Grower Spotlight: Terry Wanzek (Jamestown, ND)

May 1, 2009

An elected official, Terry Wanzek is well known and well liked around North Dakota. In fact, the state senator from Jamestown has represented the people of the 29th district since 1995—except for one interrupted term in 2005.

That’s when a political opponent went on the attack and demonized Terry for his full-time career, riding a wave of misinformation into political office.

No, Terry is not a lobbyist with a checkered past, or a CPA helping large corporations find tax loopholes. Terry is a farmer, long thought to be one of the most admirable professions in the world.

But after Terry’s political rivals-and a misleading subsidy database run by an anti-farm group in DC—got through with him in the election, Terry was typecast as a large agribusiness that was getting rich off of government programs.

Anyone who knows the fourth generation farmer and father of three knows this gross mischaracterization is unfair and unfounded—a fact that dawned on the electorate one term later when they sent Terry back to the Senate.

The entire ordeal showed Terry just how out of touch most Americans are with their agrarian roots, even in parts of rural America. If the wheat, corn, soybean and barley farm he runs with his parents and brothers could be labeled a huge factory farm by a handful of vocal opponents, then something must be done to teach the masses that food doesn’t come from he grocery store.

Since rejoining the Senate, Terry is an active member of the Agriculture Committee, where he dedicates his time helping educate others who aren’t as familiar with farming or ranching.

He’s made sure to explain the realities all growers, both big and small, deal with. He preaches about the razor thin profit margins, the risks that are unlike any other business, and battling constant political attacks against the farm safety net.

It helps that Terry can draw on his own experiences. For example, Terry is currently dealing with falling commodity prices and high input costs. His production costs are around two million dollars this year alone.

And Terry understands farmers aren’t the only ones in a financial pickle right now—local, state and federal government budgets are drying up as a down economy erodes the tax base. That’s why he’s so quick to explain that farm policy is a tiny fraction of government spending and is one area where the return on investment is huge.

“There are two things I will never do as a farming legislator,” he concluded, “apologize for my profession or gut the policies that help ensure America’s safe, abundant and affordable food supply.”