March 3, 2015

Nebraskans honor their agricultural roots and the future of farming

FFA LogoThe 7,000-plus FFA members in Nebraska are celebrating FFA Week. The program teaches high school students about the world of the ag industry.

FFA spokesman Kurt Veldhuizen doesn’t see any letting up in the program that’s nearly 90 years old.

“I think it’s very strong and when you look at ultimately FFA’s tie to agriculture, that’s what we’re rooted in, the future of agriculture is very strong,” Veldhuizen says. “Agriculture has and it will continue to evolve. Today we do things way different than we did 100 years ago.”

He tells students there will always be careers in agriculture available.

“When it comes down to it, as long we’re on earth, as long as there are humans on earth, we will need agriculture in one form or another and that’s really the exciting things for these kids,” Veldhuizen says.

He also tells students the advancing technology is constantly changing agriculture and there may be new jobs available by the time they enter the workforce that weren’t around when they started school.

“With young kids looking for careers and jobs I always tell them what great job security,” according to Veldhuizen. “We are always going to need to feed people. By 2050, we are going to need to feed nine billion, that’s the big push in agriculture right now. You know, what great job security to be a part of that industry.”

There are some 600,000 FFA members nationwide. Learn more at


Kearney hosts Agri-Eco Tourism conference, starting this afternoon

NE Tourism logoThe Nebraska Tourism Commission is opening its annual three-day Agri/Eco Tourism Workshop today in Kearney.

The event is designed for people who want to learn more about the tourism industries surrounding agriculture and the environment. Commission spokeswoman Karen Kollars says a host of activities are planned through Wednesday.

“We’ll start out with a three-hour workshop with business consultant Joe Calhoon who will be helping people grow their business in a simpler fashion,” Kollars says. “We will also be providing sessions on safety, making sure your farm is safe to have visitors and how to plan in case there’s an emergency.”

An event at the conference on Tuesday evening is designed to showcase a range of Nebraska-made products.

“Food products as well as soaps or lotions, different things that people could sell in their gift shops,” Kollars says. “It’s a great opportunity to know what else is out there for businesses to cross-market. Like if a winery wants to serve cheese, they’ll know what Nebraska cheese places are there.”

She says the gathering is a great place to find out how to develop a new attraction, increase income potential and create limitless opportunities.

The conference is underway at the Holiday Inn in Kearney.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney


Winery & Grape Growers Forum March 5 – 7

The 18th annual Nebraska Winery and Grape Growers Forum and Trade Show is rapidly approaching. University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension viticulture specialist Paul Read says Nebraska has seen a nice sustainable growth in the wine industry.

In just over 20 years the number Nebraska wineries has grown to 30 and there are more than 100 grape growers in the state. Read says several white wines in Nebraska have won international competitions.

The event will be held March 5th through the 7th at the Omaha Marriott. Read says this is the first time the event is being held in Omaha. He says typically they cover three areas during the forum that include business practices, wine making and grape growing. 

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State’s future farmers are being recruited as hometown ag ambassadors

FFA LogoNebraska FFA chapters can now compete for educational and financial resources from the Nebraska Corn Board.

The Ag Champions Contest is designed for FFA chapters to submit advocacy plans to boost education in communities about issues and misconceptions about agriculture.

Corn Board executive director Kelly Brunkhorst says three winners will receive grants based on the chapters’ proposed program.

Brunkhorst says, “We feel that they’re the ones that have this passion inside of them because of where they grew up, they’re involved in FFA, and now we want to take that and channel it to be able to activate them into visiting with people in their community, consumers in their communities, about the issues around agriculture and the questions that consumers have.”

Brunkhorst says chapters can reach out to community groups or expand the program reach into areas outside their local community. He says a former Husker football player who’s now a gold medal-winning Olympic bobsledder is also part of the partnership to increase the agricultural advocacy throughout Nebraska.

“We have worked with Curt Tomasevicz in the past and we thought, here’s an opportunity where they may be able to use Curt Tomasevicz in their messaging or in delivering that message,” he says.

Brunkhorst says the program proposals will be accepted at the Nebraska Corn Board website until May and the winners will be announced in June.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Proposal seeks to take emotion out of livestock expansion evaluations (AUDIO)

090423_HerefordTour 084A proposal in the legislature seeks to take the emotion out of proposals to expand livestock operations in Nebraska.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau says decisions at the county level hold state agriculture back. The organization suggests cow-calf operations, hog production, dairy, and poultry could all expand in Nebraska if individual expansion proposals were greeted more favorably by county officials.

Nebraska Association of County Officials Executive Director Larry Dix says too often the response from neighbors to a proposed farm expansion is: not in my back yard.

“I know I live out in the country but, ‘Oh, by the way, I really don’t want agriculture next door to me,’” Dix tells reporters during a conference call.

Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse proposes LB 106 as a solution to better evaluate proposals by livestock operations to expand; claiming it would base the evaluations on more scientific and less emotional reasoning.

The measure is an outgrowth of discussions livestock groups have been having with county officials to improve the local permitting process. The result is a proposal to create a matrix to evaluate proposals, removing some of the subjectivity in the approval process.

Nebraska Farm Bureau First Vice President Mark McHargue says he faced withering opposition 10 years ago to his proposed expansion of his pork operation near Central City when neighbors inflamed prejudices against it.

“I consider myself a fairly educated person. We run a multi-million dollar business; multi-generational, vice president of the largest farm organization in Nebraska,” McHargue says. “And this is one of the areas that gave me some of the most anxiety as a farmer that I have had in my career.”

Under LB 106, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture would create an assessment matrix for county officials to use to thoroughly evaluate proposed farm expansions. The matrix would take into consideration the type of livestock operation that seeks expansion, its size, how it proposes to manage manure, and the impact on local communities.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]