December 1, 2015

Budget deal in Washington takes direct aim at crop insurance (AUDIO)

WheatNebraska farmers could feel the pinch of a two-year budget deal reached in Washington.

A two-year agreement has been struck to keep the federal government going.

Sen. Deb Fischer says she has been reviewing it with her staff.

“Yes, we have some concerns with it,” Fischer tells Nebraska Radio Network. “Some of the things in it are raising some red flags for us.”

A big red flag is being raised in Big Red country. The deal, as it currently stands, would slash $3 billion from the crop insurance program over the next 10 years.

Many didn’t see that coming.

“No, I didn’t expect it either,” Fischer says. “I can tell you senators from big agriculture states did not expect it. That was a surprise and it was not a pleasant surprise. We’re hearing from Nebraskans about that.”

Fischer says farm lawmakers will attempt to amend the deal, but any changes appear unlikely.

Farmers gave up direct payments in favor of crop management in the latest farm bill.

The budget deal represents an agreement of sorts between Congressional Republicans and the Obama Administration to end all budget battles until after the 2016 elections, when there will be a new president chosen and a new Congress elected.

The House has already approved the deal, passing it on a 266 to 167 vote. Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican, and Congressman Brad Ashford, a Democrat, voted for the deal. Congressman Adrian Smith, a Republican, voted against it.

Senate leaders have promised to take up the deal quickly.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]


Law changes for grain elevators may impact farmers’ payment plans

Grain TruckFarmers need to be aware of recent changes in state law that could impact their interests when selling or storing grain.

Jay Rempe, at the Nebraska Farm Bureau, says once grain is delivered, farmers now have half the time to demand payment.

“They have to report a problem to the Public Service Commission or demand payment for that grain once it’s been delivered — that’s been shortened from 30 days to 15 days,” Rempe says. “Once they’re finished delivering on a contract, they have to demand payment within 15 days to be covered under any bond in case there’s a problem.”

Rempe says the shorter time frame also impacts stored grain.

“In terms of storing grain, the change there has been that you have to show you have a position in that elevator and that you have grain stored in that elevator,” Rempe says. “It used to be 30 days on that as well. That was changed to 15 days, too.”

Rempe says farmers need to be aware of the changes and be firm in their demands.

“When they deliver grain, if they don’t get paid or if they don’t demand payment right away, they’re basically an unsecured creditor,” Rempe says. “It’s just like giving that elevator an interest-free loan for a while. There is some bond protection but there are things you have to do to take advantage of that bond protection if you need it.”

The change in state law went into effect at the end of August, but with producers busy with harvest, it may’ve been overlooked. Rempe says if farmers have questions, they can call the Farm Bureau office, the State Public Service Commission or check with their attorney.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


New committee won’t “reinvent the wheel” in creating livestock matrix

Cows2A new state government panel is charged with creating development conditions — or a matrix — that can be used by county government officials for determining where new livestock operations can be placed.

Nebraska Farm Bureau vice president Mark McHargue is on the Livestock Development Matrix Committee and says livestock growth is very important to the state.

“We just need to place our facilities very well,” McHargue says. “I’m hoping that coming out of this committee, we’ll have a very good tool that our county boards, if they choose, it’s voluntary, could use to really get good information and feel very comfortable with how they’re siting livestock facilities around the state.”

McHargue, a fourth-generation farmer from Central City, says it’s important the plan they develop be beneficial for ag producers, counties and all interested parties. He says the new matrix should also give producers more certainty in placing their facilities.

“If the county boards choose to use it, they can go through it and hopefully at the end of the day, they can feel comfortable about where they’re putting it as well,” McHargue says. “Most producers don’t want to put a facility in a place that’s not good, neither do the residents of the county. If we can strike a happy medium and use this as a tool, I think it would be a win-win situation.”

McHargue says the committee will likely look at matrix systems already in use in other states as they formulate a new development plan and adapt it for Nebraska.

“I’m kind of anxious to really dig into the numbers and see what has worked and what hasn’t worked and in some cases, we don’t need to re-invent the wheel if something is working well,” McHargue says. “We all know that Nebraska is different from Iowa and other places. We’ll take the best of what we see and put it together and hopefully, it will work good for Nebraska.”

The assessment matrix must be completed by August 30th of 2016.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton

UNL Rural Poll finds many Nebraskans are satisfied where they live

Farm WindmillA new survey of rural Nebraskans finds they give mostly positive reviews of their own communities and how they see the future shaping up.

Becky Vogt, with the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says some trends seen in the Rural Poll have continued for years.

“We asked about how they believe their community has changed for the better or the worse during the past year,” Vogt says. “We’ve asked that over time and consistently, more people believe their community has changed for the better compared to those who believe it has changed for the worse, and in addition, we also ask about their expected change in their community ten years from now and that also has increased during the past five years.”

Vogt says community services play a key role in rural Nebraskans’ community outlook.

“We typically see people living in those larger communities are more satisfied with different services, including education, health care, a wide range of services,” Vogt says. “I think some of that plays into it, because they typically have more of those types of services and resources available so they’re more likely to see their community has more room to grow and improve.”

Vogt says a strong support system from friends and families also contributes to that feeling of satisfaction.

“We do see that residents living in the smaller communities, they have been more likely to be satisfied with the social aspects of the community,” Vogt says. “They’re the ones that are more likely to say over time that their communities are more friendly, trusting and supportive.”

The UNL Rural Poll is the largest annual poll of rural Nebraskans’ perceptions on quality of life and policy issues.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Health officials fear potential for bird flu making the jump to humans

ChickensWhile poultry industry experts are watching for signs of an autumn outbreak of avian influenza, it’s also a public health concern.

Deb Scholten, director of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne, says they worked with employees at the poultry farms in Dixon County that had bird flu outbreaks last spring.

“We monitored the workers that were closely exposed to the sick and dying poultry at the operations where it hit here in our state,” Scholten says. “We modeled our monitoring protocols after Minnesota’s because they had already gone through all of this.”

Scholten says they had extensive contacts with the employees at the two Nebraska poultry facilities that had to deal with the bird flu outbreaks.

“We called our at-risk workers every single day for almost seven weeks,” she says. “We monitored them every five days towards the end. Most of them did volunteer to take the Tamiflu so that it would help to relieve any symptoms if they would get any sort of respiratory illness.”

While no people were reported sick during the bird flu outbreaks, Scholten says there is always concern about an animal virus making the jump to humans.

“If you have a cold or some kind of a virus and you have those two exposures of the virus, there’s a possibility that those viruses could get together and do some reassortment and then it would be problematic for humans, too,” she says. “That’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

One-point-seven millon chickens were destroyed after the flocks in northeast Nebraska were infected this spring. There is concern migrating wild birds — ducks and geese — will bring another round of avian flu as they make their way south this fall.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton