April 25, 2015

Ag Director worries environmental, not health, concerns swaying dietary guidelines

Hereford_cattle_herdState Agriculture Director Greg Ibach worries environmental concerns are creeping into the dietary recommendations made by the federal government.

The United States Department of Agriculture is preparing its latest dietary guidelines and this time environmentalists are pressuring the USDA to recommend eating less red meat to reduce the carbon footprint of the cattle industry.

Ibach says there is no reason to reduce consumption of red meat for health reasons.

“The same message we’ve had for years that red meat can be a part of a healthy diet,” Ibach tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “You just have to follow the proper guidelines, pay attention to your portion size, and if you’re especially concerned about the fat in your diet, you pick leaner cuts.”

A panel that makes recommendations for the federal dietary guidelines has suggested sustainability of the environment should be considered in their make-up. Some argue the beef industry has too large a carbon footprint and needs to be scaled back.

Ibach has written Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, arguing that sustainability has no place in the dietary guidelines which should be solely directed at providing consumers with scientific-based dietary information.

Ibach contends the recommendations could eventually reflect more environmental concerns than dietary concerns.

“I think if you look closely at the recommendations they made, they really didn’t change their recommendations for red meat overall,” Ibach says. “They came in with a sustainability statement that then confused consumers.”

The USDA updates its dietary guidelines every five years.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this report.

Study: Ethanol is worth $5-billion to Nebraska coffers

Ethanol PlantA University of Nebraska study finds the ethanol industry has a five-billion dollar impact on the state’s economy.

Todd Sneller, head of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, says the report covers a five-year period, from 2010 to 2014, and shows renewable fuels are vital to the state’s economic engine.

“Ethanol production continues to be a very important part of the Nebraska economy,” Sneller says. “It has a very important impact year-to-year and that impact can be significantly higher than it was in 2014, depending on the value of the primary products coming from the ethanol plant.”

The report shows there are 1,300 people employed in the ethanol industry statewide at an average wage that is 21-percent higher than the state’s average manufacturing wage. Sneller says many of those are good quality jobs that are located in smaller communities.

“Quality jobs in rural parts of the state are especially important,” Sneller says. “I think many states understand and appreciate that but particularly those of us who work in states where we have communities of 500 people, for example, where 50 jobs have been created, those jobs are averaging wage rates approaching $60,000 a year. Those are really very important and those dollars contribute to the local and state economy.”

Sneller says the results of this study prove that the Renewable Fuel Standard is a critical part of the country’s federal public policy.

There are 24 ethanol plants in Nebraska that produce a total of more than two-billion gallons each year. Nebraska is the nation’s #2 producer of corn-based ethanol, behind only Iowa.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Gov. Ricketts will lead first trade mission to the EU

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts has announced he will lead a trade mission to Europe.

The governor, along with state agriculture and economic development officials, will travel to Denmark, Belgium, and Italy in June.

Ricketts says one of the big stops on the trip will be to the European food show in Milan, Italy. Another major stop will be in Denmark to speak with officials of Danish biotechnology firm Novozymes.

“We’ve got the opportunity with the Milan trade show to be able to highlight Nebraska agricultural products, building upon this agri-business hub that the Omaha chamber study released that said we should build on that momentum; working with companies like Novozymes to try to get them to expand here in Nebraska,” according to Ricketts.

Novozymes invested $200 million to build a production facility on the Cargill biorefinery campus in the Omaha area.

Ricketts says the European Union holds promise for Nebraska on a number of different fronts, especially in agriculture and agri-business.

The trade mission will run from June 7th through the 15th. It is being organized by both the Nebraska Departments of Economic Development and Agriculture. DED will coordinate the Italy and Denmark stops, while NDA will be responsible for the Belgium activities, according to the governor’s office.

The governor’s office reports Nebraska exported roughly $900 million worth of goods to European Union countries in 2014. Agricultural trade dominated, making up about half that figure. Key Nebraska exports to Europe include machinery, pharmaceuticals, medicines, beef, soybeans and soymeal, and other feeds/fodders.

Ricketts says he hopes to lead two trade missions each year.

South-central Nebraska cattle operation wins Leopold Conservation Award

Gov. Ricketts speaks to (from left to right) Brian and Steve Shaw

Gov. Ricketts speaks to (from left to right) Brian and Steve Shaw

A south-central Nebraska family that made a switch from row crops to a cow-calf operation has won the 2015 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award.

Brian Shaw, speaking for the family, says he began his career after playing football and graduating from the University of Nebraska at Lehmann Brothers in New York and Chicago only to return home to the farm near Hastings to become involved in an occupation he calls intrinsically rewarding, because it doesn’t just put food on his family’s table, but it feeds the world.

“And it doesn’t get much better than that,” Shaw tells reporters during a news conference hosted by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The Shaw family began grazing federally protected wetlands as a way of expanding its cross-bred cattle herd. Shaw says the family found a way to satisfy all the rules and regulations, protect and even enhance the environment, and still make a living.

Shaw said he and his father, Steve, had to think outside the box and adapt to the resources at hand to expand their herd in an area of the state where crops are king.

They knew it would be a risk.

“We decided to take that chance and partner with the organizations in hopes of not only being able to increase our herd, but also to improve the wildlife habitat,” Shaw says.

Shaw says it is more common now to use grazing to improve wetland habitat, but that was far from the case when the Shaw family decided to do so.

Gov. Ricketts honored Steve and Vicki Shaw as well as Brian and Julie Shaw at the news conference held at the Capitol.

State’s FFA convention sees big attendance boost

FFA LogoThousands of young people in those familiar blue jackets are being spotted in downtown Lincoln. The annual Nebraska State FFA Convention is taking place at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

State Director Matt Kreifels says attendance is up by several hundred this year.

“I’m proud to say that we have record attendance,” Kreifels says. “In fact, we have over 500 more students than we had last year and we topped out at just over 4,500 FFA members here in town.”

Kreifels says more Nebraska schools are offering ag education curriculum and that’s helped bring an increase in FFA participation.

“In the last four years, we’ve had 25 schools add a program that didn’t offer it before and we’re excited that starting this fall, we have 15 schools that want to pick it up for this coming school year. That’s a tremendous growth that we’re seeing with 10% in one year jump.”

FFA members from across Nebraska have the chance to participate in numerous activities and contests at the annual convention in Lincoln. The convention runs thru today.

By Dave Niedfeldt, KWBE, Beatrice