Former Nebraska State Sen. Cap Dierks, a champion for rural America, dies at age 89
Cap was born on July 2, 1932 in O’Neill, NE to Lyle and Alys (Sanders) Dierks. He attended Saint Mary’s Academy in O’Neill and graduated from Ewing High School in 1950. He obtained his BS in animal science from UNL and was a charter member of AGS Fraternity. He served in the US Air Force from 1954 to 1956 during the Korean conflict. He then received his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1961. He met his wife Gloria (Zoeller) of Manhattan, KS and they married on December 27, 1958. Together, they have four children; Jon, Tom, Chris, and Stephanie. He loved that his was a fifth-generation ranch.”
As a veterinarian, Cap practiced out of O’Neill and also worked the Atkinson and Burwell livestock markets and traveled widely to help ranchers and farmers with their animals. He served on the Ewing school board, the St. Anthony’s Hospital Board and represented the 40th Legislative District for 20 years from 1987 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2011. He was a charter member of the Organization for Competitive Markets. He will be remembered most for his integrity, unwavering promotion of Nebraska agriculture and natural resources, and his staunch protection of the unborn. The Dierks family lived in Ewing and ranched nearby. Five members of his family, a son, son-in-law and grandchildren, are also veterinarians.
Among his many legislative efforts were school funding and a pathway for ethanol and wind development in Nebraska. Additionally, he was active in ag market reforms, both locally and nationally, including mandatory price reporting. His veterinary practice informed his efforts to promote animal welfare reform. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement.
“Rural America lost one of its very best champions,” said John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, describing Dierks as “one of the most influential and respected state senators” in the Legislature in the last 35-plus years. “He argued things from a moral and ethical and policy perspective, so he raised the level of debate on a lot of discussions. “Former U.S. Sen. and Nebraska Gov. Bob Kerrey and current Sen. Deb Fischer offered similar praise. “Cap was a man whose faith and love of Nebraska combined with the virtue of caring about the opinions of everyone made him a model of what public service is at its best,” Kerrey posted in a tribute on Facebook. “I trusted and loved this man completely. Young Nebraskans: Remember him. Be like him. You cannot do better.”
Dierks was known for his ability to listen to others and care about what they think.
In the 1998-1999 period, thousands of hog producers were put out of business in Nebraska, in many cases taking down local ag supply, feed, and banks with them. There was a genuine crisis. Senator Dierks was the Chair of the Agriculture Committee. He stepped up with a sweeping set of ag market reforms that were mostly enacted to deal with the crisis. That is what true leaders do when faced with a crisis.
Senator Deb Fischer, a Nebraska state senator who served alongside Dierks, said she got to know Dierks while advocating for Nebraska’s schools. “He was a champion in the Nebraska Legislature for our state’s children and our state’s school districts. He was always a gentleman, sincere and honest in every relationship, and he had the deep respect of all who knew him.”
Former Senator Frank Kloucek/South Dakota commented:
Sen Cap Dierks was there for wind development, Mandatory Livestock Price Reporting, Cool, Standing Bear Missouri River Bridge, Family Farm Act, Rural School Funding, Contract Growers Bill of Rights, reducing meat packer concentration, Missouri River sedimentation and so much more! Senator Cap Dierks was there for Nebraska, for all family farms and for our nation. Cap Dierks stood tall not just in stature but in life itself. His ethics and beliefs were as solid as a rock. His efforts to help rural Nebraskans and rural Americans were infallible. His hard work ethic is legendary. As a veterinarian he worked cow herds until every cow and calf was processed no matter what. As a legislator he worked until every law he wanted was passed or used to find a solution to very serious issues. His soft spoken voice and unwavering determination for democracy and justice in rural America was unwavering.
I had the honor of working with Senator Dierks and a core group of Midwest Legislators. We formed the Midwest Farm Price Coalition. We introduced similar bills in Nebraska Iowa South Dakota Minnesota Missouri Kansas and Oklahoma and had Farm Rallys and even went to Washington DC to stand up for fair prices for independent ag producers. Senator Dierks was an integral part of our success.