DALE PETERSON: MARINE-BUSINESSMAN READY TO TAKE THE HILL
There are only two people who hold positions within the state government of Alabama that allow those who hold those positions to leave Alabama and represent it, as well as obligate it for millions of dollars. Would anyone care to guess which two seats hold this power? If you guessed Governor, you’re right about one. The other one is the position of Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries. And, let this sink in; the Governor can’t do much without legislature approval, but the Agriculture Commissioner doesn’t have that problem. It is a very powerful job that isn’t generally recognized as such. Should the wrong person be in that job, abuse of power and the job could cause problems.
There are several candidates running for this job in Alabama. We interviewed one of them today and learned a great deal about the importance of this job. Dale Peterson of Shelby County, Alabama is running for this job because, as he said, “I’ve created and operated successful businesses and along the way gained a wealth of negotiation and marketing experience. My 40 years of successful experience, combined with my total lack of political experience, make me well suited to serve the people of Alabama as their Commissioner, especially understanding that Alabama is now a player in a global market. This state has been good to me, and I want to give back at a time when our state and nation need more and more business minded men and women to step up to the political plate.”
Mr. Peterson is dead serious about this job, and he knows exactly what needs to be done and how he plans to accomplish it. “I attended the greatest leadership institution in the world, Paris Island in South Carolina,” as he proudly points out that he served our country as a United States Marine during The Vietnam War.
“The status quo needs to change within politics here in Alabama, and that includes the Commissioner of Agriculture as well. In the past, we’ve had people holding that position who had no business experience and who didn’t realize the importance of principles of management. Had we, Alabama agriculture would not be in the mess it finds itself in today. Whether we like it or not, Alabama is now competing in a global economy, and old ways of doing business have to change.”
Peterson echoes feelings that are commonly heard these days about our state, country and the federal government. Said Peterson, “…over the years, we’ve let things go. It hasn’t been just one particular thing or situation but a combination, and we must get control and get government out of the way and out of our lives. When we do that, we can fix anything.” Mr. Peterson stated something that many people don’t often think of, which is, “John Q. Public needs to be made aware of the necessity for the Alabama family farms to remain strong and to be a buffer to imported foods. Without this farm buffer, food safety will be stretched to the breaking point, and the cost of food will skyrocket. Therefore, the more we import, the more it costs the citizens of our state and our country. We have enormous amounts of natural resources here in Alabama that are not being utilized effectively.”
We asked him what he planned to do in order to begin to implement change in Alabama’s Agriculture Industry, “My team and I will develop and implement a customized, cohesive agribusiness marketing program that will educate Alabamians about the importance of agriculture and will help Alabama farmers and ranchers. For example, Alabama doesn’t have a large commercial meat processing plant. Such a facility would bring jobs to our state as well as create an immediate market for our ranchers. The Commissioner of Agriculture should facilitate negotiations with local retail companies to buy locally processed meat produced by Alabama ranchers. That would have an immediate impact on agriculture, commerce, jobs and help rural communities.”
Mr. Peterson is down-to-earth and straight forward. “In 2005 Alabama became a net importer of food. We’re exporting the very same products we are importing, and that’s just stupid! We so often see stickers on products that say ‘made in China,’ and I would love to see products in our grocery stores that show a product is Alabama-grown. Alabama must become more self-sufficient. In some cases, we may have to rethink what products we grow here in Alabama, but we certainly have some of the richest farmland in the United States. We can use it and at the same time not harm the environment.”
Peterson made a good point about crop subsidies when we discussed that subject, “Although crop subsidies are steadily diminishing, these programs implemented by the federal government are the only programs the federal government has ever been a part of that have been successful. Some who do not understand may disagree, but when a farmer comes up short on profit in a bad year, which is more and more often these days, these subsidy programs help to keep the farmers viable. They help maintain level pricing for consumers as well.” He has a good point.
We asked Mr. Peterson how he planned to make the job more effective, “This is an important position to the people of Alabama and the United States of America. I would like to partner with Agriculture Commissioners in other states within our region. We could pool our resources to get more done and be cost effective in doing it. For example, it might be possible to facilitate a program with seed producers to sell at better pricing levels and immediately lower overhead for those who raise crops within our region. This is just one example of how this position can help commerce.”
He was quick to point out that in January, 2010, our state reached two milestones. One was another national championship for the Crimson Tide, and the other was the fact that Alabama had the worst rate of rural unemployment in the nation. “Large corporations are not going to move into a rural area without adequate infrastructure. Economic development in this industry is so very important and has largely been overlooked for many years.”
He went on, “Alabama’s Black Belt counties have some of the most fertile land in the nation. There’s a great water supply available. We need to use these resources and still maintain responsible environmental standards.” Certainly those counties are in dire need of more jobs.
“Someone must tackle these issues, and I’m willing to. We have to do it together, think outside the box and bring fresh ideas to the table that will help make a better life for our farmers, ranchers and all Alabamians. It is essential a communication path from the Commissioner’s office to the people is created. For instance, we might have a website that lists the top five priorities at the Agriculture and Industries Department. It would be updated weekly so people can see what this department does and how we’re developing and spending the people’s money. We might also add long-term goals as well. This communication is vital in order to inform our public not only of what we are doing but also of how their hard-earned money is working for them. Heretofore, progress has been impeded by career politicians and the good old boy network. People need to be informed. After all, it’s about the people.”
Peterson is a supporter of the idea of mentoring individuals and training in order to assure that jobs within the agriculture industry are filled with people who know exactly what they’re doing and what must be done. He believes in term limits. “Eight and out,” says Peterson.
“My country needed me in 1963 when I joined the Marine Corps, and in 2010 my state and my country need me again. Hopefully the people of Alabama will understand the business and leadership qualifications needed for this job and give me the nod. When I leave this earth, I’d like to leave behind something good for the next generation. That is what is important.”
After an informative talk with Dale Peterson, it is evident that he loves our state and understands the issues we face today. It is amazing at the innovative ideas he has that could help our economy. So, when you vote, remember just how important the Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries is to your family and to our well-being.