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LEAD fellows visit UK, Ireland

Mazour, Cool part of ag leadership group trip in January

Two Nebraska LEAD fellows who traveled to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland returned with a greater appreciation for their own country.

Helen Cool, a Gothenburg native and now of Arnold, and Chandler Mazour of Gothenburg, were part of the agricultural leadership group’s 15-day visit to the countries in January.

Cool said she was surprised at how much the European Union seems to control the countries that are part of the organization.

She noted that the EU controls such things as when farmers can spread slurry (manure) on fields and imposes many environmental restrictions.

Mazour said he learned that 70% of one dairy farmer’s income was from the EU.

“From a business side, I knew the EU had a lot of power and control over its countries,” he said. “But I didn’t know the power it had over individual farmers.”

Mazour said he appreciates how the U.S. founding fathers fashioned the Bill of Rights to include such things as freedom of religion and the right to bear arms and said he realized how he takes U.S. freedoms for granted.

During the trip, he said people were enamored about U.S. gun freedoms.

“We take freedom for granted,” Mazour said. “But in reality, freedom is a new concept.”

Most of the farmers they visited make a good living, they said, in large part because of government subsidies from the EU.

“The subsidies farmers have here are small potatoes to where we visited,” Cool said.

She said the same milk quotas, the maximum amount they can produce, have been in place for more than 20 years in the countries they visited.

“But they’re proposing to take those away next year which will bring about more competition,” she said.

Fiscal, and most other policies, are set in Brussels, Belgium—home of the EU.

Compared to U.S. operations, dairy and other farms are small in the countries they visited, they said.

While about 60% of Scotland’s inhabitants work for the government, Mazour said only 17% do in the United States and 12% in Nebraska.

Unemployment is high in Scotland and Ireland, he said.

Both said they were surprised that people seemed to live minimally, in small homes, but took lengthy vacations to other countries.

In fact, an older Scottish woman in a home Cool stayed in didn’t work but had money to go to Florida and government workers to maintain her garden.

Mazour and Cool said the countryside in Ireland and Scotland was very picturesque with green fields and stone walls.

When visiting Belfast, Northern Ireland, Mazour described feeling a sense of confrontation while Cool said it was a tense atmosphere.

Peace walls, that run along residents’ backyards and are covered with graffiti, separate neighborhoods and remind inhabitants and tourists that peace is fragile between Catholics and Protestants, they said.

Centuries of English oppression have helped bring about religious differences, Mazour said.

Along those lines, Cool said a referendum in 2014 could bring Scottish independence from England.

“After all the years of conflict, people are still impassioned about the independence movement,” she said.

Mazour noted that past British imperialism didn’t seem to be so focused on preventing Scottish independence now.

Economic woes in the United States pale in comparison to what’s happening in Ireland, Cool said.

Cool said the Irish have to cut the equivalent of $10 trillion-plus over the next three years while the United States is looking at a couple of trillion dollars.

For both travelers, learning about the control of the EU was major.

Mazour said he heard a Scottish resident say the Germans couldn’t get to Scotland and northern England during World War II but the EU might likely succeed economically.

Quoting Thomas Jefferson, he said that cash and food keep people from mutiny.

“Is fiscal and food policy the basis of the EU?” Mazour asked.

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