Monthly Archives: March 2016
On March 15, 2016, we will celebrate National Ag Day. The Agricultural Council of America began celebrating Ag Day in 1973 with the desire to recognize and celebrate the contribution of agriculture in our everyday lives. This program encourages every American to understand how food and fiber products are produced; value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy; and appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant, and affordable products.
Today, each American farmer feeds more than 144 people which is a large increase from 25 people in the 1960s. Today’s farmers also produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared with 1950. Farm and ranch families comprise just two percent of the U.S. population. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, America’s rural landscape is comprised of around 2.2 million farms with 97 percent of U.S. farms being operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations.
Regarding Nebraska, the Nebraska Department of Ag reports in its “2016 Ag Facts” card that cash receipts contributed almost $25 billion to Nebraska’s economy in 2014 and 5.9 percent of the U.S. total.
- Nebraska’s ten leading commodities (in order of value) for 2014 cash receipts are cattle and calves, corn, soybean, hogs, wheat, dairy products, chicken eggs, hay, dry bean and potatoes.
- Every dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.27 in economic activities such as transportation, financing, warehousing and production.
- Nebraska’s $7.2 billion in agricultural exports in 2014 translates into $9.2 billion in additional economic activity.
- Nebraska’s top five agricultural exports in 2014 were soybean and soybean meal, corn, beef and veal, feeds and fodder, and hides and skins.
- Nebraska had 49,100 farms and ranches during 2014; the average operation consisted of 921 acres.
- In 2014, Nebraska had 25 operating ethanol plants with a total production capacity of 2.125 billion gallons.
- Nebraska ranked 2nd among states in ethanol production and utilized 43% of the state’s 2014 corn crop.
- Livestock or poultry operations were found on 49% of Nebraska farms.
- 1 in 4 jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture.
- From east to west, Nebraska experiences a 4,584 foot elevation difference and the average annual precipitation decreases by one inch every 25 miles.
- Between 2007-2012, Nebraska experienced a 5% increase in the number of farms and 10% increase in the number of new farmers.
Future of Agriculture
As we look at the future of agriculture, many challenges and opportunities lie ahead. We are tasked with feeding over 9 billion people by 2050 with less land and water resources and more efficient inputs…essentially do more with even less while being environmentally sustainable. Water quantity and quality will continue to be important. We are in an exciting time of technological advancements providing numerous opportunities for young people to attain careers in agriculture. Technological advancements with seed and animal genetics; variable rate applications of fertilizer, water, seed/hybrids and other inputs; the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), satellite, or other aerial technologies; and much more. Perhaps the largest challenge agriculture faces is the continually growing disconnect between our consumers and from where their food originates. Social media, internet, TV personalities, and activist groups have done much to share mis-information and spread fear regarding production agriculture. Many farm families are working to share their own farm stories which is wonderful and I would encourage more to do so! Perhaps in some ways we in agriculture are our own worst enemies? I wonder if we could exponentially change the course of this growing disconnect if by instead of the divisions that occur based on production practices and marketing we would unite together under a common mission? Perhaps one of providing the opportunity of consumer choice in a world where our ultimate goal is to provide a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply?
In May of 2004, I was a new college graduate beginning my career in Extension in Clay County. Extension is pretty nebulous when one begins…it’s about making connections and determining the needs of the people we serve.
First Days and Week
I remember the first day of my career being met in the field by two great educators in Gary Zoubek and Andy Christiansen as we discussed an on-farm research project; I was blessed to be mentored by them to understand what good Extension looked like. That weekend, we had a tornado go through the county. I remember Monday morning receiving a call from Andy letting me know it was my job to drive the county and help document the damage for the Farm Service Agency. Not knowing anyone, Deanna Peshek, our office manager, graciously volunteered to drive me around pointing out farmsteads and letting me look at fields. Since that first time, we’ve unfortunately had many tornadoes, wind/hail storms in which damage has been documented and where we’ve all worked together to help communities/farmsteads clean up and help farmers make the best decisions. It’s always been special to watch people throughout the county and area come together to help each other.
I’m grateful to those farmers who early on introduced themselves and gave me permission to look at their fields each week so I had a better handle on crop problems and diseases. I’ve been blessed to have worked with wonderful on-farm research cooperators through the years and with NRDs/Extension/many farmers/consultants in Clay and the surrounding area with installing moisture sensors/ET gages for irrigation scheduling and in diagnosing crop problems. There are farmers/home-owners who befriended me, always taking time to chat when I went to look at their fields/lawns/trees or took time to stop in the office to visit; grateful for these friendships! Fair time has always been such a special time for me; our fair is a true gem. Very few counties can say the Fair Board, Extension Board, 4-H Council, and Extension staff all get along-and that is true of Clay County! Beyond that, we have great livestock quality, competition, and sportsmanship amongst our families which is how it should be. The focus of youth/families at the Clay County Fair has also been a blessing to me. The closing of South Central Research and Extension Center and restructure into the South Central Ag Lab had occurred a few years before I was hired, yet the excellent research conducted there remained with dedicated technicians, staff, and researchers with whom I’ve been blessed to work in addition to those at USMARC and GPVEC. And, I’ve been so blessed in Clay county and surrounding area to have relationships with newspaper staff who understand that ag drives our local economies and who strive to work with Extension. I’m also grateful for the team of ladies I’ve worked with in the Extension office and faculty and staff in surrounding counties as we’ve all worked together to serve our constituents.
I’ve reflected much the past month on numerous blessings God has provided me in this position since I began in Clay County. Recently, I chose to accept a new challenge in my life by accepting the York/Seward crops/water educator position which will begin April 1. This was a very difficult decision for me; one I haven’t taken lightly and one which has been bathed in prayer. I know this is where God is leading me. That doesn’t come without sadness of leaving as the people of Clay County and this surrounding area are truly special.
Thank you for welcoming this young gal straight out of college and eventually trusting me to share research-based information with you, help you with decisions including the farm bill, look at your fields/lawns/gardens/trees, and in many cases build relationships. I will always be grateful to all of you for how you helped me and all you’ve taught me through the years!!! I’ve been assured the Clay county crops/water position with accountability region for Nuckolls/Thayer/Fillmore will be refilled and in the meantime, I will continue to assist this area in addition to my new one. Please do be patient with us during this transition. I’m thankful that agriculture is so connected and that there will be opportunities to connect at meetings in the future. Thank you again for your support of our Extension office and of me!
- FSA Farm Bill meeting March 17 at 1:30 p.m. at Clay Co. Fairgrounds
- Water Conservation in the Landscape gardening program April 14th from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the Clay Co. Fairgrounds
- Lawn Care program April 21st from 5:30-7:00 p.m., Clay Co. Fairgrounds