A Republican candidate for state Ag Secretary says it’s time for the state to offer financial incentives to livestock producers. Mark Leonard, a banker and farmer from Holstein, formally kicked off his campaign this week. “I believe that the success of value-added industries in this state begins and in fact is largely dependent upon a viable and substantial livestock industry that deserves to be nurtured and encouraged,” Leonard says. Leonard believes those who make improvements to their livestock facilities should get some sort of tax exemption. He would also favor “an additional set” of state financial incentives for those who take steps to address environmental concerns by reducing manure odor or protecting nearby water sources. Leonard runs a purebred Limousin operation with customers on five continents and he promises that if elected, he’ll use the “bully pulpit” to call for changes in federal farm policy. For example, Leonard says “country of origin” labels should begin as soon as possible. “We need country-of-origin labeling on all of our food products,” Leonard says. “People have a right to know what they’re buying.” Leonard says that philosophy extends to livestock testing that the U-S-D-A has resisted. Leonard says it was a “terrible mistake” for the U-S-D-A to refuse to conduct the tests other countries were demanding after the discovery late last year of the Canadian-born cow in the northwest U-S that had Mad Cow Disease. “We lost all of our beef export business and yet every one of…the 64 nations that shut us off were asking to buy beef from us if we would only test those animals that we shipped over to them,” Leonard says.
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