October 30, 2014

State’s list of livestock friendly counties reaches 28

livestock_friendlyNortheast Nebraska’s Knox County is the latest county in the state to be named a “livestock friendly” county.

Governor Dave Heineman made the presentation this week at the county courthouse in the town of Center. The governor says the designation follows a statewide trend.

“We’re now the #1 cattle-feeding state in America and we want to continue to improve that ranking,” Governor Heineman says. “We want to become even bigger. Livestock and agriculture is the mainstay of Knox County. It’s the #1 industry in this state and this is an important recognition of what they do today.”

The governor says the livestock friendly program recognizes the positive economic impact that a viable livestock industry has on communities across the state.

Heineman says counties make great efforts to become “livestock friendly” in their endeavors to grow agriculture and bring young people back to rural areas. More counties may join the list yet this year.

“The last few years, we’ve grown about five counties a year. We’re at 28. You’re going to see that number continue to grow and that’s important,” he says. “As other counties have seen what’s happening in the state, they now feel like they’ve got to catch up to the other rural counties and that’s a good thing.”

The Nebraska Department of Roads will be placing signs on highways around the county showing off the designation.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Drought-stricken livestock producers get a break from the IRS

CowsA policy change by the Internal Revenue Service gives Nebraska farmers and ranchers who were hit by drought more time for recovery.

IRS spokesman Christopher Miller says the agency has changed the rules when it comes to livestock losses.

Miller says farmers often sell off more livestock than usual during a drought and in order to take advantage of tax benefits under the law, they have to replace those livestock within a specified time.

That time limit had been four years, but the IRS has extended the deadline another year for those who were facing a December 31st deadline this year.

“That also means that impacted farmers can defer taxes on capital gains from that sale of the livestock,” Miller says.

The IRS regulations say the one-year extension applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes due to drought. Sales of other livestock, like those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, and poultry are not eligible.

Miller says the overall goal is to provide a break to farmers who were impacted by the drought.

“You will have an extension of time to replace the livestock that you had to get rid of because of those conditions,” Miller says, “and you also have an extension of time to defer any taxes that you get because of the gain in selling that livestock.”

Miller urges Nebraskans to check to see if they qualify under the extension. They need to read IRS publication #225, available on the website www.IRS.gov.


Nebraska’s winter wheat crop off to a fast, healthy start

WheatPlanting of winter wheat in Nebraska is all but wrapped up for the season.

Royce Schaneman, executive director of the Nebraska Wheat Board, says timely rainfall helped producers get the crop in the ground and conditions are very favorable.

“We’re off to a fast start,” Schaneman says. “We’ve had good germination and the crop’s getting up and getting some good growth on before we go into the freezing temperatures.”

Schaneman says winter wheat planting is consistent with last year’s progress.

He says, “We’re about on pace, we might just be slightly ahead, but we had really good conditions and the crop’s off to a fast start.”

Schaneman says the amount of acres seeded to winter wheat in Nebraska is up slightly from past years. The state’s farmers produce an average of 74-million bushels of wheat every year.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Push for more use of E-85 as ethanol industry faces obstacles

State and agriculture officials are pushing for the expansion of bio-fuel use in Nebraska even as the industry attempts to weather a couple of obstacles.

Oil prices have dropped, bringing the price of gas closer to the break-even point for ethanol profitability. More oil is being produced domestically as well, which hold prices down.

Nebraska Ethanol Board Executive Director Todd Sneller says the key for profitability in the ethanol industry is to sell higher blends such as E-85.

“We’ve got to continue to use the capacity that is in place. That’s an under-utilized capacity and that is forcing producers to export ethanol. That simply doesn’t make any sense from a public policy standpoint,” Sneller tells reporters during a conference all. “We ought to be sure that the federal government is providing a pathway through the renewable fuel standard to hold oil refineries’ feet to the fire and make sure that they meet the standards that was set by the Congress in 2007.”

As Sneller noted, the government also plays a big role in the ethanol industry. A change in the renewable fuel standard for the nation’s gasoline supply would have a huge impact on ethanol producers.

State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach says that even the uncertainty of whether the federal government will relax the renewable fuel standard has hurt. Ibach says those wishing to invest in

cellulosic ethanol production, the so-called second generation of ethanol production, are worried.

“A lot of those people who were thinking about investing in those plants for the next generation have pulled back those dollars and put those plans on hold, because they’re concerned that if the federal government doesn’t hold true on its word to starch ethanol producers that they can’t rely on them to continue to be there for them as they move into the next generation of ethanol production,” according to Ibach.

While corn is the leading crop used to make ethanol, cellulosic feed stocks, such as crop residue or wood residue, hold promise for ethanol production.

Nebraska has 86 E-85 gas pumps. More are coming on line. A new smart phone app will help Nebraskans located their nearest E-85 pump.

For more information about ethanol, do go nebraskacorn.org as well as ne-ethanol.org. E-85 pumps in Omaha can be found by clicking on this website: E85Omaha.com.

“Father” of GMOs says opponents are a minority, extremists

WheatThe debate over genetically modified organisms — or GMOs — in food has been heating up in Nebraska and nationwide in recent months.

Robert Fraley, a top researcher at crop-seed maker Monsanto, is often referred to as “the father of agricultural biotechnology.”

Fraley says he’s convinced opponents of GMOs represent a small percentage of consumers.

“Those are extreme voices,” Fraley says. “As I travel and talk to audiences, the vast majority of people are in the middle.”

Fraley estimates 70 to 80% of Americans believe genetically modified foods are safe.

The latest issue of National Geographic features a cover story about the role of genetics in food production.

Dennis Dimick, executive environment editor at the magazine, says biotechnology is critical to solving the problem of feeding nine-billion people — the world’s estimated population by 2050.

Dimick says, “In a world where we need to improve productivity, things like drought, salt, and heat tolerant crops are so important and should be allowed to happen, even if they do involve the use of genetic engineering.”

In November, voters in Oregon and Colorado will decide if manufacturers, retailers, and suppliers should be required to label foods produced entirely or partially by genetic engineering.

In recent years, similar measures in California and in Washington state were narrowly rejected after millions of dollars were spent by Monsanto and other labeling opponents to defeat the campaigns.