November 27, 2015

Farmers get less than 16-cents of each Thanksgiving food dollar

John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union

John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union

As Nebraskans enjoy their Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, Nebraska Farmers Union president John Hansen says only a small fraction of the cost of that meal goes back to the farmers who produced it.

“About 15.8 cents out of every food dollar actually goes to a farmer,” Hansen says. “There’s always plenty of profits being made in the food sector. The issue for agriculture is, we don’t usually get our fair share of that consumer food dollar.”

He says when you break down the cost of the trimmings to that Thanksgiving meal, the farmer’s share is usually abysmal.

“When you look at dinner rolls, the retail value is $3 and the farmer’s share is 6-cents,” Hansen says. “In the case of sweet potatoes, the retail is $1.69, and when you think about it, there’s just not a lot of processing to a sweet potato, and the farmer’s share is 24-cents.”

Hansen says the farmer’s share of the main course is also paltry.

“The turkey, retail value is $1.78 a pound, the farmer’s share is 93-cents,” he says.

Hansen says we should be thankful for the plentiful supply of top quality food, but we also need to be mindful of the people who do the work, take the risk and produce that food.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Turkey prices may be 15% higher due to bird flu

Turkey (white-farm)Thanksgiving is just under two weeks away and Nebraskans will likely be paying a little more for the centerpiece of the feast, according to poultry science expert Ron Kean.

“Turkey prices will be up slightly this year,” Kean says. “We’re still suffering some effects from the avian influenza outbreak. Probably, prices will be up 10 to 15% from last year.”

Prices will be even higher, he says, for fresh turkeys or organic turkeys.

“For frozen turkeys, the typical price will be maybe $1.15 to $1.20 a pound, would be my expectation,” Kean says. “And again, there will always be sales and some stores will cut that price to get you in the store.”

The bird flu wiped out about 10% of nation’s turkey production this spring.

One-point-seven millon chickens were destroyed after two flocks in northeast Nebraska’s Dixon County were confirmed infected. No Nebraska turkey producers were impacted.

There is concern migrating wild birds — ducks and geese — will bring another round of avian flu as they make their way south this fall but, so far, so good.


Congressman Smith says he is studying Trans Pacific Partnership

Congressman Adrian Smith

Congressman Adrian Smith

Congressman Adrian Smith says he is busy reviewing the paperwork released by the Obama Administration on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Smith says he needs time to review the trade pact.

“Initially, it sounds like the trade agreement would be good for the beef industry as well as the pork industry,” Smith tells Nebraska Radio Network. “But I want to look even farther than just those two industries which happen to be good in Nebraska, big in Nebraska. I want to see what other details are in there.”

The Obama Administration has released documentation about the trade agreement between the United States and 11 other countries. It is a wide-ranging agreement which seeks to lower trade barriers among the countries and ease restrictions for imports and exports.

It appears the agreement would benefit Nebraska agriculture. Its impact on other sectors of the economy is less certain.

Smith says he must be convinced TPP benefits America overall before he votes for it.

“Let’s look for trade agreements that level the playing field, because when we get to play on a level-playing field American production does very well, whether it’s agriculture, whether it’s manufacturing, we’ve got good opportunities when we have a level-playing field,” according to Smith.

Smith says he will study the material released by the administration and speak with agricultural and business leaders throughout Nebraska before deciding how to vote.

“So, I want to talk to stakeholders, in addition to just the beef and pork industries,” Smith says. “This is a big deal and we need to make sure that we get it right. I would imagine it won’t be perfect, but let’s make sure that the details are what we think they are.”

Congress likely will consider TPP next year. Under a trade law approved earlier, Congress cannot amend the agreement. It either accepts it or rejects it.

Commercial drone pilots can now train in Siouxland

UAV HexCopterMartin’s Airfield in South Sioux City, Nebraska, and Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, are partnering on a new program to train commercial drone operators.

The Federal Aviation Administration is requiring anyone who wants to be paid to fly a drone to obtain a commercial rating. Tom Fredricksen is an FAA certified ground instructor for the program.

“Our program is designed to not only get flying drones, but to understand air spaces, understand communications between towers and airplanes,” Fredricksen says, “and to get them at least three hours of flying in an airplane, along with the drone courses Morningside has mapped out.”

The course is for commercial drone operators, not for the hobby-type of drones you can buy at the store.

“The hobby drone operator is limited to visual site and 400 feet above ground level,” Fredericksen says. “However, there are more sophisticated drones out there that’ll fly to 16,000 feet and fly at 120 miles-an-hour. And they can carry about 55 pounds of cargo and can stay up in the air for 55 minutes.”

The federal government has announced plans to require recreational drone users to register their vehicles as there are more reports of drones flying too close to airports. Fredricksen says the rule should help.

He says the regulation will be good as their job is to make sure there aren’t any collisions and everyone understands what is going on in the air.

Fredericksen says he’s seen ads offering an annual salary of $135,000 for FAA-certified commercial drone operators.

By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City


Hartington organic farmer wins accolades in Washington DC

CowsA farmer from northeast Nebraska was among a dozen producers honored in a White House ceremony last week as a Champion for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture.

Martin Kleinschmit, of Hartington, says making the shift to organic farming and grass fed beef production didn’t happen overnight.

“As soon as you start doing the organic system, you have to worry more about soil fertility because you get your fertility from the soil, not from additives that you put on,” Kleinschmit says. “That led to working with soil carbon and trying to increase that. The best way to do that is with grass and animals. One thing led to another and pretty quick, we were doing grass-fed cattle too.”

Kleinschmit says he had a lot of help along the way as he made the transition to the USDA organic program. He says more than 60,000 Nebraska acres are now certified in the program.

“I was fortunate enough to be working with the Center for Rural Affairs and that put me in contact with a lot of other people that I could learn from,” he says. “There really aren’t too many books out there on this stuff. It also put me in the position to do some training for other farmers on how to build soil quality and soil carbon.”

He says farming organically and raising grass-fed beef is a great way for younger producers to get into the business.

“With the grass-fed cattle, anybody can do that,” Kleinschmit says. “It’s better to have a certain breed. Some of the breeds do better than others. Just about all farmers have a piece of ground with some grass that isn’t fully utilized and might serve better as grass.”

Kleinschmit also conserves fossil fuels by owning and managing Marlin Wind and Solar LLC.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton