This week, I’d like to share some information that came out in a white paper from the UNL Agricultural Economics Department on the special relationship we have here in Nebraska between crops, livestock, and biofuel production capacity not found in other parts of the U.S. to the extent we have here. It’s called the “Nebraska Advantage”.
I think it’s important for all of ag industry to realize we need each other as it seems we sometimes forget how inter-dependent we are. Crop producers need the livestock and ethanol industries as they are a high percentage of our end users. Yet many times I hear of crop producers fighting livestock expansion or livestock coming into an area. The purpose of the white paper was to share the numbers of where Nebraska livestock, grain production, and ethanol production currently stands, and what Nebraska could gain if we worked to increase livestock production in-state where we have a wealth of resources with our crops, water, and biofuel production.
Nebraska currently ranks 1st in irrigated acres, 1st in commercial red meat production and is tied with Texas for cattle on feed, 2nd in corn-based ethanol production, 3rd in corn for grain production, 4th in soybean productions, 6th in all hogs and pigs, and 7th in commercial hog slaughter, and 9th in table egg layers. However, in reading this white paper, one quickly realizes we’re not taking advantage of the tremendous grain production capacity here in the State.
We export over 1/3 of our annual corn crop, at least half of the in-state production of distiller’s grains (a co-product from ethanol production that is fed to livestock), and more than 80% of our soybean meal output. Corn and soybean production have increased in our State by 50 and 25% respectively, which is a blessing due to our irrigation capacity. But increasing amounts of this grain are being shipped out-state instead of benefiting rural economies in Nebraska if it was used in-state for value-added livestock production and processing instead.
In the white paper, graphs are shown comparing Nebraska to neighboring states. These graphs show Nebraska lagging neighboring states in growth of the livestock industry. For example, while Nebraska overall increased in hog production, the inventory increased 17.2% during the first half of the decade, but declined 11.8% in the second half. In comparison, Iowa realized an increase of 31.5% within the decade. What was really interesting to me is the fact that Nebraska exports 2.5 million pigs annually to neighboring states to be finished and shipped back to Nebraska for processing, showing potential for growth in the market hog sector. The dairy sector has also declined in herd numbers in Nebraska compared to other states and Nebraska’s poultry industry (mostly egg laying hens) has declined over the past decade in spite of constant numbers across the U.S.
When one looks at Nebraska’s economy, cash receipts from all farm commodities totaled over $25.6 billion in 2012 and livestock/livestock product sales was 45% of this total ($11.6 billion). Increased employment, local tax revenue, value-added activity, and manure for fertilizer are all economic benefits of livestock expansion. The paper stated,
A base expansion scenario that includes a 25% increase in market hogs, a doubling of dairy cow numbers, a ten percent increase in fed cattle production and a tripling of egg production, along with the associated processing industries, has the potential to provide an additional 19,040 jobs, with labor income of almost $800 million and value-added activity of over $1.4 billion. This activity has the potential to generate over $38 million in local tax revenue. While this amounts to a fairly small percentage of Nebraska’s total economy, these impacts will occur almost entirely in non-metropolitan areas of the state and would be quite beneficial to rural economies.
Livestock development has been held back by various issues and policies including: limitations on corporate farming activity in Nebraska, state and local permitting processes, nuisance roles and lawsuits, and issues/concerns from the general public and interest groups. The final conclusion of the paper was that significant growth in employment and economic output throughout Nebraska is dependent upon these issues being overcome.
I would challenge all of us to keep an open mind when producers desire to diversify by including livestock in their operations or through livestock expansion. In many cases, doing so allows another person to come back to an operation, or allows someone to get started farming, which in the long run benefits our rural economies. It’s ok to ask questions, to become more educated. It’s through these questions that one learns how production practices have changed to ensure the health and welfare of our livestock and in odor reduction from the facility and manure application. You can read the entire white paper contents here.
A few weeks ago I shared some thoughts with you regarding what I learned from an animal welfare conference. We have an opportunity to hear more in at a much closer location-Sutton Community Center in Sutton-on March 12th at 6:00 p.m. Dewey Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator will be presenting on “Protecting Nebraska Agriculture” following a meal sponsored by the Sutton Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee as well as area Cattlemen Associations, Breeders & Feeders, and Ag Producer groups. Anyone interested is invited to attend-and I would encourage anyone who possibly can to attend. This topic not only affects livestock producers, it affects crop producers, and consumers as well. It’s very important to understand how various interest groups are attacking animal agriculture and why and how we in rural America can share our stories. Please pre-register by contacting Tory Duncan at (402) 773-5576 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Todd Mau at (402) 773-5224 or email@example.com.
Another opportunity for learning more about family farm transition is with the last Farmers/Ranchers College program this year. It will be March 15 in Friend at the San Carlos Community Room (next to the Pour House) with meal beginning at 6:00 p.m. (Registration at 5:30 p.m.) The program entitled “Discussing the Undiscussabull” will be presented by Elaine Froese from Manitoba, Canada. Froese’s expertise in helping families get unstuck is sought after across the country. She has worked with families in business for over 20 years and is now coaching the next generation. Elaine believes that change is an opportunity, not a threat…she has practical tools to help people discuss the “undiscussabull” to make their dreams come true. In order to save your spot and reserve a meal, registration is needed by calling the Fillmore County Extension office at (402) 759-3712. The Farmers & Ranchers College is sponsored by area agribusiness, commodity groups in collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.
On Tuesday last week I attended the Animal Welfare and Current Industry Issus for Livestock Producers seminar in Lincoln. I’ve attended several of these seminars in the past year to increase my understanding of how people in groups who attack animal agriculture think. Please check out this resource page from UNL Extension containing fact sheets and taped seminars on animal welfare topics. A survey done by K-State showed that 66% of those surveyed had not been on a farm in the past five years where eggs, meat, or milk were produced. While we live in a rural area, this very much still applies to rural Nebraska.
Dr. Candace Croney from Purdue University spoke about her experiences with the ballot initiative in Ohio. She shared much about the way people think about animal welfare issues. We have what’s considered the “Disney effect” which influences the way we view animals. I would venture to say we all watch Disney movies or have given a stuffed toy to someone. Think about it; the animals in those movies can talk, show emotion, and don’t eat each other. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those movies; I’m just saying they personify animals which can influence how we view animals.
I grew up on a farm and we had many farm dogs over the years that we loved and cared for but they lived outside. I never would have imagined I would have two inside dogs now that I’m married. But those dogs have become like family to me as they have been here for me every time my husband has been gone with the military. Croney said, “Animal welfare issues aren’t really about animals; they’re about what animals represent to us.” Picture in your mind a dog and a pig. Croney says, “The question for many people is how can you love the one and eat the other?” To me, it’s simple. I believe God created animals to provide our needs-food, shelter, clothing, and companionship. But for those who really struggle with this question, there are two options available to them to help ease their conscience. 1-They can donate to a cause that portrays itself as helping animals to make themselves feel better or 2-There is a free option of voting for ballot initiatives when they come up in the State. Please don’t think Nebraska is immune! There’s already a group within Nebraska who is working with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). For those of you who don’t know, HSUS is not your local animal shelter. It’s an organization out to ban animal agriculture as we know it. If you don’t believe it, read their information. The other important thing to note in their information is their goal to divide sectors of production agriculture. For example, organic vs. conventional ag or various ag commodity groups against each other. We’re watching this unfold before our very eyes in Nebraska right now. It’s very important that all sectors of agriculture stand together!
There’s been an effort to educate via social media. Croney pointed out that often we are talking to ourselves; preaching to the choir. We need to be reaching outlets that consumers are using such as Food Websites and TV programs. Common Ground is one organization that is doing this through farm wives and moms sharing their stories with consumers in local grocery stores. Ultimately, we need to learn how to engage in conversation. Our message has often been “we provide safe affordable food for our families and the world”….we need to understand that consumers and those concerned about animal rights also have a compassion for animals and a concern for knowing how they were raised. While there are always a few bad apples in any industry, most livestock producers take care of our animals before we take care of ourselves. We need to listen to the concerns expressed by individuals and address their concerns by explaining why we do the things we do.
There’s so much more to share; these issues affect consumers as well as our producers! For now, please consider attending a local event to be held March 12 at 6:00 p.m. at the Sutton Community Center in Sutton. Dewey Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator, will be presenting on “Protecting Animal Agriculture-Animal Rights & Other Issues”. The meeting is being sponsored by the Sutton Chamber of Commerce and Ag Committee in addition to area Cattlemen Associations, Breeders & Feeders, and Ag Producer groups. Please pre-register to Tory Duncan at (402) 773-5576 firstname.lastname@example.org or Todd Mau at (402) 773-5224 email@example.com.
Also, a reminder about the Cornhusker Economics Conference to be held February 29th at the Clay Co. Fairgrounds. There’s truly something for everyone involved with production agriculture whether livestock, crops, marketing, or cash leases. There is a $25 registration fee. Perhaps check with your financial institution to see if they will offer a scholarship to attend this beneficial conference. Please RSVP to me by Feb. 22 at firstname.lastname@example.org or (402) 762-3644 so we can get a meal count.