2019: The Year in Review


January

Speakers offer wealth of information for farmers, ranchers

GERING, Neb. – Area farmers and ranchers heard updates on a range of topics, from new legislation to the future of beans and peas, at the sixth-annual WESTCO Producers Conference in January.

Several speakers hosted presentations at the Gering Civic Center on Thursday, including University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Dr. Greg McKee and New Alliance merchandiser Jon Sperl.

McKee reported on the importance of cooperatives to rural communities, such as creating benefits as a membership. To this point, he said the relatively new Section 199A deduction – which allows cooperatives to deduct 20 percent of their qualified business income – only exists because of cooperatives and offers financial benefits and the opportunity to provide farmers with more efficient service.

“You should be very excited about the health of Nebraska cooperatives,” McKee said.

Sperl spoke on the current and projected status of bean and pea markets, saying tariff issues will have to be resolved and have “cost millions and millions and millions of dollars in inefficiencies in the marketplace.

“The good news, around the world, though – pea protein consumption is increasing, pet food demand is growing … India’s needs cannot be met without North American supplies,” he said.

February

Producers, industry reps gather for Dry Bean Day

GERING, Neb. – From the latest research on direct harvest of pinto beans to the outlook for the coming year, the information was coming fast and furious in February during the 2019 Nebraska Dry Bean Day at the Civic Center in Gering.

Cindi Allen, assistant Secretary of State and former, three-term member of the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission, told the group of recent overseas trips where she found the potential is there for new markets for Nebraska-grown beans.

“In the Secretary of State’s office, I’m not letting them forget about beans,” she said. 

One part of her trip included a visit to Tanzania with an international food aid group, where she witnessed first-hand the effects of malnutrition and learned dry edible beans could be a solution to the problem. A primary emergency food source in areas where malnutrition runs rampant is a flour made of a mix of corn and soy. But it doesn’t solve the major problem of stunted growth, which affects people even after they’re grown.

“We talked about the use of bean flour,” Allen said. “Helping them to understand the super-food dry beans actually are and what it could add.”

Rather than a short-term solution to a problem, the corn-soy flour mixture becomes a food staple in Tanzania and many other relief areas around the world. The group also talked about incorporating Nebraska-grown dry edible beans into school lunch programs, where the protein and other attributes of beans could have the most benefit, she said.

“Today, 200 million people are in need of food assistance in Yemen,” Allen said. “I learned they’re looking for white beans, importing 10 to 15 metric tons of white beans per month to feed people in Yemen and they have yet to hear from the United States.”

Day predicts good growing season at Meyer Seeds Crop Shop

TORRINGTON, Wyo. – Farmers in the WyoBraska region can look forward to good moisture over the next few months, as well as average summer temperatures, as they plan their planting strategies for 2019. 

At the Winter Crop Shop hosted by Meyer Seed in February at the Bucking House Steakhouse in Torrington, meteorologist Don Day, of DayWeather, told attendees projected forecasts for the next few months could heavily favor their efforts. According to Day, the area is about to experience a cold snap over the next few months that will bring lots of moisture to the area and build the snowpack in the Wyoming Rocky Mountains. 

“What we are going into right now, and what happened last week in the Midwest, is that we are going into the core of the colder part of winter,” he said. “It’s about ready to get colder, it’s about ready to get more active and it’s about ready to get more stormy. 

“That means good news for the snowpack, that means good news for spring in terms of moisture that’s coming.”

March

UW studies how cover crops, high rates of compost affect soil health

LARAMIE, Wyo. – A long-term experiment by the University of Wyoming near Lingle is studying if dryland wheat farmers can become organically certified through use of compost and cover crops to improve soil health.

Starting in 2015, researchers from the ecosystem science and management and plant sciences departments in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources looked into how soil health and wheat are affected by applying a high rate of compost once every 10 years – as many as 18 tons per acre, followed with cover crops.  

The study is at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center and collaborating farms.

“The purpose of planting the cover crops is attenuating nitrogen through the cover crop biomass and perhaps create additional benefits to winter wheat by returning cover crop organic matter to the soil,” said Urszula Norton, an associate professor of agroecology in the plant sciences department.

The cover crops are:

• Pure stand of Lacy phacelia

• Cold-season nitrogen-fixer mix of spring pea, vetch, lentils, chick peas and oats

• A mycorrhizal mix of vetch, bean, oats, barley, Flax.

• Cool-season soil-builder mix of barley, oats, spring pea, lentil, sunflower.

The cover crops are expected to provide many benefits. A combination of the nitrogen taken up by the plants from soil as a nutrient and atmospheric nitrogen fixed by the leguminous plant species in the cover crop mixture (peas, lentils), all eventually converted into cover crop biomass, will break down and decompose in the soil, providing winter wheat a more useable form of plant nutrients.

Sequenced genome of ancient crop could raise yields

LINCOLN, Neb. – Humanity has finally gotten to know one of its oldest, hardiest crops on a genetic level. 

An international team has sequenced and mapped the genome of proso millet – a feat essential to raising yields of the drought-resistant crop in the Nebraska Panhandle and semiarid regions where population booms foreshadow food shortages. 

Because millets can grow amid infertile soils and yield food with less water than any other grain, several of them have become popular among subsistence farmers in ever-hotter, drier swaths of Africa and Asia. But the relatively low yields of the crops, combined with traits that make them difficult to harvest, have limited their viability as a food, feed or fuel staple. 

To inform future breeding and genetic modification efforts, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s James Schnable and his colleagues recently sequenced more than 90 percent of the genetic code in proso millet, a species grown mostly in the American Great Plains, northern China and parts of Europe. 

The ability to pinpoint the location, composition and size of the species’ genes should help researchers improve its traits while tailoring it to climates around the world, Schnable said. 

“There’s potential to grow it on a much larger scale and take a significant bite out of the amount of additional grain we need to meet the demand for feed and food and ethanol,” said Schnable, assistant professor of agronomy and horticulture. “If you look at proso millet (yields), we’re where corn was in the 1930s. But we’ve learned a lot (since then) that … we think we can apply to proso millet. 

“It’s sort of like when you’ve been pushing a really heavy boulder up a hill, and now somebody wants you to push a cardboard box up that hill. You’ve built all these muscles, and now you can go really, really fast.” 

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – Scottsbluff FFA Chapter attended the State FFA Convention April 3-5 in Lincoln, Neb. 

Twenty-seven FFA members competed in nine different events. The ag mechanics team of Jayden Allen, Cody Hagen, Blake Hill, and Jakob Ratliff received 11th place overall. The floriculture team received 33rd place overall. The team consisted of Emzie Coop, Anna Teson, Kaidynce Lygeros, and Graham Kovorick. 

The junior livestock judging team of Allison Carpenter, Jade Painter, Macee McConkey, and Whitney Castillo-Powell received 26th place overall.

The senior livestock judging team of Lauren Nichols – who placed fourth individually – MarLee Neu, Carson Wilmot, and Emily Carpenter placed fifth overall.

Legislature mulls Nebraska hemp bill

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – Hemp production has a history in Nebraska, and it looks like the versatile crop has a decent chance of returning to farmer’s fields in the next few years – as long as it can get past the Nebraska legislature. 

Nebraska would be following the lead of Wyoming and several other states if LB657, which was introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne, were to become law. The 2018 Farm Bill reclassified hemp as an agricultural product as opposed to controlled substance, and those states have legalized it as a means to diversify and grow their economies. 

The bill would legalize the growth and cultivation of hemp, which is a cultivar of Cannabis sativa. It’s a cousin of marijuana, but it does not have enough THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, to get a user high. 

What it can do, according to some of its proponents, is be manufactured into more than 25,000 products, from building materials, to textiles, to CBD oil – a health supplement said to cure epilepsy, anxiety and a host of other maladies. 

“Hemp production is coming, one way or another, and rather than being out of the business for two to three years, it’s important we get in now,” Wayne told the Lincoln Journal-Star.

Wayne’s bill, dubbed the Nebraska Hemp Act, would outline testing procedures to ensure Nebraska hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC, as well as set up a registration procedure, licensing and fee requirements and enforcement requirements. 

Hemp was last legally grown in Nebraska during World War II, and the resulting fibers were used for the war effort. At that time, Wayne said, Nebraska was the top hemp producer. It dates back to 1880 in the Cornhusker State, when the first successful crop was grown in the Fremont area. 

May

Project could breathe life into old crop

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – The humble dandelion, long the bane of suburban homeowners and lawn care specialists alike, may find new life – and new appreciation – as a boon crop in the United States.

It all depends on the results of a cross-country research project Nevin Lawrence, University of Nebraska Integrated Weed Management Specialist at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, is working on with researchers at Ohio State University and Oregon State University.

The research isn’t actually focused on the common dandelion, who’s bright yellow flowers and powder-puff seed heads grace – or deface – lawns across the country. The subject of this study is a special variety, which produces a sap which contains a very special product – natural rubber.

All of the world’s natural rubber for everything from car tires to soles for shoes to belts for industry comes from a handful of plantations located in southeast Asia. The plantations moved there decades ago after a disease wiped out the plantations in the native land of the Brazilian rubber tree.

“It’s harvested similarly to maple syrup,” Lawrence said. “You hammer a spigot into a tree and collect (the sap) in buckets. It’s very labor intensive, very difficult.”

Research on rubber from dandelions is focused on the root, which will grow to about the size of a smaller carrot by the time they’re ready to harvest, he said. 

Initial research into the rubber dandelions really came into its own during World War II. Because the only sources of rubber were under threat of Japanese blockades, U.S. officials were worried.

Synthetic forms of rubber were available, but they aren’t as high a quality as natural rubber, Lawrence said. Only natural rubber tires can stand up to the extremes of supporting aircraft – first bombers and fighters in World War II and jet airliners today, he said.

The initial research focused on three areas: Growing Brazilian rubber trees in Florida, a specific species of desert shrub which also produced a sap with the necessary compounds and the rubber dandelions, also known as the Russian dandelion, which is native to the Central Asian nation Kazakhstan.

Historic Saddle Club Royalty crowned

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – Brittany Perlinger of Mitchell was crowned Historic Saddle Club Queen in the first royalty contest held in almost a decade.

Kayden Singpiel, also of Mitchell will serve as Historic Saddle Club Princess and Natalie Zieler of Minatare will represent the Historic Saddle Club as Jr. Princess. Miss Congeniality, voted on by the other contestants, is Nevaeh Laeger of Minatare.

The Historic Saddle Club Royalty Contest was held on Saturday, May 4, at the club located on West Overland in Scottsbluff. This is the first year the contest has been held since 2000.

The competition included a written test about horses, horsemanship and current events, a personal interview with impromptu questions asked by a panel of judges, a horsemanship reining pattern and congeniality.

Historic Saddle Club Royalty will have many duties throughout the year including representing the Historic Saddle Club in a positive manner at all times, attending local and regional events and parades, awards presentations, posting the colors at horse shows and events held at the Historic Saddle Club and crowning incoming royalty. 

Winners in each category received a crown, buckle, sash and gifts donated by local sponsors.

June

Nebraska legalizes the nation’s newest cash crop

LINCOLN, Neb. – After a fierce, and at times bizarre, debate in the Nebraska Legislature, Nebraska farmers will soon be able to attempt to find their place in the growing industrial hemp market, as soon as the state’s plan is approved by the United States Department of Agriculture. 

Governor Pete Ricketts signed the bill into law on May 30. The Nebraska Hemp Farming Act reclassified hemp into a legal and viable agricultural crop. Federally, hemp was legalized in the 2018 federal farm bill. The bill passed the legislature in a landslide, 43-4. 

Senator Justin Wayne, of Omaha, introduced the bill. He told the Lincoln Journal-Star that the bill would allow Nebraska to join Wyoming and 40 other states that have enacted laws to legalize hemp farming, and that hemp could be a $1 billion industry in the state.

“Hemp production is coming, one way or another, and rather than being out of the business for two to three years, it’s important we get in now,” Wayne said. 

Wayne’s bill outlines testing procedures to ensure Nebraska hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in hemp’s cousin, marijuana. It also set up a registration procedure, licensing and fee requirements and enforcement requirements. 

Hemp was last legally grown in Nebraska during World War 2, and the resulting fibers were used for the war effort. At that time, Wayne said, Nebraska was the top hemp producer. It dates back to 1880 in the Cornhusker State, when the first successful crop was grown in the Fremont area. 

Hemp has experienced a resurgence in U.S. markets recently. Hemp proponents claim the plant has over $25,000 uses, including textiles, building materials and health supplements like CBD oil and protein supplements. The Colorado Department of Agriculture has also tested hemp as a supplement in cattle feed. 

4-Hers boost leaderships skills and civic engagement through 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus

A group of 27 4-H members from the southern Panhandle learned about political processes in the living classroom of the nation’s capital as part of Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF), an intensive 4-H civic engagement program for high-school youth held at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, MD.

The youths engaged with youths from five other states in lively but civil discussion and debate of several current issues, then drafted and debated bills to address those issues. They also spent much of the week venturing out into Washington, D.C., touring government agencies, monuments and memorials, and meeting with Congressional representatives.

The western Nebraska group was joined at the week-long CWF session by 4-H delegations from Utah, Montana, Illinois, South Carolina and North Dakota. Altogether, 140 4-Hers took part.

Among the other groups who shared the CWF experience this summer was a 4-H delegation from north-central Nebraska, with 41 from Cherry County and one from Wheeler County. They attended the first of six weekly sessions (the week before the Panhandle group), with sight-seeing stops in Chicago, Cleveland, and Gettysburg along the way to the National 4-H Center.

July

Whittier receives fellow award for Extension from American Society of Animal Science

SCOTTS BLUFF COUNTY, Neb. – Dr. Jack Whittier is the recipient of the 2019 American Society of Animal Science Fellow Award for Extension, presented to him during the opening ceremony of the 2019 ASAS-CSAS annual meeting held in Austin, Texas.

Whittier, a 36-year member and 6-year board member of the ASAS, was raised on a livestock and crop farm in Utah and received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Utah State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska. He has been Director of the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff since 2014. Prior to UNL, for 28 years, he was an Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at the University of Missouri and later at Colorado State University, focused on beef cow nutrition and reproduction.

He has given several hundred presentations to producer audiences and initiated the Colorado Ranch Practicum, Colorado Nutrition Roundtable, Robert Taylor Memorial Beef Symposium, CSU Beef Team, and AI training schools. He also provided support and leadership for the CSU Integrated Resource Management Program, Western Beef Committee’s Cow/calf Management Guide, Colorado Animal Identification Task Force, eXtension Beef Community of Practice, and Range Beef Cow Symposium.

The ASAS Fellow Award for Extension recognizes a member of ASAS who has rendered very distinguished service to the animal industry and/or to the American Society of Animal Science and had continuous membership in the Society for a minimum of twenty-five years. This award is sponsored by the American Society of Animal Science. 

Irrigation tunnel collapse halts water flow, extent of damage unknown

WYOBRASKA – The Bureau of Reclamation has confirmed that an irrigation tunnel collapsed in the early morning hours south of Fort Laramie, Wyo., and that there is currently no water flowing out of Guernsey Reservoir.

According to Jay Dallman, spokesperson for the Bureau, Goshen Irrigation District (GID) personnel were notified of a situation along the canal early the morning of July 17.

“During the early morning hours today (July 17), somewhere around 3 or 3:30 a.m., the Goshen Irrigation District became aware of a problem in the Fort Laramie canal because of some high and low water alarms on the canal,” Dallman said. 

“When they investigated, they had this apparent collapse in the tunnel a mile and a half south of Fort Laramie. They then shut the water off at Whalen Dam.”

The GID officials then contacted the Bureau of Reclamation and requested to restrict water flows out of Guernsey Reservoir. Dallman said GID officials will have to figure out what to do with the water that has backed up due to the collapse before they can assess the damage. 

“They called us and asked if the reduce flows out of Guernsey reservoir, which we did,” Dallman said. “Now, there is no water going into the Fort Laramie canal. There are 13 miles of canal there, and that water has to go somewhere before we can get the tunnel de-watered to even do the inspection.”

Dallman said it is currently unknown how much of the tunnel has collapsed. 

August

Nebraska home to top beef counties

Nebraska, with 1.9 million beef cows, is the fourth-largest state by beef cow numbers.

Texas is America’s top beef cow state, with 4.57 million head. In fact, Texas boasts 14 percent of all the nation’s beef cows, yet only two Texas counties makes the top-25 list of America’s leading beef cow counties. Ranking number 13 on the list is Lavaca County with 67,102 cows, and Gonzales County at number 18 with 57,341 cows. Our top 25 beef cow counties was revealed in data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture released in April, 2019.

Similar to Texas, Missouri is America’s second-leading beef cow state with 2.16 million cows, yet only one county cracks the top-25, Polk at number 19 with 56,448 cows. And Oklahoma, the nation’s third-largest beef cow state, also put only one county, Osage, with 57,999 cows, into the top-25 beef cow county list.

One state, however, is home to the nation’s top four beef cow counties. (Note: This is a list of beef cows only. Feedlot and stocker cattle are not included in the list.)

Nebraska, with 1.9 million beef cows, the fourth-largest state by beef cow numbers, is home to the nation’s top four beef counties. Coming in at number four is Lincoln County, home to 80,188 beef cows. Custer County, NE is number three with 94,958 beef cows, and Holt County, Neb., is number two at 96,467 beef cows.

The nation’s top beef cow county is Cherry County, located in north-central Nebraska. Cherry County’s total number of beef cows is estimated by Drovers at 148,893.

Farm Service Agency expands payment options

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency is expanding its payment options to now accept debit cards and Automated Clearing House debit. These paperless payment options enable FSA customers to pay farm loan payments, measurement service fees, farm program debt repayments and administrative service fees, as well as, to purchase aerial maps.

“Our customers have spoken, and we’ve listened,” said Bill Northey, USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “Finding ways to improve customer service and efficiency is important for our farmers, ranchers, producers, and forest landowners who work hard for our nation every day. Now, our customers can make electronic payments instantly by stopping in our offices or calling over the phone.”

Previously, only cash, check, money orders and wires were accepted. By using debit cards and ACH debit, transactions are securely processed from the customer’s financial institution through Pay.gov, the U.S. Treasury’s online payment hub. 

While traditional collection methods like cash and paper checks will continue, offering the new alternatives will improve effectiveness and convenience to customers while being more cost effective. In 2017, the average cost to manually process checks, a process that included navigating multiple systems, cost USDA more than $4.6 million. The expanded payment options will cut the time employees take processing payments by 75 percent.

September

Panhandle Center specialist earns CSSA 

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – The Crop Science Society of America announced in September its 2019 Early Career Award recipient is Dr. Cody F. Creech, dryland cropping systems specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center.

The CSSA announced the award in a news release. It will be formally presented at the CSSA Awards Ceremony on Nov.13 during the scientific society’s annual conference at San Antonio, Texas.

The annual awards are presented for outstanding contributions to agronomy through education, national and international service, and research.

Creech, an Assistant Professor in the UNL Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Utah State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska.

His research and extension efforts focus on enhancing agronomic practices to increase profitability, optimizing soil water conservation, and delivering weed management solutions. His research has refined the seeding recommendations for winter wheat and evaluated the role wheat residue has in facilitating soil water conservation.

He is an active member of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and national and regional Weed Science societies. Cody serves as the faculty supervisor for the High Plains Ag Lab and as an associate editor for the Agronomy Journal. He is also a Robert B. Daugherty Institute Global Water for Food Faculty Fellow.

Harvest Festival entertains, teaches about ag history

GERING, Neb. – Anna May and Mitzi Byrd spent part of their day Saturday, digging potatoes like their grandparents might have.

It wasn’t forced labor. The girls, from Guernsey, came to the Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering to get a peek at the past through the 23rd annual Harvest Festival.

“It’s awesome,” said Mitzi, 9. “I love potatoes. If my dog, Cheyenne, were here, he’d be eating the potatoes and running around like crazy.”

David Wolf, executive director of the museum, said Harvest Festival came into being before the two parent museums – the Farm and Ranch Museum and the North Platte Valley Museum – merged several years ago.

“This was an event the Farm and Ranch Museum did as an opportunity to display their equipment from their collect,” Wolf said. “It shows the heritage of our region. 

“It’s to show young kids, and to remind people, this is how their grandfathers or fathers or they themselves used to farm – how hard it was, the equipment they used to farm.”

And teaching young people about everything that’s involved in getting food from the farm to the table is an important aspect of the day, and the overall mission of the museum, he said.

“That’s a huge thing we’re going to start pushing at our museum – farm-to-table,” Wolf said. It’s doesn’t come from a grocery store. There’s somebody out there with the skills and the labor to grow it, whether it’s vegetables or it’s crops or it’s livestock.”

Anna May Byrd, 10, agreed. Coming from a farming and ranching background herself, Anna May enjoyed the opportunity to learn.

“I think it’s turned out pretty fun,” Anna May said. “People like farmers and stuff, they work really hard to put food in the stores. We just pick it up from the store; we don’t actually work for it.”

October

Farm Safety Day promotes safety, on farm and in town

MITCHELL, Neb. – To the sounds of gasps of surprise at the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds on Sept. 26, a mannequin made of a pair of disposable coveralls filled with red balloons and tissue paper demonstrated why farm equipment can be dangerous.

A length of twine is tied to one of his hands and the other end is looped around the power takeoff drive connecting a slowly idling tractor to a hay bailer. At a nod from Gaelen Lane, a salesperson from HorizonWest Inc. implement dealership in Scottbluff, Neb., the PTO is engaged and the inevitable happens: Red balloons and tissue paper fly into the air as the paper coveralls wrap around the drive.

That’s why you never stick your hands into the PTO, Lane explains to the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade audience. And that’s the demonstrative power of the ninth annual Progressive Agriculture Farm Safety Day.

“Clear back in the 1980s or 1990s, I think, with the number of fatalities and injuries to children, Progressive Agriculture magazine decided they wanted to do something to keep kids safe,” said John Dillman, regional sales manager for BetaSeed in Scottsbluff and coordinator of the safety day events.

“They developed the Farm Safety Day events,” he said. “Now, there are safety days in nearly every state in the United States. They’re also in Canada and there are even a few in South America.”

The events quickly grew in popularity and organizers eventually broke away from the magazine to form their own organization focused on just teaching safe practices to children. Each year, the organization provides listings of 20 to 30 suggested presentation topics to local groups around the country. The local event is co-sponsored by the Agri-Business Committee of the Scottsbluff-Gering United Chamber of Commerce.

Organizers expect $200k for producers from Farmer Strong concert

GERING, Neb. – Lights filled the sky, smoke billowed from the stage and music filled the air as people from around the region descended on the Five Rocks Amphitheater in Gering on Saturday to show their support for area farmers.

And the name of the show was fitting: Farmer Strong.

The concert, featuring Wyoming country performers Chancey Williams and the Younger Brother Band and Ned LeDoux, was the brainchild of Terry Gass, vice president of sales and district manager for 21st Century Equipment. Gass said he was at a baseball game one day in July – the day after a tunnel on the Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal collapsed, shutting off vital irrigation water to more than 100,000 acres of farmland in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.

He felt he had to do something to help out producers – many of them customers of 21st Century. Those people were more than just business acquaintances and customers – in the tight-knit agriculture community in this area, they are family.

“I said, we’re going to hire Chaney Williams and Ned LeDoux to come play a benefit concert and (21st Century Equipment) is going to pay for it,” Gass recalled. “They’re both from eastern Wyoming, they’re both from ranching backgrounds – they get it.”

And the idea for Farmer Strong was born, he said. In the ensuing weeks, more people and organizations came on board. Lex Madden of Torrington Livestock heard about the fundraiser and signed on to auction off everything from bags of Pioneer and Dekalb seed corn to scholarships to a full year’s tuition at the University of Wyoming, Eastern Wyoming College and Western Nebraska Community College. The city of Gering donated use of the amphitheater for the concert. And the support just kept rolling in, Gass said.

When all was said and done Saturday, ticket sales, merchandise and food and beverage sales were tallied, totaling more than $190,000.

November

NU president candidate notes importance of ag during public forum

By Andrew D. Brosig

[email protected]

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – The man the University of Nebraska Board of Regents has named its preferred candidate to be the next to lead the university system in the state reiterated his plans to support agriculture and the university extension service during a public forum in November at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff.

“Where we invest in these Extension Centers is what gets the university system out through the 93 counties of Nebraska,” Walter “Ted” Carter Jr. said, following his introductory forum. 

The University of Nebraska and the Extension Service supports 82 such centers, including the one in Scottsbluff, across the state, he said. The job of those centers ranges from teaching to pure agriculture-based research to supporting youth through county 4-H programs and more. And some, like the PREC, offer a mix of all that.

 “Almost all of those who work the land are taking that data and turning it into being more productive,” Carter said. “This is where education meets investiture of application to make all of us have a better life. I’m excited about that part and that’s part of that land grant university concept.”

Changes benefit producers in 2018 Farm Bill

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – More flexibility in program selections and modifications to how payments are classified are two major changes that will benefit producers in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, known in the vernacular as the 2018 Farm Bill.

Starting in 2021, producers will be able to make the selection of which farm program they wish to participate in annually, said Anne Kelley, county executive director for the Farm Service Agency in Scotts Bluff County during a meeting Nov. 22 at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff. Kelley and University of Nebraska Extension Ag Economist Jessica Groskopf spoke to a group of farmers and other interested parties to explain some of the ins and outs of the new Farm Bill.

“For the 2018 Farm Bill, you’ll be able to make your (program) election this year for 2019-20,” Kelley said. “Then, starting in 2021, you can make a different election. If you decide there’s a better deal in one program or the other, you can change.”

The most recent bill reauthorized both the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Agriculture Price Loss Coverage programs for the next term, which runs through 2023, she said. The first election term lasts for two years for producers, due to when the bill was finally authorized by Congress and signed into law. But, past that first, two-year term, elections can be made annually.

Another change in the law lets farmers collect payments under the ARC program based on where the farm is actually located, Kelley said. Under the 2014 Farm Bill, payments were based on where the farm was administered, regardless of where the land actually was.

The provisions of the previous bill caused problems, she said. For example, if hail damaged crops in Banner County, but the person who owned the damage acres had a registered farm address in Scotts Bluff County – where no hail fell – the Banner County land could be ruled ineligible for loss payments.

December

Beef specialist receives UW Extension’s top honor

LARAMIE, Wyo. – Helping with one of the livestock industry’s most critical programs and his outreach efforts on behalf of 4-H are some of the reasons a local beef specialist has received the University of Wyoming Extension’s top honor.

Steve Paisley, director of the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Lingle, received the Jim DeBree Award during the organization’s annual training conference in Laramie in November.

Paisley leads state-wide efforts with extension educators to conduct beef quality assurance training for producers. Beef quality assurance is one of the most critical and rewarding programs fostered by the livestock industry in recent years, said Jim Magagna, Wyoming Stock Growers Association executive vice president.

Paisley is a recognized leader in BQA training in Wyoming and at the national level, said Magana in his nomination letter. He has led BQA training sessions at WSGA conventions and will again this month.

Paisley joined UW Extension in 2001. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UW and his Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University. He is an associate professor in the Department of Animal Science in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Paisley’s research focuses on management of the young beef female and includes heifer development and selection as well as economical and practical management and feeding programs. He has guided numerous graduate students and teaches academic courses at UW.

Lower tonnage, sugar indicative of difficult growing season

WYO-BRASKA – By any metric you’d care to use, the 2019 growing season has been a challenge for ag producers across the region.

From the cool, wet spring that delayed planting at the start to winter storms which brought damage and harvest problems as the season wrapped, this has not been the best year for growers, particularly with sugar beets. But the Western Sugar Cooperative is half-way through this season’s campaign, with sugar production ramped up and running at its processing facility in Scottsbluff, Neb.

“We’ve got beets in the piles and we’re processing them right now,” said Jerry Darnell, vice-president of agriculture for the local cooperative.

Locally, growers in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming were able to harvest 97 percent of beet acres this year. The 2019 crop is averaging 25 tons to the acre with just more than 16 percent sugar across the Wyo-Braska region, Darnell said.

That’s better than growers in other parts of the state and region. In some portions of northern Wyoming and southern Montana, harvest ended with fully one-third of the beets left to rot in the ground.

“When you get a hard freeze, it kills the top and stops production of additional tons and sugar,” Darnell said. “We definitely had some freeze-damage beets we had to harvest.”

Those were the first beets through the Scottsbluff plant, he said. As of Tuesday, all the freeze-damage beets from Wyo-Braska producers had been processed.

Local producers actually fared somewhat better than their counterparts in other sugar beet growing areas, said Luther Markwart, executive vice president of the American Sugar Beet Growers Association in Washington, D.C. Weather across the northern tier of beet-producing states – from Montana, through northern Wyoming and east into North Dakota and Minnesota – definitely took a tool on the 2019 crop.

In total, sugar beets are grown on more than 1.1 million acres in 11 states, from Michigan to California, Markwart said. This year, almost 148,500 acres of beets were left, frozen in the ground.

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