May 26, 2015

Hot jazz and a cool glass of wine, sounds fine!

The festival venue in 2014

The festival venue in 2014

An agri-tourism event is planned tonight and tomorrow night that combines dozens of Nebraska-produced wines with jazz music.

The Nebraska Wine and Jazz Festival is getting underway at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds Exposition Center in Kearney.

Laurel Rosado is spokeswoman for the Kearney Area Community Foundation, which is hosting the event.

“When you come to the festival, you’ll receive a souvenier wine glass and 10 tasting tickets which you can use for trying different wines,” Rosado says. “We’ll have over 15 vineyards and wineries there so there’s going to be over 50 wines to try. We’ll have microbreweries, three different ones there.”

Rosado says they’re featuring some of the top jazz bands in the region.

“We’ll have six different bands, three each day, that you can listen to while you’re trying the different wines and beers,” she says. “If you find you favorite wine, you can purchase it there by the bottle at our wine store.”

Participants must be 21 or older and have a valid ID. Tickets are $25 per person and may be purchased either in advance or at the door. The festival runs 5 to 11 PM both nights.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney


Nebraska officials worry public silence could remove red meat from dietary guidelines

090423_HerefordTour 084Nebraska officials worry proposed federal dietary guidelines could negatively impact the state beef industry.

And they hope public comments will make a difference.

Gov. Pete Ricketts asserts environmentalists are pushing for the federal government to rid the guidelines of red meat, claiming that the beef industry harms the environment.

“Well, I’m very concerned about it, because to me what it represents is an agenda that has been driven by the left and environmentalist that is now impacting health requirements and to me that’s completely inappropriate and out of line,” Ricketts says. “We ought to be making our dietary guidelines based upon what’s good health for our children and not somebody’s green agenda. I’m very concerned about it.”

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.

The federal dietary guidelines don’t just give the public an indication of what makes a healthy diet, they influence school lunches and meals for the military.

“These dietary guidelines influence how school lunches are prepared and what guidelines USDA give to schools when we’re feeding children,” State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach says. “So, we’re very concerned that children will be even less happy with their lunches than they are now.”

The time for the public to comment on proposed federal dietary guidelines is coming to an end.

Nebraska Cattlemen President Dave McCracken worries the movement away from red meat will gain acceptance if the public doesn’t protest.

“And it’s very important to hear comments from non-beef producers, people who are concerned about what their children are eating, what we’re eating and we need to have beef and all lean meats in the dietary guidelines,” McCracken says.

Comments are being taken at guidelines.

The USDA updates its dietary guidelines every five years.

Nebraska bat designated by feds as “threatened”

A bat with white nose syndrome

A bat with white nose syndrome

Federal officials are now designating a type of bat that lives in Nebraska as a threatened species, because a fungal disease is wiping out large populations of the furry, flying creatures.

Kristen Lundh, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the northern long-eared bat will have new protections in Nebraska and 25 other states under the “threatened” designation.

“A species that is endangered is defined as any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range,” Lundh says. “A species that is threatened is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.”

Bats in Nebraska are falling victim to a disease called white nose syndrome, a disease that actually makes their muzzles turn white.

“Bats with white nose syndrome act strangely,” Lundh says. “They fly around outside in the winter when they’re supposed to be hibernating. In studies of bats with white nose syndrome, researchers have found that they have depleted most of their fat stores by mid-winter and they get really severe wing damage that shows up when we capture them during the summer.”

It’s difficult to determine how many bats in Nebraska are being impacted by the disease and more bat counts will be done this year. Some aspects of the disease remain a mystery.

Lundh says, “We don’t really know what the exact process by which white nose syndrome leads to the death of infected bats, but we do know the fungus, where it’s infected bats, is responsible for very large-scale mortality.”

More than 6-million bats of multiple species have been killed by white-nose syndrome since it was first documented in the U.S. in 2006.

Lundh notes, bats are particularly beneficial to an agricultural state like Nebraska as they’ll eat all sorts of insects that would otherwise damage crops, in addition to bugs that bug people. Some bats will eat a thousand mosquitoes per night.


Tax break advances even as lawmakers grumble

State legislators have advanced a break on personal property taxes.

But, it’s not much of a break in the eyes of some lawmakers.

In fact, debate on Legislative Bill 259 focused less on the bill and more on the overall lack of movement of property tax relief legislation.

Numerous lawmakers have complained that bills, such as one to lower the percentage of market value upon which agricultural land would be tax, haven’t gone anywhere this session, and likely won’t.

Sen. John McCollister of Omaha even complained about the approach, calling it piecemeal. He urged colleagues to broaden their approach to tax cuts.

“I believe Nebraska has a Whack-A-Mole tax policy,” McCollister said during floor debate. “Our efforts this year seem to be reactive and short-sighted.”

Still, lawmakers have advanced LB 259. The bill would exempt the first $10,000 in farm and business personal property from taxation.

Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango applauded approval of the bill, but said it really didn’t amount to much.

“We have not fixed the problem,” Hughes stated. “This is a step in the right direction, a baby step in the right direction. Serious property tax relief still needs to be tackled by this body and I applaud the members who are standing up and beginning to echo that chorus.”

A bit of humor entered the debate when Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins rose to ask Hughes, a dry bean farmer in western Nebraska, about his comments.

“Would you be willing to say that this doesn’t amount to a hill of dried beans?” Bloomfield asked.

“You know, that thought did cross my mind, but there are lines that I prefer not to cross when I’m at the mic,” Hughes responded.

“I’ll cheerfully push you across,” Bloomfield replied to laughter among senators.

The sponsor of LB 259, Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island said that while his bill might not amount to much, it moves in the right direction.

“It’s taken us a long time to get to the point where things are out of whack and that the stool has different legs that are a little longer than others,” Gloor stated in reference to the three-legged stool of taxation metaphor often used at the Capitol. “It’s going to take bunts and singles. I don’t know that our budget is going to allow for us to have home runs, but I think this is one step in the right direction.”

Gov. Ricketts declares May “Beef Month”, promotes beef here and abroad (AUDIO)

Gov. Pete Ricketts signs a proclamation, declaring May Beef Month

Gov. Pete Ricketts signs a proclamation, declaring May Beef Month

Gov. Pete Ricketts declares May Beef Month in Nebraska even as his administration works to promote Nebraska beef throughout the nation and around the world.

Ricketts says cattle are important to the Nebraska economy.

“Last year, for the first time, we exported over a billion dollars of beef in Nebraska,” Ricketts says during a news conference promoting Nebraska beef. “That’s important, because the USDA calculates for every dollar that we export, we have a $1.42 of economic activity here in the state.”

Agriculture is the number one industry in Nebraska. Beef production alone makes up about 10% of the state economy.

Ricketts recently promoted Nebraska beef during a visit to New York City. The restaurant Burger and Lobster showcases Nebraska beef.

Nebraska Cattlemen President Dave McCracken says that coup for Nebraska beef producers extends beyond New York City.

“Burger and Lobster also has a restaurant in London where they promote only Nebraska steaks and Norwegian crab legs,” McCracken says.

The Nebraska Beef Council has become active in the 30-Day Protein Challenge, a promotion by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to encourage consumers to make protein, such as beef, a bigger part of the daily diet.

Also, Nebraska officials have a trade mission scheduled for this summer to Europe in which they will heavily promote beef, among other Nebraska exports.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]