July 22, 2014

State’s cattle producers encouraged to attend meetings to learn, sound off

The Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association is holding a series of meetings around the state this week to get input from its members on various state and federal issues and concerns. The association’s legislative director Laura Field says they’re making seven stops for meetings.

Field says, “We’re going to talk about some issues with animal health and what’s the current status with foot and mouth disease as far as the rules at the federal level with the importation of beef from Brazil and how it could affect us if it gets in the state.”

Property taxes will also be a topic of conversation.

“Our real goal around that is to talk about how our members at the local level can have an impact on those discussions in county commission meetings and school board meetings,” Field says. “We’ll also help to make sure you’re reading your property tax statements correctly and also tell them what we see coming at the state legislature.”

Field says they’ll also discuss the EPA’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule and their group’s opposition to it.

After meetings on Monday in Alliance and North Platte, more meetings are scheduled today in Cambridge and Fairbury, on Wednesday in Wahoo and Norfolk, and on Thursday in Bloomfield.

For more details, go to the website: www.nebraskacattlemen.org

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Nebraska Farm Bureau warns Congress of EPA expansion

Nebraska Farm Bureau members have wrapped up their annual trek to Washington, after lobbying against a proposed expansion of the power of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Todd Reed of Lincoln co-owns a custom farming operation south of Greenwood. He worries a change in definition could allow the EPA to regulate waterways on farms.

“That land could even be regulated,” Reed tells Nebraska Radio Network. “We would have to apply for permits to do our normal operations that we do to try to conserve soil; to plant, to spray, to harvest, to fertilize, all those things that are part of growing a crop. We’re concerned that we’re going to have permits to do all that.”

A proposal has been floated in Washington to remove the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act. That word limits the act to streams, rivers, and lakes. The Nebraska Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations worry that removing the word would allow the EPA to claim jurisdiction over farmland.

Reed says the Nebraska Congressional delegation understands.

“We’re very blessed in Nebraska that all five of our representatives understand agriculture and understand what goes on in this state and what makes this state thrive,” Reed says.

Others though, according to Reed, might need more convincing. He says the Farm Bureau is trying to get across the message that an expansion of federal regulations could hamper agricultural output.

“Raising Nebraska” exhibit new at state fair

There is a new exhibit at this year’s Nebraska State Fair. Associate Dean for UNL Extension and State 4-H Program Administrator Kathleen Lodl says “Raising Nebraska” is a 25,000 foot interactive display about agriculture.

 Lodl says it includes a full-sized pivot irrigation system, a video theater enclosed in a grain bin, a virtual combine ride and other educational experiences. She says the exhibit also refers to raising healthy families and overall awareness among consumers about food and where it comes from.

The exhibit also highlights the importance of career opportunities in agriculture. Lodl says there is a lot to consider in food production and farming is one aspect. She hopes this exhibit encourages others to think about careers associated with agriculture such as science, production and natural resources.

 This will be a year round exhibit where school groups, trade teams and others by appointment. A full time UNL educator will be at the site year round to manage the exhibit and work with visiting groups.

Large chicken farm proposed for southeastern Nebraska

Gage County leaders will consider a special permit next week for a proposed poultry operation that would be one of the state’s largest. The facility would be built near Blue Springs with six buildings to house more than 150,000 chickens.

James Zimmerman says he’s researched modern methods used by MBA Poultry near Tecumseh where 26 barns are computer-regulated for temperature and airflow.

“When you walked in there and kicked the litter, the litter was actually dry and how they keep it dry is the computer system,” Zimmerman says. “It constantly regulates everything inside the building. The building is completely closed. That’s how they keep the odor down.”

Forty-six nearby property owners have been notified of the plan. The nearest residence is over a half-mile away, meeting county zoning regulations. A management plan for the operation has been submitted to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, regarding control of animal waste.

Addressing the issue of potential odor, Zimmerman’s wife Marie says they have a significant stake in making sure the operation is run properly.

“We will do what we’re supposed to,” Mrs. Zimmerman says. “We will maintain the buildings like we’re supposed to. This is our livlihood. This is where we’ll get our income and this is what we really truly want to do and we want to do it the right way. There isn’t anything we haven’t researched. We’re going to be living there.”

Gage County is one of several that have been earned the identification as “livestock friendly” in Nebraska and the operators are making a good faith effort to be good neighbors.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice


Pierce elevator closure may cost dozens of farmers several million dollars

Losses from the financial collapse of the Pierce grain elevator are still being tallied but estimates find some 200 farmers lost nearly $10-million dollars.

Nicole Mulcahy, legal counsel for the Nebraska Public Service Commission, says there will be some payback to farmers affected by the bankruptcy, including two bonds worth around $880,000.

“Valid owners, storers or depositors of grain will get some recovery, a higher level of recovery, if they can prove they’re a valid owner of grain in the warehouse,” Mucahy says. “They will get some of the proceeds from the sale of the grain and there’s also a bond on the warehouse side to help cover that.”

There’s more money from sale of the grain at the elevator which the commission took control of after the closure. Mulcahy says not everyone will be getting the majority of their investment back. Dozens of farmers may lose a large portion of a combined $4-million.

“The folks that did some direct shipping, their grain never went to the elevator but was sold to a third party that never got their money, they’re going to have a lesser recovery,” she says. “There’s only a $300,000 bond to cover those types of transactions. They’re looking at under 10-cents on the dollar for those.”

The Public Service Commission hopes to get nearly five-million dollars from selling the grain the elevator held when it closed, but that’s a far cry from the estimated nine-point-seven million in losses.

Mulcahy says the Nebraska legislature may have to look at starting some type of indemnity fund in order to protect farmers who sell their grain. She says that would be up to lawmakers.

“There’s been discussions about that and it’s never gotten any traction,” Mulcahy says. “I think there might be some discussions again taking place with the legislature in 2015 about the possibility at least.”

The Pierce elevator closed earlier this year when its credit was cancelled by the Citizen’s State Bank of Laurel.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton