September 17, 2014

New “Forever” stamp series promotes farmers markets

FarmersMarketThere are more than 75 farmers markets operating now in more than 60 Nebraska cities and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is hoping four new postage stamps will help keep those farmers markets on people’s minds.

“A lot of folks have talked about the benefits of farmers markets and that’s certainly true. This postage stamp will give us the opportunity to focus on those benefits,” Vilsack said at a recent ceremony at a farmers market near the White House to celebrate the release of the stamps.

He says the stamps are coming out at a great time, as farmers markets are very popular these days.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in farmers markets across the United States, a 76% increase,” Vilsack said. “Today, we have over 8,268 markets throughout the United States.”

According to state records, the number of farmers markets in Nebraska has grown from 39 to more than 75 in the past 12 years. The number of farmers selling their produce at a farmers market has grown from only 78 a dozen years ago to more than 600.

The artist who created the stamps is Robin Moline of Lakeland, Minnesota. The stamps feature images of fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese, baked goods and cut flowers.

“They show some of what you can get there and the freshness and the spirit of the market,” Moline said. “They’re a community gathering spot. They’re a wonderful place to get good, fresh food, and you get to meet your farmers.”

The new farmers market stamps are on sale now and are “Forever” stamps, good for whatever the price may be for a first class letter, which is currently 49-cents.


Options for farmers dealing with commodity price drop

Many Nebraska corn and soybean producers are a little discouraged going into the fall harvest. Agriculture Economist Michael Langemeier that is due to the drop in commodity prices. He says farmers need to look at every option to counter those lower prices and that includes looking at their crop insurance policy. He says the revenue policy can protect a farmer if there is a lower yield and if there is substantial price drop.

Langemeier says there are several new programs, including revenue and price loss coverage that are on the way as well to help protect a farmer’s bottom line as well as other supplemental coverage options.

Statistics show that farm income will be 13% lower in 2014 compared to 2013.

State Fair puts Nebraska agriculture’s importance on display

Governor Dave Heineman says the State Fair plays an important role in reminding Nebraskans about the importance of agriculture to the state.

Heineman says more than a quarter of the state economy depends on agriculture.

“As I’ve said before, more and more Nebraskans are a generation or two removed from the farm or ranch. So, these types of experiences are increasingly important,” Heineman says.

A new exhibit at the State Fair attempts to fill in the gap for consumers who don’t have that direct knowledge of the farm.

The Raising Nebraska exhibit in the Nebraska Building features 25,000 square feet of interactive displays which answer questions from consumers and demonstrate how the raw products of the farm and the feedlot become food for the kitchen table or gas for the car.

The University of Nebraska, the Department of Agriculture, commodity groups, and agribusinesses sponsor the Raising Nebraska exhibit.

Even as consumers learn more about the importance of agriculture, state officials are working to expand the agricultural economy.

They recently entertained English and German business executives who are considering increasing their purchase of Nebraska beef and other products.

State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach says one English customer first visited Nebraska five years ago, after receiving Nebraska beef for his London restaurant, Goodman. He returns annually with members of his staff to buy even more Nebraska beef.

“That’s just part of the ongoing good story of what’s going on across the world, but specifically in Europe where we’ve seen our exports to Europe have grown over 200% in the last five years,” according to Ibach. “So, we’re really excited about the opportunities that communicating with customers around the world provide.”

State officials say Nebraska beef exports to Europe have grown from $41 million in 2009 to more than $132 million last year.

Ibach says the state livestock industry also has seen expansion in the swine and dairy industries. Crop production in corn, soybean, dried beans, and sugar beets continue to grow.

Gov. Heineman calls EPA the enemy of agriculture (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman says federal regulations being issued by the Environmental Protection Agency pose a big problem for agriculture.

Heineman takes direct aim at the EPA, especially its proposal to expand the Clean Water Act.

“As I kiddingly say, but I think it’s fairly accurate, you know, when we have a little rain in the state and there’s a little pond in the ditch, they think that’s an environmental wetlands and they want to regulate it,” Heineman says, adding. “It’s ridiculous.”

Heineman, answering a question about what is the biggest regulatory issue facing Nebraska agriculture, says the federal government under the Obama Administration has been over-aggressive with its regulations.

The governor says he appreciates the efforts of the Nebraska Congressional delegation to curb what he considers federal over-reach.

“The fact of the matter is we all support clean air, clean water, and appropriate regulations, but it’s the EPA that’s the enemy of agriculture, I’ll put it that way.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

State Fair provides stage to proclaim agriculture’s importance (AUDIO)

The State Fair provides a unique platform to proclaim the importance of agriculture to the state economy and to combat some negative messages.

A recent Purdue University study disclosed many consumers get their view of farming from the Humane Society of the United States or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, much to the chagrin of Governor Dave Heineman.

“The Humane Society of the United States is anti-agriculture and they’re out to destroy thousands of job opportunities for young people in this state,” Heineman says.

Heineman says that when HSUS made a strong push in Nebraska a few years ago, agricultural groups responded and received help from their urban counter-parts, such as the Omaha and Lincoln Chambers of Commerce. Heineman says the response demonstrates the understanding Nebraskans have about the importance of agriculture to the state economy.

State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach believes the pitches used by the animal welfare groups are wearing thin.

“People are starting, even in urban areas, are starting to see through them,” according to Ibach. “They’re starting to understand that when they’re asking for money on TV that that money is going to lobby against agriculture rather than help the pets that they claim to be helping.”

Ibach says the State Fair provides a great opportunity to spread farming’s message to urban residents throughout the state.

The Purdue University study disclosed that nearly half the 800 consumers surveyed report they get their annual welfare information from the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, groups considered unfriendly to agriculture at best, hostile at worst.

The Purdue report published in the Journal of Animal Science indicates the agriculture industry is considered a less reliable source of public information about animal welfare.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]