October 7, 2015

Lt. Gov. Foley sees great opportunity for Nebraska in Japan (AUDIO)

Lt. Gov. Mike Foley speaks with Kathleen Lodl of Nebraska Extension at recent UNL event

Lt. Gov. Mike Foley speaks with Kathleen Lodl of Nebraska Extension at recent UNL event

Lt. Governor Mike Foley says his recent trade mission to Japan convinces him that one of the state’s best trading partners could prove even more lucrative for Nebraska.

Japan buys a billion dollars in agricultural goods from Nebraska each year.

It would likely buy more if it weren’t for an incident in 2003 when the first case of BSE was discovered in the United States. BSE is short for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly known as mad cow disease. A handful of cases have arisen here and there since. None of the livestock confirmed with BSE entered the food chain.

The USDA and American agricultural groups have been quick to respond that its beef industry is safe, but concerns linger.

“They were buying a lot of beef from us, then that one mad cow got into the food chain,” Foley tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It never was exported to Japan, but anyway, they said, ‘Enough is enough. We’re not buying anymore. We’re done.’ And that was a real blow to the beef industry here in Nebraska.”

Foley led a delegation of 20 agricultural leaders during the trade mission to Japan. He says that allowed him to step out of the way and let actual beef producers discuss their operations.

Foley says that had two positive results: it reassured Japanese importers about the safety of Nebraska meat and it corrected misconceptions that American agricultural operates on an industrial level.

Safety is one thing. Money is another.

Foley says Japan buys a lot of grass-fed beef from Australia, simply because the tariffs are lower. He holds out hope that ratification of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement will lower tariffs on American goods flowing to the Pacific Rim and make Nebraska products more competitive.

Foley points out that while the typical diet of a typical Japanese person once consisted of fish and rice that no longer is the case. Higher personal incomes have led to more diversified diets and Foley says that changing diet opens the door for Nebraska corn-fed beef.

“We’re convinced that the trend that they’re on right now to buy and consume more meat is a very, very positive trend in terms of what we sell.”

State’s ag boss takes reigns of national group

Greg IbachNebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach has a new title. He’s been elected president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, or NASDA.

Ibach says the organization is involved in a host of major concerns facing farmers and ranchers.

“A lot of the issues that we deal with are trying to figure out what the Food Safety Modernization Act means to agriculture and whether or not FDA is going to be able to have funding to support their expectations of the state,” Ibach says. “We look at EPA and how they’re dealing with the Waters of the U.S. rule and the Renewable Fuels Standard.”

Ibach says the Food Safety Modernization Act could have a significant effect on agriculture, depending on how it will be funded.

“It has an impact in the feed realm and some of our distillers grains and products like that could be impacted,” he says. “Right now, Congress has passed the law but they haven’t included funding to FDA.”

Ibach says another major issue NASDA’s been involved with is helping producers deal with the bird flu outbreak earlier this year and in preparing to deal with more potential outbreaks this fall.

“NASDA has hosted a lot of discussions between state vets and departments of ag on avian influenza and other regulatory and disease-related issues that come up,” Ibach says, “whether it’s bird flu or BS or whatever is next on the horizon, we share information.”

This past year, Ibach served as vice president of NASDA. He was elected president at the group’s recent annual meeting in Hawaii.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton

Deadline looms for state conservation program

Irrigation(Farm_Bureau)IINebraska farmers and ranchers are being encouraged to sign up for a state environmental program.

Nebraska Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Craig Derickson says the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) has an October 16th sign-up deadline.

Derickson says EQIP is their most popular program and this year 300,000 acres were enrolled.

“We have a nice array of conservation practices available to both farmers and ranchers,” Derickson tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate WNAX. “Particularly, the ranchers have shown a strong interest in fencing and livestock water pipelines and tanks and windbreaks and so, we have a lot of good conservation work that we can do through the EQIP program.”

Field offices will evaluate and rank applications. Those who qualify will be notified early next year.

EQIP is voluntary. It provides financial and technical help to install conservation practices. More than one million acres is currently under contract in Nebraska.

If interested, farmers and ranchers should visit their local NRCS field office and complete an application.

Jerry Oster, WNAX, contributed to this report.

With farm income down, other sectors feel pinch

HarvestFarm income is down and sectors of the Nebraska economy are feeling it.

Economist Ernie Goss with Creighton University says his monthly survey of bank executives in 10 Midwestern states indicates the agricultural economy has hit a plateau and has dipped in Nebraska.

Goss says the value of the dollar is putting downward pressure on agricultural commodity prices.

Goss surveys rural bank executives in the ten states for The Rural Mainstreet Index.

“Coming in a bit weaker,” Goss says of the farm economy. “The agricultural sector having a difficult time right now, or at least certainly there’s more of a headwind than a tailwind.”

Farm income is expected to be down for the second year in a row, both row crop and livestock. The drop is hurting the sales and manufacturing of agricultural equipment.

“That’s affecting the dealers in these rural communities, but also the large manufacturers whether that’s John Deere or others and then, of course, the metal manufacturers that produce for the agricultural equipment manufacturers, so there’s a lot of weakness out there,” according to Goss.

Creighton’s Mainstreet Index was up slightly in Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri. It slumped a bit in Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, and the Dakotas.

Goss says bankers remain pessimistic about the short and intermediate prospects for agricultural producers and equipment dealers.

In September, farm and ranch land values dropped for the 22nd straight month. Farmland prices are declining by 6-7%.

In contrast, rural businesses keep adding jobs, but at a slower pace. Businesses in the rural parts of the Midwest had been increasing their workforce by 1.2%. That has dropped to 0.2%.

The Rural Mainstreet Index surveys bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, basing its assessments on 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300.

Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa, contributed to this report.

Nebraska poultry producers ready for new bird flu threat

ChickensStates across the Midwest that were hit by avian influenza earlier this year are bracing for the fall migration of wild waterfowl that will soon begin. Bird flu is believed to be spread by ducks and geese as they pass through.

Bobbie Kriz-Wickham, Nebraska’s assistant director of agriculture, says even though the state was not hit as hard as others, they want to be prepared.

“Our poultry sector, even though it’s smaller, for those folks that were impacted, it was a big impact,” Kriz-Wickham says. “So it’s very important to us that we can help them think about their biosecurity measures this fall.”

Kriz-Wickham says the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a fall plan last week which builds on the lessons learned from the earlier outbreak. The plan reinforces efforts by the agency and poultry producers to focus on increases surveillance and biosecurity to prevent another outbreak.

“USDA’s put a lot of work into coming up with some best practices,” she says. “We’re having the industry folks in next week to talk about some of the things they can do to protect themselves even more so and I’m hearing that poultry producers are taking measures to do just that.”

Kriz-Wickham says the plan emphasizes the need to respond quickly to prevent rapid spread of the disease.

Nebraska’s poultry industry is worth an estimated $1.1-billion dollars a year.

Two major poultry operations in northeast Nebraska’s Dixon County were hit by outbreaks of bird flu this year. More than three-and-a-half million chickens died or were destroyed, along with another one-and-a-half million pullets.

Next door, Iowa was the worst-hit state by bird flu, with more than 70 outbreaks in 18 counties that resulted in the loss of more than 34-million birds.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton