July 29, 2014

Congressman extolls the virtues of corn detasseling

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry contends detasseling has been an integral part of building Nebraska’s strong work ethic.

And Fortenberry, a father of five, has more than a passing interest in corn detasseling.

Fortenberry praises the work of teen-agers in Nebraska corn fields this time of year.

“Thousands of Nebraska young people pour into the fields at an unseemly hour in the morning, when it’s cold and wet, and they work so hard all the day long until its blistering hot, fighting off insects and corn rashes and they do so willingly, morning after morning, during this period of time in the summer and it’s this early, early lesson between effort and reward that I think is such a part of the character and values of our community,” Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate WJAG.

We don’t husk corn much, anymore. Combines do the work now.

But, automation cannot pluck the tassel to make seed corn. It must be done by hand. And, to do that, corn seed companies rely on young workers to go into the fields and do their dirty work, literally.

Fortenberry notes detasseling is one job that defies automation.

“I have five daughters, two of them are in the fields right now, as we speak, doing that work and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Paul Hughes, WJAG, contributed to this report.

Motorcyclist dies in central Nebraska accident after losing control of bike

A 60-year-old motorcyclist from Broken Bow has died after losing control of his bike.

The Custer County Sheriff’s Office reports Kenneth Neville died at the scene, three miles south of Broken Bow.

According to the sheriff’s office, Neville was riding south on Sumner Road early Sunday evening. Neville lost control of the motorcycle. It hit a ditch, then ran into a barbed-wire fence.

Another independent qualifies for US Senate ballot in November

We have another independent candidate for United States Senate.

The Secretary of State’s office reports Todd Watson of Lincoln has qualified for the November ballot, joining Jim Jenkins as alternative candidates to those nominated by the two major political parties.

More than 4,000 signatures for Watson to be placed on the ballot have been verified.

Watson submitted more than 5,000 signatures. Independent candidates need at least 4,000 signatures of registered Nebraska voters to qualify for ballot status. At least 750 of those signatures must come from each of the state’s three congressional districts.

Watson and Jenkins will be listed on the November ballot as “by petition”. They will join Republican Ben Sasse and Democrat Dave Domina on the November 4th ballot.

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, a Republican, decided to retire rather than run for re-election.

The silver lining of June storms: an end to the drought (AUDIO)

One month of well-above-normal rainfall has ended the drought in nearly all of Nebraska. But drought continues to plague a large portion of the United States.

Climatologist Brian Fuchs at the National Drought Mitigation Center on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln east campus says heavy June rains finally broke the drought which began in 2012.

“It’s nice to talk about improvements in the state,” Fuchs says in an interview with Nebraska Radio Network. “I know after the drought of 2012 and some of the lingering dryness last year, we just really had a hard time getting over the hump so to speak and seeing full recovery across the state.”

Drought crept into Nebraska in 2012. Little rain and high temperatures depleted subsoil moisture. Farmers pumped more irrigation that usual to keep crops from burning up. Pastures suffered.

Little relief came the following year. It seemed the drought would enter its third year when June hit.

Hit it did.

Storms shook Nebraska; tornadoes, hail, thunderstorms, straight-line winds, heavy rain left a lot of destruction in their wake. June 16th an EF4 tornado roared through the heart of Pilger, destroying a huge section of the city. Smaller tornadoes hit other cities.

A ray of benefit emerged, though.

Fuchs says the storms dumped above normal amounts of rain on much of the state, replenishing subsoil moisture and ending the drought.

Almost.

Approximately 7% of Nebraska remains in moderate drought, the lowest severity of drought on the Drought Mitigation Center scale. Southwestern Nebraska, the area basically south of North Platte to the Kansas border around the Republican River still remains dry. A portion of north-central Nebraska remains abnormally dry.

While the storms of June ended drought conditions in the Midwest, portions of the country remain in drought, some severe.

Fuchs says the Southern Plains of Texas, Oklahoma, and portions of New Mexico remain in a drought that spread across that part of the United States in 2010. California and Nevada also have yet to emerge from drought.

While nearly half the United States suffered through drought until this year, about 34% remains in the grips of devastatingly dry conditions.

“A little over a third of the country still is seeing some drought and a little over 10% of the country is seeing extreme drought right now.”

Click here for the latest United States Drought Monitor.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

Nebraska soldier dies in IED attack in Afghanistan

A Nebraska soldier has died from wounds suffered in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on his vehicle in Afghanistan.

The Defense Department reports 30-year-old Staff Sergeant Benjamin Prange of Hickman died Thursday. The IED attack occurred in Mirugol Kalay in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province, according to Defense Department.

A soldier from California also died in the attack, 19-year-old Pfc. Keith Williams.

Both men were part of the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division based at Ft. Carson, CO.

Prange is the first Nebraska soldier to die in Afghanistan since June of 2012, when Hunter Hogan of York died. He was 21.

Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Serve Committee, released a statement in wake of Prange’s death:

“My thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies are with the family and loved ones of Staff Sgt. Prange during this difficult time. His ultimate sacrifice on behalf of his country is a solemn reminder to us all of the high price of freedom. I join all Nebraskans in honoring the memory of this brave American. We are forever indebted to Staff Sgt. Prange for his selfless service.”