Some chambers of commerce shy away from "hot potato" political issues, not wanting to offend their customer base. Not so with the Hastings, Neb. Chamber of Commerce.
The Hastings Chamber's board of directors has passed a resolution expressing its "strong opposition" to actions of the Humane Society of the United States that would, as the resolution puts it, "severely impact the ability of our agricultural producers to raise livestock."
"With talking and finding out some of the things this organization had done in other states we just felt that we needed to be proactive," said Tom Hastings, president of the Hastings Chamber of Commerce. "And taking a stance against some of the things they have been trying to do, especially in lieu of the fact that agriculture is the number one industry in the state of Nebraska."
Hastings says that so far the reaction from the general public has been positive.
"I guess our hope is that when things are brought out, and if people are opposed to our view they will then start looking at why did the Hastings area chamber take this stance," Hastings said. "What has this organization been doing to cause them to be opposed to some of the things they are doing, and hopefully it will be an educational process."
HSUS has repeatedly denied that it intends to pursue farm animal welfare legislation or a ballot initiative in Nebraska. However, the group has hired a state director in Nebraska and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle made a highly-publicized visit to the state last December. If an initiative is put forward the livestock industry will need a lot of support to oppose it.
"I think a lot of people in Nebraska realize the importance of agriculture and I would hope they would even realize that more as the last couple three years agriculture has helped carry this state," Hastings said. "I think the business community would be behind fighting against a ballot initative. I just can't see how people, if they are very knowledgeable about what they are trying to do, why they wouldn't be supportive of fighting the efforts of the Humane Society of the United States."