley are alternative crops, better marketing techniques, and more value added products.
Brain power also applies to education and according to Bradley what mostly what you hear right now is money.
"What I feel is going on is a lot more serious than just money and it's a lot more complicated than just money," she said.
Bradley acknowledged that teaching is a very difficult profession and said she still believes that Montana is attracting some very good people into the profession, but she is concerned that "we might not have much longer to spare."
She said she believes discipline is part of the problem in schools today, but she also believes we are expecting our schools to do so much more today than in the past.
"Wherever society is falling a little bit short, schools are expected to fill in," she said.
This, Bradley said, can include extra hot meals and services for our disabled or handicapped populations, as well as anti-drug and alcohol programs, to name just a few.
"But the resources don't necessarily follow," she said.
Bradley said her goal is to deal with the whole picture and "make education prestigious top of the line."
"And I just don't feel that we're there right now," she said.
Bradley has worked the last seven years as director of the Water Center an education and research group in Bozeman.
She first ran for the Montana Legislature in 1971 without, she said, any idea that she would actually win, but she did and today has what she considers to be "a remarkable 30-year perspective on what's gone on in this state."
Bradley ran for governor eight years ago and joined the Mazurek campaign because she felt very strongly about him winning the race.
"We've been down in the trenches working on issues and I like that about him," she said. "I don't know that I'd feel comfortable with somebody that doesn't have that kind of background."
Bradley claims Mazurek has an extraordinary record of consensus building and he has been there on some very tough issues.
"I really believe very strongly that this state needs that kind of experience and consensus building," she said.