Tag Archives: agriculture

LINCOLN, NEB. – The Nebraska Farm Bureau has launched relief efforts to aid Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and rural communities suffering from the natural disasters that have impacted the state. The relief efforts include the establishment of a disaster relief fund and launch of an online agriculture disaster exchange portal to connect those in need with those who can help.

“Nebraska is a special place with special people. Many of our friends and neighbors across the state are suffering. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost or are missing loved ones, and to all those who have been impacted by the recent blizzard and massive flooding events,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president. “We want to do what we can to help. We believe our relief fund and information exchange can be of assistance.”

Money donated to the Disaster Relief Fund will be targeted to aid Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and rural communities affected by recent storms and flooding. Priority will be given to efforts to restore health and safety in rural communities and to farm and ranch households that have been damaged or displaced by the natural disaster.

“The fund’s targeted recipients are farm and ranch families and rural communities in the disaster areas who have immediate needs as a result of the natural disaster, those who cannot get assistance from other sources, those who will have to wait until they receive other assistance, and those who have losses not covered by insurance,” said Nelson.

To aid farmers and ranchers in recovery, the Nebraska Farm Bureau has also opened the Agriculture Disaster Exchange portal. The online portal housed on the Nebraska Farm Bureau website allows members to share information, providing a place for those in need to make requests for assistance and for those looking to help, to offer it.

“The Agriculture Disaster Exchange operates like an online ‘want ad’ page. If a member has extra hay to sell or donate to a livestock producer in need, they can post it there. If a member needs help or equipment to remove debris after flooding, they can post that type of request as well. Those are just examples of how the exchange can be used by our members. The goal is to provide an online clearinghouse so members can interact and help each other during tough times,” said Nelson.

To donate or apply for aid from the Disaster Relief Fund, utilize the Agriculture Disaster Exchange portal, or access other disaster assistance resources, visit www.nefb.org/disaster.

Donations will be made to a fund established in the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit. Any donations made to the fund are tax-deductible.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is demanding the Trump Administration force the European Union to include agriculture in upcoming trade talks. A group of 114 lawmakers penned a letter this week to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer stating, “an agreement with the EU that does not address trade in agriculture would be, in our eyes, unacceptable.”

The U.S. and EU recently reached a tentative agreement to allow the U.S. access to the EU hormone-free beef quota, but the EU is pushing back against talking ag in a broader trade negotiation. The group of lawmakers say any agreement between the EU and the U.S. without agriculture “would be deficient, significantly jeopardizing Congressional support.” USTR Lighthizer does seem to agree, telling lawmakers earlier this week that the U.S. “cannot have a trade deal with the EU without agriculture,” adding “we’re at a stalemate and we’ll see how that develops.”

The letter was organized by House Republicans Jackie Walorksi and Virginia Foxx, along with House Democrats Ron Kind and Angie Craig.

WASHINGTON /PRNewswire/ — Eating breakfast is linked to a more nutritious diet, and including more of certain foods – like milk, yogurt, fruit and whole grains – is linked to the highest-quality diets of all, according to a study in the journal Nutrients.

In fact, researchers found that breakfast alone supplies about 20% of daily calories while providing more than 20% of key nutrients, like calcium, potassium and vitamin D. These are among the nutrients that Americans, including kids, are most often lacking. Did you know that one out of two children ages nine and older are falling short on calcium, vitamin D and potassium, and 75 percent of kids younger than nine are falling short on vitamin D and potassium? These nutrients are critical for kids’ growth.

An 8 ounce glass of real dairy milk includes B vitamins for energy, high-quality protein for lean muscle, vitamin A for a healthy immune system and five bone-building nutrients, including calcium, potassium and vitamin D.

“Serving your kids a nourishing breakfast with milk is an easy way to set them up for a great day. Dairy milk is the top food source for calcium, vitamin d and potassium – important nutrients that many kids don’t get enough of,” said board certified and practicing pediatrician, Dr. Ilan Shapiro. “I remind parents that serving a nutritious breakfast doesn’t have to be difficult, whether you are on the go or savoring the moment, simply adding a glass of milk can instantly boost the nutritional value of your meal,” added Dr. Shapiro.

For breakfast inspiration, like these delicious enfrijoladas, made by Chef Claudette Zepeda and more information on the important role of real dairy milk in a balanced diet, please visit FuertesConLehe.com.

About MilkPEP

The Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), Washington, DC, is funded by the nation’s milk companies, who are committed to increasing fluid milk consumption. The MilkPEP Board runs the Leche. Amor por lo verdadero campaign, a multi-faceted campaign designed to educate consumers about the powerful nutritional benefits of milk – with 9 essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, in each 8 ounce glass. For more information, go to fuertesconleche.com. sociedAD/Campbell Ewald is creative agency for the campaign – from America’s milk companies.

The Organic Farmers Association is a national membership body of American organic farmers. The Association’s mission is to provide a strong and unified national voice for domestic certified organic producers. Its purpose is to build and support a farmer-led national organic farmer movement and national policy platform by: developing and advocating for policies that benefit organic farmers; strengthening and supporting the capacity of organic farmers and farm organizations; and supporting collaboration and leadership among state, regional and national organic farmer organizations. 

Members of the Organic Farming Association are represented by a Governing Council, Advisory Committee, and Policy Committee. Recently, new representatives were elected to the Governing Council and Policy Committee for 2019. These representatives will serve 2-year terms, up to 3 consecutive terms (no more than 6 consecutive years). Newly elected members begin their terms at the annual meeting on March 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

2019 Governing Council

The Council includes 19 members. From each of the six regions, the council includes 2 certified organic farmers and 1 organic farm organization.  In addition, Organic Farmers Association’s fiscal sponsor, Rodale Institute, also has a seat on the council. All Council Members have identical rights and responsibilities, except that only farmer members have the right to vote. The fiscal sponsor, if it has a certified organic farm, also has a vote.

* = Newly elected

Farmers (Voting)

California Farmer Representatives
*Judith Redmond, Full Belly Farm, Guinda, CA

Steve Beck, Kings River Produce, Inc., Hanford, CA

Midwest Region Farmer Representatives
*Dave Bishop, PrairiErth Farm, Atlanta, IL

Joannee DeBruhl, Stone Coop Farm, Brighton, MI

North Central Region Farmer Representatives
*Mike Kelly, High Meadow Farm, Johnson Creek, WI

Harriet Behar, Sweet Springs Farm, Spring Valley, WI

Western Region Farmer Representatives
*Nathaniel Powell-Palm, Cold Springs Organics, Bozeman, MT

Jessica Gigot, Harmony Fields, Bow, WA

Southern Region Farmer Representatives
Jennifer Taylor, Lola’s Organic Farm, Glenwood, GA

*Loretta Adderson, Adderson’s Fresh Produce, Keysville, GA

Northeast Region Farmer Representatives
David Colson, New Leaf Farm, Durham, ME

*Maryrose Livingston, Northland Sheep Dairy, Marathon, NY

Advisory (Non-Voting)

California Organization Representative
Phil LaRocca, Chair, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)

Midwest Region Organization Representative
Renee Hunt, Program Director, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA)

North Central Region Organization Representative
*David Perkins, President, Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)

Western Region Organization Representative
Becky Weed, Board of Directors, Montana Organic Association (MOA)

Southern Region Organization Representative
*Michael Sligh, Program Director, Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA)

Northeast Region Organization Representative
*Ed Maltby, Executive Director, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA)

Sponsor Seat
Jeff Tkach, Rodale Institute

2019 Policy Committee

The elected Policy Committee is made up of 12 voting certified organic farmer members and six advisory organizational members. Committee members are regionally diverse and reflect the national diversity of organic farms. The Policy Committee will facilitate OFA’s policy platform, created by certified organic farmer members. From its start in the fall of 2016, Organic Farmers Association has been working to build and support a farmer-led national organic farmer movement with a strong voice advocating for organic farmers. 

* = Newly elected

Farmers (Voting)

California Region Farmer Representatives

*Kenneth Kimes, Greensward / New Natives, LLC, Aptos, CA

 Mark McAfee, Organic Pastures, Fresno, CA

Western Region Farmer Representatives

*Nate Lewis, Oyster Bay Farm, Olympia, WA

Pryor Garnett, Garnetts Red Prairie Farm, Sheridan, OR

North Central Region Farmer Representatives

*DeEtta Bilek, Tom and DeEtta Bilek Farm, Aldrich, MN

Harriet Behar, Sweet Springs Farm, Gays Mills, WI

Midwest Region Farmer Representatives

*Michael Adsit, Plymouth Orchards, Plymouth, MI

Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Village Acres Farm & FoodShed, Mifflintown, PA

Southern Region Farmer Representatives

*Laura Freeman, Mt. Folly Farm, Winchester, KY

Jennifer Taylor, Lola’s Organic Farm, Glenwood, GA

Northeast Region Farmer Representatives

*Luke Gianforte, Gianforte Farm, Cazenovia, NY

Dave Chapman, Long Wind Farm, East Thetford, VT

Advisory (Non-Voting)

California Region Organization Representative

David Runsten, Policy Director, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Davis, CA

Western Region Organization Representative

*Cara Loriz, Executive Director, Organic Seed Alliance, Missoula, MT

North Central Region Organization Representative

Matthew Miller, Policy Committee Member, Iowa Organic Association, Ames, IA

Midwest Region Organization Representative

*Mallory Krieger, Farmer Training Program Manager, The Land Connection, Champaign, IL

Southern Region Organization Representative

Michael Sligh, Program Director, Rural Advancement Foundation International, Pittsboro, NC

Northeast Region Organization Representative

Edward Maltby, Executive Director, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Deerfield, MA

HAYS, Kan. —  A Kansas State University researcher is reporting the first-ever study confirming that Palmer amaranth has developed resistance to the herbicide 2,4-D, findings that may signal an important step in developing future controls for the pesky weed.

Vipan Kumar, a weed scientist at the Agricultural Research Center in Hays, said that since 2015 a few farmers had reported poor control with 2,4-D, but until now, researchers were not able to confirm the resistance levels to 2,4-D in Palmer amaranth.

“Historically, Palmer amaranth was not a problem weed in western to central parts of Kansas, but over the past 10 to 15 years, it has become a major problem and it is present in all crop situations, and even in non-cropland situations,” Kumar said.

Palmer amaranth is extremely aggressive and thus considered the No. 1 weed problem in U.S. agriculture. It is commonly found in Kansas cropping systems and negatively affects soybean, corn, sorghum, sunflower, cotton, wheat, and fallow fields. It is also a serious problem in wheat stubble.

Kumar and his research team have recently tested one strain of Palmer amaranth – known as a biotype – and the results, Kumar says, are sobering.

That biotype has been confirmed with low levels of resistance to 2,4-D, as well as resistance to glyphosate (Roundup PowerMax), chlorsulfuron (Glean), atrazine (Aatrex), and mesotrione (Callisto).

In addition, Kumar said the biotype showed less sensitivity to fomesafen (Flexstar) herbicide, a commonly used herbicide in soybeans. He added that more research is underway to confirm if this biotype has developed resistance to fomesafen.

“This discovery confirms the first case of 2,4-D-resistant Palmer amaranth biotype that has also developed multiple resistance to four other herbicide modes of action,” Kumar said.

“We have been seeing a lot more populations with multiple resistance, especially with glyphosate, atrazine and HPPD inhibitors. There is increasing concern about Palmer amaranth’s ability to resist multiple modes of action.”

That situation has left farmers with few options to manage the weed.

“I would recommend growers use some of the pre-mixes, or tank mixes, that are still effective to control those biotypes so that they don’t get into seed,” Kumar said, noting that one female Palmer amaranth plant can produce as much as one-half million seeds.

“In addition to using effective herbicide programs, growers should look at crop rotation as a foundational practice of weed control. Grow those crops that are highly competitive with Palmer amaranth and try to grow some cover crops if you can in the fallow land. Don’t leave fallow – that’s the weakest link in this whole system where these weed species have been gaining resistance.”

Kumar also suggests that farmers consider pre-emergent herbicides, depending on the crop being grown.

“Including PRE herbicide options can help growers manage some of these multiple-resistant weed biotypes, and delay the development of resistance in this weed,” he said.

Kumar’s research group is currently studying about 200 biotypes of Palmer amaranth collected in Kansas fields to determine the extent of multiple resistant Palmer amaranth throughout the state. He said the group expects to continue their work well into the future.

“My idea is to determine the distribution of these multiple resistant Palmer amaranth biotypes in Kansas, and based on that biological information, what we can do in terms of alternate strategies to manage this problem weed in a cost-effective manner,” he said.

“If we are losing these tools, like 2,4-D or glyphosate, which are the key tools to control these weed species, then this is going to be economically expensive for growers. So we have to bring more tools into our toolbox to tackle these problems.”

Kumar’s findings have been published in the journal, Pest Management Science. The article, titled “Confirmation of 2,4‐D resistance and identification of multiple resistance in a Kansas Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) population, is available online.

The Congressional Research Service is looking into whether or not President Trump can legally withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement on his own. Politico says it’s a question the trade world would like an answer to sooner rather than later.

Can the president withdraw without Congressional support? Politico says the answer is not clear. Congresses’ research arm says, if you look solely at international law, it looks like the Trump Administration would be able to act on its own. However, it’s quite likely that the president would have problems based on domestic law. It’s difficult to say how a court case would get resolved if affected companies pursued litigation. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the original NAFTA agreement as a way to put pressure on Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement.

Administration aides have told Politico that there are no immediate plans to back out of the existing deal. One factor that might increase the possibility of legal action is if Congress signals disapproval of any attempt to withdraw from NAFTA. In the past, the Supreme Court typically says presidential power to act unilaterally is at its weakest when the White House takes action that Congress doesn’t agree with.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Just two months after a federal court judge struck down an Iowa law meant to discourage investigations of animal abuse on farms, lawmakers are pushing another so-called ag-gag measure that opponents say would likely land the state in court again.

Civil rights and animal welfare groups expressed surprise that Iowa Republican lawmakers would try to pass another law and potentially invite more lawsuits even as the state appeals a ruling regarding the current law. Legal bills for that case have likely already cost taxpayers more than $200,000 and continue to mount as the state appeals the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The new bill would create a trespass charge for those who use deception to gain access to a farm to cause physical or economic harm, with a penalty of up to a year in jail. It also allows for a conspiracy charge that carries a similar penalty.

The bill has the support of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

Sen. Ken Rozenboom, the Republican who will manage the bill on the Senate floor, said this measure is more narrowly focused than the 2012 law struck down by the court. That law was approved following high-profile undercover investigations by animal welfare groups who videotaped practices they claimed were abusive toward animals and then publicized the images.

Rozenboom, a hog producer from Oskaloosa, said the new bill more clearly states the intention of perpetrators is to use deception to harm the farming operation.

Lawmakers said they studied Judge James Gritzner’s Jan. 9 ruling and drafted this legislation to make it similar to laws in other states that have been upheld by courts.

“They worked very hard to make sure they crafted a bill that at least in some other states have passed muster in their courts,” said House Speaker Linda Upmeyer. “We tried to stay very focused on biosecurity and keep it very tightly reined in so that it would withstand a court inspection.”

Rozenboom said producers are concerned about animal diseases being introduced to farms by an undercover investigator, and Iowa needs to have a way to discourage them.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which helped represent animal welfare groups in the lawsuit, is lobbying against the new bill, arguing it also violates constitutional free speech protections.

“It has not passed the House or the Senate and we will continue to lobby the Legislature hard to make them understand these concerns. If it were to pass, the governor were to sign it, we’ll figure out next steps,” said Daniel Zeno, the group’s policy director and lobbyist.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the groups that sued the state over the 2012 law and has fought similar laws in several farm states, criticized Iowa lawmakers for pushing forward with another bill.

“This statute is unconstitutional and we’ve done five of these suits and we’re prepared to do a sixth,” said Matthew Liebman, the group’s director of litigation. “We’d much rather this doesn’t pass and we could save our resources for other cases that protect animals but these things are a true threat to public information and animal welfare.”

The group points out state taxpayers have had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending the laws. Utah was ordered to pay $349,000 in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs in addition to the state’s own lawyer fees, and the case in Idaho cost $260,000 in plaintiff fees.

Documents in the Iowa lawsuit show attorneys for the animal rights groups are seeking just over $200,000 for their fees, which don’t include the state’s own litigation costs and the cost of future appeals. The judge hasn’t yet ruled on whether to approve the amount sought.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Smithfield Foods was found responsible Friday for a fifth time for nuisances neighbors suffered from waste generated by thousands of the company’s hogs. Jurors determined the pork giant should pay $420,000 after four previous juries awarded nearly $550 million in penalties.

Most of the damages awarded were intended to punish Smithfield Foods for its actions, but a state law limiting the size of punitive awards means they are automatically capped.

Friday’s verdict was the second time a jury heard about intense smells, clouds of flies and other conditions around the same Duplin County operation that raised about 5,000 of the company’s animals.

For this five-week trial, plaintiffs’ lawyers hand-picked the 10 neighbors, who have lived on their Duplin County land for decades. Company lawyers previously picked two other neighbors of Joey Carter’s farm. In July, jurors awarded them $25 million in damages.

A federal judge has the two sides alternating who picks cases for juries to consider, anticipating it could lead to a negotiated settlement that could resolve dozens of lawsuits and the claims of more than 500 neighbors.

Agricultural interests and sympathetic politicians have warned the lawsuits threaten all farmers if whopping penalties can be slapped on operations that are regulated and annually inspected as North Carolina hog operations are.

“We believe that this verdict is unfair and unjust. It presents an unwarranted threat to North Carolina farm families and to all agriculture across the country,” company spokeswoman Keira Lombardo wrote in an email Friday.

Carter, a former police chief in the nearby town of Beulaville, was not sued. Smithfield Foods was held responsible because the company’s hog-raising division uses strict contracts to dictate how farm operators raise livestock that Smithfield owns.

But Carter hasn’t had a revenue-producing hog on his farm since October and Smithfield quit sending new animals there since May, Lombardo said in an email this week. She did not respond when asked whether Smithfield removed its animals because Carter was deemed to be breaching his contract. The company wrote in May to another farm operator, William Kinlaw, after Smithfield lost a related lawsuit that he breeched his contract with the pork giant by failing to control odors and “maintain proper sanitation.”

For both operations, Smithfield is paying the hog operations — in amounts the company didn’t specify — while it appeals the cases, Lombardo said. The payments to Carter are “an attempt to offset the adverse impact these lawsuits have on family farmers like him and on communities like Beulaville,” Lombardo wrote.

Environmental advocates have cheered the big penalties as finally forcing pork producers to acknowledge long-standing complaints from neighbors and claims that animal waste has polluted waterways.

The predominant method of handling hog waste in North Carolina is collecting it in open-air pits that are then emptied by spraying treated liquid excrement on farm fields. The method was banned at new livestock operations in 1997, when industrial-scale hog operations began to be planned near the Pinehurst golf resort two years before it would host the U.S. Open tournament.

Smithfield has continued using the low-cost method because it helps the company produce pork for less than in China, lawyers for the neighbors said. Smithfield is owned by Hong Kong-headquartered WH Group.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — If you ever wished to gaze at a stomping, snorting, neighing panorama of Western heritage from your living-room window, now could be your chance.

A classic image of the American West — wild horses stampeding across the landscape — not only has endured through the years but has multiplied past the point of range damage. Through May 3, the U.S. government is seeking more private pastures for an overpopulation of wild horses.

Many consider rounding up wild horses to live out their lives on private pastures a reasonable approach to a tricky problem. Wild horses, after all, not only have romantic value, they are protected by federal law.

Just keep in mind a few of the dozens of requirements for getting paid by the government to provide wild horses a home.

“It’s not like you can do this in your backyard, or even a 5 acre (2 hectare) plot,” said Debbie Collins, outreach specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program in Norman, Oklahoma.

You need a lot of fenced-in land, enough to sustain anywhere from 200 to 5,000 healthy horses. Exactly how much land depends on pasture quality as determined by the government, but you can safely assume several hundred if not thousands of acres (hectares).

The pastured horses typically are left on their own with little human intervention. Still, they require continuous water and basic shelter from the elements, such as trees or a canyon; supplemental forage; and corrals for loading and unloading from trailers.

Participants in the private-pasture system must live in 14 Western and Midwestern states, from eastern Washington to the Texas Panhandle. Over two-thirds of the 37 existing off-range pastures are in Oklahoma and Kansas.

And: These horses aren’t pets. They’ve had little exposure to people. Many are over 5 years old and therefore not ideal for training and individual adoption or sale, other options available through the BLM.

Still, there’s no shortage of interest in the off-range pasture program. People call all the time asking for details, Collins said.

“My only advice would be to go into it with your eyes wide open,” said Dwayne Oldham, a former Wyoming state veterinarian who has taken in wild horses on his family’s Double D cattle ranch outside Lander, Wyoming, since 2015.

Working with the government can be demanding, but providing for the over 130 horses on the Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary on the ranch isn’t too difficult, Oldham said.

The sanctuary is a little different from most private wild-horse pastures: It’s open to the public. Tourists headed to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks increasingly stop there.

About 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the south, cattle ranchers, wild horse advocates and the BLM have been embroiled in decades of lawsuits over wild horses in an area of mostly unfenced, interspersed public and private lands called the Checkerboard. The booming wild horse population there competes with cattle for forage and water in the high desert, the ranchers claim.

The BLM abides by the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which protects wild horses and burros on BLM land in 10 Western states, attorneys for the government say.

“We want to be part of the solution and not just the adversary,” Oldham said.

A group often involved in wild-horse litigation, the American Wild Horse Campaign, says darting mares with contraceptives is the best answer to overpopulation but is underused. Roundups only encourage compensatory breeding and overpopulation, said Grace Kuhn with the group.

However, the group doesn’t oppose off-range pastures as an alternative to keeping wild horses in corrals for long periods.

“We do advocate that if the government is going to be removing wild horses from the range, long-term is more cost-effective than short-term holding,” Kuhn said.

Over 55,000 more horses and burros live wild in the West than the roughly 27,000 the BLM says can thrive in harmony with the landscape.

Adoptions and sales through the Wild Horse and Burro Program have recovered to over 3,400 a year after hitting a low of about 1,800 in 2014.

But while the number of off-range pastures has boomed from just a couple in the 1990s, the number of horses on them hovers very close to their current carrying capacity of about 36,500.

The number of pastured wild horses is determined mainly through roundups and adoptions. Stallions are gelded and kept at different off-range pastures than mares, preventing reproduction aside from the occasional pregnant mare rounded up from the wild.

How many new off-range pastures are established through the latest bid solicitation, the first of its kind since 2016, will depend on costs and how many existing ones get renewed, Collins said.

“It’s just a happier, healthier environment for a horse to be able to be out in a pasture,” she said.

Dear Friend,

This might seem like an odd time to write about the rituals of summer when the frozen ground is covered by seven inches of snow.  This time of year, however, is when the important niche rural business of corn detasseling makes plans for summer hiring of local teens.  While only 1% of corn grown in Nebraska is devoted to seed corn production, detasseling is a time-honored rite of passage that contributes to the social fabric of towns and indelibly marks us as Cornhuskers.

Summers for many Nebraska young people are defined by the harsh, intrusive ringing of an alarm clock.  A predawn bus arrives shortly thereafter to transport the barely-conscious teens to local cornfields.  Adults, often teachers, needing part-time summer work find great opportunity as well.  With locally run, homegrown detasseling operations, the supervisors form a tight-knit cross-generational bond with the youth as they walk shoulder-to-shoulder through this amazing summer ritual.

Those who grew up detasseling tend to lionize it as the years pass.  This Nebraska nostalgia tends to soften some uncomfortable truths: Detasseling is hard; Detasseling is long.  It involves entering wet morning fields, fighting corn rash, and working until the sun is too hot.

But detasseling pays in many ways.  The early lesson of linking effort to reward pays dividends for a lifetime.  Nebraskan twelve and thirteen-year-olds have the tremendous opportunity to begin building a resume while putting some money in their pockets, while seasoned veteran teenagers stand to bring home $13-$17/hour.  It is one of the best-paying summer jobs that a young person in Nebraska can get.  Hardworking teachers can earn between $3500 and $5000 in just a few short weeks.

As we seek to build upon the legacy and opportunity of detasseling, there is an often-overlooked immigration complexity at play: Certain farmers need labor.  Our H-2A visa system has been integral to keeping the Cornhusker State the nation’s third-leading producer of corn.  This system allows persons who are not Americans to work here temporarily under strict rules when local labor markets cannot fill the demand.  However, there must be clear evidence of labor shortage so that jobs cannot be taken away from Americans, or wages unjustly bid downward.  A delicate balance exists.

When the H-2A visa system is incorrectly applied, it can destroy local businesses and unfairly allow profit-taking on the backs of people from far away.  It’s not only about jobs; it’s about ensuring that traditions like teenage detasseling will always have a decided place in our social and economic ecosystem.

A related immigration matter involves E-Verify, an Internet-based system that allows businesses to compare an employee’s Social Security number and other information to records available to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to confirm employment eligibility.   Recently, I cosponsored the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act, which would permanently reauthorize the use of the E-Verify system and require its use by all employers.

While most of our immigration debate centers on the border, there are multiple other considerations to ensure legal visitation, legal entry for work, and legal process for citizenship.  A secure border secures the vibrancy of the legal immigration system; a properly analyzed labor market secures the well-being of seasonal businesses who need temporary help while protecting Americans from “rent-seeking” corporations.

I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth retelling.  A New York radio station once called me to ask why Nebraska’s measures of well-being were off the charts.  I gave a detailed answer about our respect for the dignity of work, responsibility, and the importance we give to authentic community.  Thinking back now on that question, maybe I could have answered with one word: “Detasseling.”


Congressman Jeff Fortenberry