July 29, 2014

Congressman extolls the virtues of corn detasseling

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry contends detasseling has been an integral part of building Nebraska’s strong work ethic.

And Fortenberry, a father of five, has more than a passing interest in corn detasseling.

Fortenberry praises the work of teen-agers in Nebraska corn fields this time of year.

“Thousands of Nebraska young people pour into the fields at an unseemly hour in the morning, when it’s cold and wet, and they work so hard all the day long until its blistering hot, fighting off insects and corn rashes and they do so willingly, morning after morning, during this period of time in the summer and it’s this early, early lesson between effort and reward that I think is such a part of the character and values of our community,” Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate WJAG.

We don’t husk corn much, anymore. Combines do the work now.

But, automation cannot pluck the tassel to make seed corn. It must be done by hand. And, to do that, corn seed companies rely on young workers to go into the fields and do their dirty work, literally.

Fortenberry notes detasseling is one job that defies automation.

“I have five daughters, two of them are in the fields right now, as we speak, doing that work and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Paul Hughes, WJAG, contributed to this report.

The silver lining of June storms: an end to the drought (AUDIO)

One month of well-above-normal rainfall has ended the drought in nearly all of Nebraska. But drought continues to plague a large portion of the United States.

Climatologist Brian Fuchs at the National Drought Mitigation Center on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln east campus says heavy June rains finally broke the drought which began in 2012.

“It’s nice to talk about improvements in the state,” Fuchs says in an interview with Nebraska Radio Network. “I know after the drought of 2012 and some of the lingering dryness last year, we just really had a hard time getting over the hump so to speak and seeing full recovery across the state.”

Drought crept into Nebraska in 2012. Little rain and high temperatures depleted subsoil moisture. Farmers pumped more irrigation that usual to keep crops from burning up. Pastures suffered.

Little relief came the following year. It seemed the drought would enter its third year when June hit.

Hit it did.

Storms shook Nebraska; tornadoes, hail, thunderstorms, straight-line winds, heavy rain left a lot of destruction in their wake. June 16th an EF4 tornado roared through the heart of Pilger, destroying a huge section of the city. Smaller tornadoes hit other cities.

A ray of benefit emerged, though.

Fuchs says the storms dumped above normal amounts of rain on much of the state, replenishing subsoil moisture and ending the drought.


Approximately 7% of Nebraska remains in moderate drought, the lowest severity of drought on the Drought Mitigation Center scale. Southwestern Nebraska, the area basically south of North Platte to the Kansas border around the Republican River still remains dry. A portion of north-central Nebraska remains abnormally dry.

While the storms of June ended drought conditions in the Midwest, portions of the country remain in drought, some severe.

Fuchs says the Southern Plains of Texas, Oklahoma, and portions of New Mexico remain in a drought that spread across that part of the United States in 2010. California and Nevada also have yet to emerge from drought.

While nearly half the United States suffered through drought until this year, about 34% remains in the grips of devastatingly dry conditions.

“A little over a third of the country still is seeing some drought and a little over 10% of the country is seeing extreme drought right now.”

Click here for the latest United States Drought Monitor.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

EPA meets with critics, seems determined to expand Clean Water Act (AUDIO)

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has met with some of her fiercest critics, but seems unwilling to modify a proposed change to the Clean Water Act.

Sen. Mike Johanns joined other Republican senators from the Senate Agriculture Committee in confronting EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, arguing against expansion of the Clean Water Act which could lead to the regulation of ponds and streams on farms.

“She was polite and she listened to us, but at the end of the day, I’m not certain that we moved the ball down the field at all,” Johanns tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call. “I think she’s determine to regulate. I think she believes she has the power to do that and she’s going to do it.”

The EPA is considering the removal of the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act, a word that restricts the EPA’s regulatory power to bodies of water that support watercraft. Agricultural groups worry removal would allow the regulatory arm of the EPA to reach into agricultural operations, with the potential to impose federal regulations on ponds, creeks, streams, even ditches which run only after heavy rains.

The proposal to expand the Clean Water Act only feeds fears that added federal regulations could greatly harm the Midwest economy.

Johanns and others have criticized the EPA proposal to mandate states cut carbon dioxide emissions 30% by 2030, a move they contend would greatly increase the cost of electricity in a section of the country that relies heavily on coal-fired power plants.

Johanns says Republicans expressed frustration with what he calls a long list of regulatory burdens against agriculture.

“The five-and-a-half years of this administration giving ag producers the cold shoulder when it comes to regulations really does need to end.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

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.