July 24, 2014

Large chicken farm proposed for southeastern Nebraska

Gage County leaders will consider a special permit next week for a proposed poultry operation that would be one of the state’s largest. The facility would be built near Blue Springs with six buildings to house more than 150,000 chickens.

James Zimmerman says he’s researched modern methods used by MBA Poultry near Tecumseh where 26 barns are computer-regulated for temperature and airflow.

“When you walked in there and kicked the litter, the litter was actually dry and how they keep it dry is the computer system,” Zimmerman says. “It constantly regulates everything inside the building. The building is completely closed. That’s how they keep the odor down.”

Forty-six nearby property owners have been notified of the plan. The nearest residence is over a half-mile away, meeting county zoning regulations. A management plan for the operation has been submitted to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, regarding control of animal waste.

Addressing the issue of potential odor, Zimmerman’s wife Marie says they have a significant stake in making sure the operation is run properly.

“We will do what we’re supposed to,” Mrs. Zimmerman says. “We will maintain the buildings like we’re supposed to. This is our livlihood. This is where we’ll get our income and this is what we really truly want to do and we want to do it the right way. There isn’t anything we haven’t researched. We’re going to be living there.”

Gage County is one of several that have been earned the identification as “livestock friendly” in Nebraska and the operators are making a good faith effort to be good neighbors.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice


Pierce elevator closure may cost dozens of farmers several million dollars

Losses from the financial collapse of the Pierce grain elevator are still being tallied but estimates find some 200 farmers lost nearly $10-million dollars.

Nicole Mulcahy, legal counsel for the Nebraska Public Service Commission, says there will be some payback to farmers affected by the bankruptcy, including two bonds worth around $880,000.

“Valid owners, storers or depositors of grain will get some recovery, a higher level of recovery, if they can prove they’re a valid owner of grain in the warehouse,” Mucahy says. “They will get some of the proceeds from the sale of the grain and there’s also a bond on the warehouse side to help cover that.”

There’s more money from sale of the grain at the elevator which the commission took control of after the closure. Mulcahy says not everyone will be getting the majority of their investment back. Dozens of farmers may lose a large portion of a combined $4-million.

“The folks that did some direct shipping, their grain never went to the elevator but was sold to a third party that never got their money, they’re going to have a lesser recovery,” she says. “There’s only a $300,000 bond to cover those types of transactions. They’re looking at under 10-cents on the dollar for those.”

The Public Service Commission hopes to get nearly five-million dollars from selling the grain the elevator held when it closed, but that’s a far cry from the estimated nine-point-seven million in losses.

Mulcahy says the Nebraska legislature may have to look at starting some type of indemnity fund in order to protect farmers who sell their grain. She says that would be up to lawmakers.

“There’s been discussions about that and it’s never gotten any traction,” Mulcahy says. “I think there might be some discussions again taking place with the legislature in 2015 about the possibility at least.”

The Pierce elevator closed earlier this year when its credit was cancelled by the Citizen’s State Bank of Laurel.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton



Creighton survey: Economy on the upswing in June

GossA monthly survey of business leaders in Nebraska and eight other Midwestern states shows the region’s economy during June was in its best shape in more than three years, since March of 2011.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says growth in domestic and export orders over the past three months was very strong.

“New orders, new export orders, new domestic orders are at the highest level since 2010,” Goss says. “Obviously, that’s a bit after the recession ended but that’s real good. If they’re getting orders today, that translates later on to employment and that translates later on to production and that’s good.”

Goss says the jobs situation is improving both in Nebraska and across the Midwest. The Creighton surveys indicate Nebraska’s expansion will continue, with state employment rising to record levels in the months ahead.

“We have nine questions we ask each month and one of them is: How’s your employment? Surged, surged to its highest level in two years, that’s obviously good,” Goss says. “Where is the growth? Durable goods manufacturing is really good, we’re seeing that and it’s connected to energy and that’s connected to agriculture.”

The survey finds businesses in Nebraska and across the region are expecting health insurance premiums to rise more than seven-percent by next year. Another fear, Goss says, is how much we’re paying in our monthly power bills and at the grocery store.

“We’re concerned about inflation,” Goss says. “We’re concerned about food inflation. We’re concerned about energy inflation and how that effects the overall economy. I’m not saying it’s up to the level of concern but it is an issue.”

Goss says China’s recent decision to reject importing U.S. dried distillers’ grains, or DDGs, due to concerns over bioengineered corn, is a risk to Nebraska’s large bioenergy sector, especially if other nations follow suit.

Nebraska is the nation’s second-largest producer of DDGs, behind only Iowa. DDGs are a byproduct of the ethanol-making process. China now buys between one-fourth and one-third of the total U.S. output of DDGs.

As beef prices rise, so do sales of controversial FTB product

Sales of the product called “finely textured beef” are rebounding as meat prices rise and consumers seek cheaper alternatives.

Production dropped two years ago when the term “pink slime” flooded the airwaves and the Internet.

Cargill and BPI shut down plants where they produced the product.

Mike Martin, a Cargill spokesman, says sales dropped off by 80% but they’re coming back.

“We’re currently in the neighborhood of about 60% of our current capacity to produce finely textured beef,” Martin says.

Cargill does not plan to reopen the plants that shut down. Some stores quit carrying the beef product while others added labels.

Cargill and BPI say with beef prices rising, more retailers and restaurants are returning to buy the product made from beef trimmings and treated to reduce bacteria.

Erik Connolly, spokesman for BPI, recalls what happened in March of 2012 during what he calls the “disinformation campaign,” which is subject of a lawsuit.

Connolly says, “Our sales decreased significantly, since then, our sales have come up some.”

BPI is suing ABC News for defamation. BPI closed three factories in 2012 that made the product, in Kansas, Texas and Iowa, eliminating some 700 jobs.

Only one plant remains open in South Sioux City, Nebraska.


Siouxland lands another air carrier, starting today

Frontier Airlines is returning flights between Sioux City, Iowa, and Denver, Colorado, today, after cancelling the route in 2008 when the company filed Chapter 11. Last year, Frontier was purchased by Indigo Partners, which provides low-cost air transportation.

Frontier spokeswoman Tyri Squyres says the airline is returning because it believes Sioux City has a strong market for leisure and business travel.

“In the U.S., there’s a definitely room for true low-cost service,” Squyres says. “In the European market, it’s much more competitive and there are a variety of offerings in low-cost air travel that in the U.S. we just frankly don’t have yet.”

Frontier, which is based in Denver, will be Sioux Gateway’s second airline. American Airlines flies from Sioux City to Chicago daily.

The Sioux City-to-Denver service will be different from the flights offered six years ago. Instead of a small turboprop aircraft, Frontier will now use a bigger plane, an Airbus 319.

“We have found a much more successful model in a lower frequency — three times a week — with a larger aircraft, with approximately 138 seats a flight. So, by adding more seats, we can offer lower fares,” Squyres said.

The first Sioux City to Denver flight is scheduled for take off at 6:40 A-M.