Agriculture

Agriculture is a major industry for the state of Missouri. But the sad truth is many rural Missourians cannot make ends meet by farming any more. They have to get jobs in town and then farm crops or livestock on the side just hoping to add a few dollars to their pockets and to put food on the table. Foreign interests and investors own more farm and forest land acres in the United States than the size of the entire state of Tennessee. Giant agribusinesses worth billions of dollars spend millions on lobbying law makers for their own interests while they pay no mind to the small family farms disappearing.

As a veterinarian, I have delivered the baby goats who were having a hard time during kidding. I have vaccinated and castrated the club lambs that were going to be shown at the county fair. I have treated the sick sheep who were weak with barber pole worms or lame from foot rot. I have sutured up the ewe with the wounds from a dog attack. I have consoled the kids on the farm when their favorite pet laying hen was too ill with respiratory disease to make it. I also raise my own chickens for eggs and meat, so I know the joys of that delicious, wholesome food that comes right out your backyard and the sorrows when the raccoons decide they like pastured chicken just as much as you do!

People are just thankful that someone cares about their animals and I’m always happy to be thanked with a carton of eggs to take home or some tomatoes or cucumbers to can. I am not out there serving the gigantic corporate factory farms. I’m helping the hobbyists, the 4H kids, and those that want to make a few dollars by selling a share of their eggs, vegetables, and fruit at the farmer’s market and put healthy, all natural protein on their table for their families. They are my friends and neighbors.

Not the CAFO owners who treat the livestock horribly and dump toxic sludge on our lands and in our waterways. Not the large scale monoculture row crop producers who spew endocrine disrupting herbicides over the grains and soybeans they produce. Not the big agribusinesses who are only in it for the billions they rake in from the sales of patented seeds and petrochemical based fertilizers and insecticides.

I promise to stand up for the small family farmers who raise their crops with pride and their animals with care because they help feed us and because it’s just the right thing to do.

Education

I believe there is nothing as important to our future as a state and as a nation than the education of our children. While I am not formally a teacher, I am lucky to have helped shaped the hearts and minds of both very young children and college students. I have worked at Memorial Baptist Church in Columbia doing childcare for kids one evening per week from birth through kindergarten for the last fifteen years. During my three years of graduate school, I taught the biology lab section for non-science majors and became well-versed in teaching biology to college students who were not particularly into science.

From pre-K through graduate and professional schools, our state’s significant budget shortages put education squarely on the chopping block. I strongly believe this is the wrong approach. Mizzou’s reputation as a “public Ivy” was what drew me to college here eighteen years ago and its myriad of opportunities are what kept me here for graduate school and veterinary medical school. Defunding the university and trying to balance our state’s budget shortfall on the backs of college students by expecting them to go into even greater unsustainable debt is the wrong approach. Why are we trying to hurt the young people who are trying to better themselves?

In addition, the University of Missouri is the biggest employer in the greater Columbia area and forcing cuts to degree programs and layoffs of faculty and staff will only hurt central Missouri. The university must continue to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty, staff, and students in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs or we will only lose out as a community.

Local schools, particularly in rural areas with smaller tax bases, are also suffering from budget shortfalls. Teachers regularly have to use their own money or beg beleaguered parents for basic supplies like markers and Kleenex while teacher salaries in Missouri remain on the lower end of the spectrum in the country. The proposed opening of charter schools and vouchers in these areas under the guise of “school choice” will further hamstring the budgets of public schools struggling to stay open a full five days.

We should not be forcing students to short change their educations while growing their debt loads because of poor budget decisions. I will stand by educators and students to better fund our local schools at all levels.

The Environment

As a veterinarian trained as a biologist, I believe there are few issues more critically important to our world than issues dealing with the environment. We have a very beautiful state with a rich variety of species, forests, and water systems that we should protect. While it is tempting to see environmental issues as something to be dealt with on the national level, here locally in Missouri we can do so much to preserve our land for ourselves and future generations.

Most pressing is the issue of climate change. The current science is clear that global warming is real and that we humans are not only the main cause but we are accelerating the problem. Change will have to take place on both the individual level by making greener choices but also on the public policy level.

Alternative energy sources are taking off all over the country not only for achieving energy independence but also for good paying jobs. We as a state and as a nation cannot be left behind or be seduced into thinking it is too big a problem to solve. It was not even fifty years ago when the Apollo XI astronauts landed on the moon in less than a decade after President John F. Kennedy declared it to be necessary not because it was easy, but because it is hard. Fifty years ago, computers were massive machines that could easily dwarf a room. Now we practically have the entirety of the human experience and knowledge that can be accessed almost instantly by a device the size of the palm of our hand. Just over fifty years ago, the first interstate highway system was constructed in St. Charles, Missouri and now there are nearly 50,000 miles of interstate highways connecting the entire country.

We can’t be left behind. All sorts of opportunities abound for maintaining and promoting a greener planet from alternative energy and ecotourism to constructing green infrastructure and farming locally produced and ethical food. I would absolutely support these initiatives so Missouri can be a leader using our creativity and ingenuity instead of getting further and further behind.

Gun Control

Gun control and violence is a topic that often features a lot of emotional arguments and fights, but rarely any clear solutions.

First and foremost, I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. Whether that is for hunting, sporting, or self-defense, I support the right of citizens to own firearms. I personally own several firearms, I enjoy target shooting, and I am a member of The Liberal Gun Club. In addition, I bowhunt, I used to teach women’s self defense classes, and I earned a black belt in taekwondo while I was in graduate school. My dogs are also trained in protection sport and we have competed at the regional and national level in the various protection sports such as Schutzhund, French ring sport, Mondio ring sport, and PSA. So I fully support the right to defend oneself as part of the Second Amendment.

Missouri is a state with a wonderful department of conservation with many opportunities for harvesting healthy, all natural game and I support and participate in those activities as well.

The question becomes what is our response when something goes horribly and terribly wrong. I was a high school junior during the Columbine shooting in Littleton, Colorado in 1999 and have effectively grown up into my mid-thirties under the specter of possible mass shootings. Just tweeting “well, that’s too bad, thoughts and prayers…” is clearly no longer good enough.

Unfortunately, we are often presented two extremes. We have the folks who want no gun control in the slightest where even the fully automatic weapons that have been off the table for the vast majority of Americans for decades would be freely available on one side. On the other, we have the folks who would gladly confiscate each and every firearm in the United States down to the last BB gun. In reality, most people do fall somewhere on the spectrum of enforcing the laws already on the books, bolstering background checks and waiting periods, and better funding mental health and social services to prevent future tragedies.

We absolutely can do better. I would also note that if we want to pay more than lip service to the idea of better funding mental health, that MUST include universal health care, including mental health care, for all citizens!

Reproductive Freedom

The debate about pro-life versus pro-choice is a hotly contested one. To me, the single most important thing that needs to be kept in mind is that pretty much everyone wants to see the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions drop. Once we have that established, the question is not so much “are you pro-life or pro-choice?” but “how can we reduce the number of abortions?”

First and foremost, I am a strong proponent of making sure free, safe, and effective birth control is available to the public regardless of their insurance situation. Studies in both Missouri and Colorado have shown that teen pregnancy rates plummet when this is implemented. The abortion rate in the study in St. Louis dropped when young women were given free access to reliable, long term birth control. The state of Colorado saved over $70 million dollars in their state budget from not having to provide social services to babies born from teenage moms.

Freedom of bodily autonomy is incredibly important. I believe that freedom in this case means that the government does not get to tell you what you can and cannot do with your own body. While there are many factors to be considered leading up to a decision regarding this choice, the final decisions about reproductive freedom should be between a woman and her doctor. Not the government.

Veterans

I grew up in a military family. Both my grandfathers and great uncle were veterans as is my father and father-in-law. Two of my brothers are also veterans. While I was not personally in military, the experience I had growing up shaped my outlook on the world. My father was in the Army for 23 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel. Not quite ten years after he left the Army, he started having some cognitive issues at his job. He was only in his early 50s, but he was having difficulty learning new tasks such as new computer programs.

These started to slowly increase in severity until the point he was declared 100% service related disabled in his late 50s. As it turns out, in the early 1980s when we all were stationed in Germany, an accident where his driver flipped their Jeep caused a broken collarbone, compressed discs in his neck, and a likely traumatic brain injury. In the early 1980s, they did not have MRI technology widely available yet, so it was not fully diagnosed at the time. But as we now know, traumatic brain injury can have longstanding effects. He was also deployed to Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War as well.

He had to retire from his regular job at the Union Pacific Railroad and my mother cared for him at home for years before the level of care he required was too great. Imagine someone with advanced dementia in their 80s, but with the body of a tall, still athletic middle aged man in his early 60s. My dad was very intelligent and had a bachelors and masters degree in business from the University of Missouri, but he could hardly talk any more. He prided himself on still being able to jog with his dogs well into his 50s, but by then, he was confined to a wheelchair. He sometimes could not feed himself, so he needed a feeding tube placed. All of us kids had finished college by then, so my dad and my mom should have been active empty nesters in the prime of their lives able to travel where they wanted and enjoy their free time with friends, family, their two dogs, and each other.

Instead we had to leave our proud military father in a run down VA nursing home in rural Nebraska. He had served his country with great pride and yet they didn’t even have a bed long enough to fit his 6 feet 2 inch frame. So when we dropped him off at the VA associated facility that my mom could get him into on short notice, we all left with tears in our eyes.

Perhaps the staff at the facility out there did their best, but he soon came down with a huge range of infections and other emergency medical problems. They transferred him back to Omaha and saved his life. He was able to get into the main VA hospital there permanently. They seem to do a great job there and my mom gets to visit him every day. He doesn’t say much or recognize me any more as of this writing. He’s 67 years old and I have my doubts if he will make his 68th birthday. The worst part is I feel like I haven’t had a father for a decade though as the dementia quickly took his mental faculties.

So I don’t say it lightly when I say that I despise politicians who trot out the veterans falling all over themselves thanking them for their service in one breathe and slashing their benefits with a “sorry, what a shame” smile on their faces in the next breathe. Simply put, they have no issues at all if Veterans Affairs fails. It’s simply not their problem. The better off veterans had additional money and insurance options. The poor and working class vets do not. And yet time and time again, we get into extremely long and drawn out expensive conflicts that we never seem to be able to resolve.

My father at least got to enjoy most of his younger years physically whole with only a few issues until the dementia took hold. Thousands of other young men and women come home not physically or mentally whole. Still thousands more don’t come home at all. Some don’t even have a home. The latest estimates by the VA is that there are around 40,000 or so are homeless on our streets at any given time.

It does not have to be this way. First and foremost, we need to think long and hard about getting into these conflicts in the first place. Then we need to take care of those that did serve. When we make sure programs like the VA are appropriately funded or we shrug our shoulders as we cut their budget, that is a reflection of our values.

Labor Unions, Prevailing Wages, and Vote NO on Prop A

America is the world’s wealthiest country. After the recession, stock portfolios are up. Unemployment is low. So things should be just fine, right? Wrong. Wages have stagnated since the early 1980s. More and more young people end up with very expensive college degrees with lots of student debt and a menial wage or salary at best. Americans are working more hours than ever before with less to show for it. For many, the American dream has become a nightmare of at best just barely making it paycheck to paycheck.

We must support our working and middle class. Trickle down economics simply does not work and the middle class drives our economy. Low unemployment does not help when you have few if any benefits and have to work multiple part time jobs just so you don’t go completely under. Stock portfolios do not help when you are living paycheck to paycheck and even a few extra dollars to do go into a rainy day fund is a stretch let alone a Roth IRA. We need a system that works for everybody, not just the multi-millionaires and billionaires. Instead of attacking people in the service or retail industry for wanting to be paid a living wage, why are we not asking where did all the good paying blue collar jobs go?

Working in a union job is one of the best ways for working people to have a middle class life. Things like an occasional vacation, good benefits, and enough to save for retirement and for the kid’s education should not be out of reach for all but the super elite. While only about 10% of Missourians are union workers, their protection of fair pay through collective bargaining and prevailing wages lifts everyone else up as well, union and non-union alike.

Unions are under attack in Missouri via the repeal of prevailing wages by Republican legislators like my opponent and Proposition A on the August 7th ballot. Prevailing wage keeps wages for public projects like building our roads, bridges, and schools fair so local companies who employ local workers can be competitive in their bids. Otherwise other companies from out of state can come in and underbid jobs with cheaper labor. Well, you get what you pay for and the only thing out of state workers do is make hotels rich. You can tell the states without prevailing wages and where right to work is legal because the cheap hotels are full of out of state workers and their vans and trucks instead of local workers that go home to their families each night in the same neighborhoods you live in.

Local workers contribute to the tax base and pushing them out just cuts our throats to save a penny. Who do you want building the roads you drive over and the schools your kids build? Local folks or out of staters that under cut the lowest bid?

Proposition A (or “prop A”) deals with making Missouri a so-called right to work state. Right to work makes it so someone can join a union job but not pay union dues or any collective bargaining fees for setting wages (one of the biggest perks of a union), yet they receive the same benefits of those that are dues paying members. So right to work should more properly be called right to work as a freeloader.

As a veterinarian, I cannot join the American Veterinary Medical Association and enjoy the benefits of membership for free. I have to pay dues. If I wanted to join the chamber of commerce or some other professional or networking organization for its perks, I could not do so for free. But this is precisely what right to work does: hamstrings the ability of unions to collectively bargain by not requiring everyone chip in for their fair share.

It is no surprise that dark money special interest groups like Americans for Prosperity (AKA: the Koch Brothers) are intentionally spreading misinformation about this proposed changed to our laws. Even the wording on the ballot is very muddled and is not clear. Many of these propagandists are saying that people are being forced to join unions and pay union dues if they do not want to. This is FALSE. This has not been legal for about 80 years. What people are responsible for are the fees for collective bargaining. Making Missouri a right to work state will take away this requirement to pay at least for the collective bargaining aspect.

Other intentional lies are that union dues go to candidates for office that some of their members do not approve of. This is ILLEGAL. All donations by unions to candidates must go through their own PAC. All donations to the union PAC are optional! If a member does not wish to donate to certain candidates their union supports, they don’t have to.

As a candidate who is not accepting any monetary donation from PACs including union PACs, I am not supporting voting NO on Prop A because I am funded by unions. I am supporting voting NO on Prop A because it the right thing to do for working families.
Paid for by Jones for Missouri, Michael Vierling. Treasurer
Designed by 360 CoMo
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