Tag Archives: Farming

CURTIS, Neb. – Excellence and dedication exemplified by the faculty and staff of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture are valued traits.

Year-end awards were recently announced at an appreciation luncheon for all campus employees.

An awards selection committee sought individuals who made a difference for the NCTA student body and the entire campus community, said Mary Rittenhouse, agribusiness professor and committee chair.

“Multiple nominations were received in each category,” Rittenhouse said. “I think we all agree that this was not an easy task as all of the nominations not only met the criteria for the award but also went beyond.”

The Excellence in Service Award went to Mark Gardner of the custodial and security department. Gardner is well known around Curtis for assisting individuals on and off campus.

“If we would take a poll, I bet there would not be too many people who do not have a story of how Mark aided them in their time of need,” Rittenhouse noted.

“He is the go-to person to find stuff, always helpful and cheerful,” she read from nominations. “It doesn’t matter what time of day or night, if a student needs assistance with a dead battery or if their vehicle is stuck (on or off campus) they know who to call to save the day.”

Gardner started his employment with NCTA in October 2000.

Tee Bush, associate professor of math and horticulture, received the Bruntz Family Award for Teaching. She joined the NCTA faculty in September 2010.

The award was established in 2016 by an alumni couple, Ann and David Bruntz of Friend, in tribute to their daughter, Julie, who also was an alumna of the NCTA vet tech division. She passed suddenly in August 2016.

Recognizing the extraordinary impact an NCTA faculty member can have on students, David and Ann chose to recognize faculty at their alma mater.  The award comes with a cash prize.

Horticulture program graduate Andrea Burkhardt’s commentary of Tee Bush, her teacher, mentor and friend was sincere and compelling.

“Andrea spoke of her instructor’s passion to not only teach subject matters but also life skills and values,” Rittenhouse said.


“She never made me feel like I was beneath her,” Burkhardt shared. “I always felt like I had a voice and my voice mattered.  I feel that she looked out for me, as well as her other students, more than we realized.”

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Continuing to deliver on its promise to meet the grand challenge of helping feed the world, Kansas State University and its partners brought together nearly 100 researchers and funding recipients in west Africa last month to share their work.

K-State’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL) conducted its annual meeting April 8-10 in Saly, Senegal. Participants presented their research on sustainable agriculture projects in seven developing nations: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Malawi, Senegal and Tanzania.

The theme of this year’s SIIL meeting was “Suitability, Scalability and Sustainability.” It highlighted the use of the systems approach to creating innovations that can be embraced by and successfully practiced in their intended environments and eventually expand to larger and more diverse farm operations.

“Our activities aren’t just about crop production, although that’s certainly part of the equation,” said Vara Prasad, University Distinguished Professor and director of the SIIL. “Our research takes a holistic, long-term view at the variety of factors that will allow farmers and others along the agricultural value chain to adopt innovative technologies.

Prasad said the end goal is to develop innovations that increase production, nutrition and resilience of the farming systems – all the while looking for ways to ensure sustainability and scalability from the smallest to the largest farms.

A systems approach can solve critical problems for farmers and lead to stronger commodity prices, better nutrition for children, and higher standards of living.

Prasad said a systems-based perspective helps researchers solve complex problems by considering all the factors that lead to the success — or failure — of agricultural innovations. The goal is to assess outcomes across multiple domains — productivity, economics, environment, human and social.

Truly international cooperation

The SIIL is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Each project has a unique research focus and set of collaborating organizations, such as other innovation labs, international research institutes, and universities in the U.S. as well as the target countries.

Members of USAID, affiliated international research institutes and the SIIL External Advisory Board members attended the gathering in Senegal. Discussion and presentations centered on innovations developed by the projects and their outcomes over the last four years of the SIIL partnership.

Nora Lapitan, division chief of research at the USAID Bureau for Food Security, was particularly excited to see the synergies and collaborations made evident throughout the three-day event and was encouraged as to what that would mean for future collaborations across the SIIL focus countries.

Additionally, Jerry Glover, senior sustainable agricultural systems advisor at USAID, emphasized the need for systems thinking, participatory approaches and strong collaboration between biophysical and social scientists to address the needs of farming communities.

Up close with progress

Meeting attendees got a firsthand look at some of the projects currently being implemented in several communities in Senegal.

They were able to see how dual-purpose millet is being used as nutrition for people, especially young children and nursing mothers, as well as fodder for sheep and goats.

They were also given a tour of an agricultural high school where a dynamic principal is encouraging collaborations between the students and the local agricultural scientists, as youth engagement was one of the key components highlighted at the meeting and field visits.

The school is focusing on improved composting techniques, improved varieties, conservation agriculture practices and sustainable agricultural intensification innovations.

“Most of the time we work at different levels,” Prasad said. “We have some research which is at the plot level, some at the household level, some at the community level, some even at the larger scales of landscapes, across regions and countries.”

Another way to encourage farmers to adopt new practices is to work alongside them to develop innovations and showcase them in the communities in which they live.

Making these projects available for the community to see and participate in helps ensure that the technologies and practices being implemented will be suitable, sustainable and scalable.

“The biggest strength of the innovation labs at K-State is that each of them brings a unique perspective on the issues the agriculture sector around the world is facing, along with the knowledge and research to back up the innovative solutions that they provide,” said Nina Lilja, associate dean for international agriculture programs in Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture.

Building partnerships

Collaboration between research entities and other national and international organizations, such as those between the SIIL, the Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricole (ISRA) and the Peace Corps, were also highlighted and celebrated.

“We are excited that after only a year of collaboration with ISRA and the Peace Corps, we are already seeing the fruits of their labors, as the researchers and the volunteers build relationships with farmers in their communities, and are working to provide them with technologies that are suitable for them,” said Jan Middendorf, associate director of the SIIL.

Involving university students, especially those from ISRA, helps the SIIL-funded researchers accomplish their goal of building capacity and increasing the ability of educational institutions in the target countries to carry out their own research projects. Many of the projects require collaboration between U.S. university researchers and faculty and students in the target countries.

Making a difference for all

In a complex and globally connected agriculture ecosystem, K-State leads the way in improving food production and local economies in Kansas, the United States and developing countries around the world by helping to solve the myriad of problems that beset farming communities.

The SIIL brings together more than 120 scholars from more than 60 organizations, including 12 universities in the U.S., to address the challenge of increasing food production to meet the demand of growing populations, all while protecting our environment.

“Conducting innovative research and building human and institutional capacity is the strength of U.S. universities,” Prasad said. “We have the ability to identify the problems, solutions and options through research, and translate them into appropriate innovations for our target populations. Then we create networks and relationships with in-country organizations around the world to scale up those innovations for maximum positive impact.”

Good times lift both good and bad farm managers, but when profit margins grow slim, farmers with higher levels of business intelligence are more likely to succeed and grow.

Agricultural economist Dave Kohl, a professor emeritus at Virginia Tech and adviser to ag lenders for more than 35 years, said it’s important for farmers and their lenders to know where they stand. Kohl has developed a 15-point financial and risk management checklist that helps measure farmers’ management skills by scoring them.

“It’s not rocket science, but it is very insightful to see how much the manager knows about his or her business,” Kohl said.

Producers today generally fall into three buckets. Forty percent will grow incrementally because they have working capital, equity, proactively approach problems and have a high business IQ, or intelligence quotient.

Another 40% will be able to hang on, but won’t thrive because they’re limited by their “low business IQ.” These producers will probably need to refinance to survive this downturn.

Then there’s the remaining 20%. These farmers and ranchers will likely need to have a partial or total liquidation.

“They have already refinanced two or three times since the 1980s. Yes, land equity is a great bridge over troubled waters. But eventually, these farm borrowers will drown in their debt service,” he said.

AgCarolina Farm Credit has used Kohl’s Business IQ checklist at several educational seminars it hosted, as well as with individual conversations between lender and farm credit member.

“At our Ag Leadership Institute for mostly young and beginning farmers, it was a way to start the conversation about management,” said Skipper Jones, senior vice president for marketing and communications with AgCarolina Farm Credit. “For one couple, the wife gave the operation a lower score, and it started an in-depth discussion between her and her husband.

“A lot of farmers know the numbers in their head, but to see it on paper and have a score, it makes it more real to them. Having that visual makes them think more about it.”


There are three sections to Kohl’s metric. For each of the first six categories, give yourself 3-4 points if you have the actual numbers (or goals) written down, allotting more points for higher levels of detail. Award yourself 2 points if the numbers are in your head. And give yourself 1 point if you have no idea.

1. Knows cost of production.

2. Knows cost of production by enterprise.

3. Goals — business, family and personal.

4. Projected cash flow.

5. Sensitivity analysis (what-if scenarios for changes in prices, production, interest rates, etc.).

6. Understands financial ratios and break-evens.

7. This concerns your financial record-keeping system. You earn 3-4 points if your records are kept on an accrual basis. You get 2 points if your record-keeping system is based on your Schedule F, and you receive 1 point if you have no idea.

For the next six categories, give yourself 3 to 4 points if you answer “yes,” 2 points for “sometimes” and 1 point for “never or non-existent.”

8. Works with advisory team and lender.

9. Marketing plan is written and executed.

10. Risk management plan is executed.

11. Modest lifestyle habits and has a family living budget.

12. Written plan for improvement is executed and strong people management.

13. Attends educational seminars/courses.

14. This involves a transition plan for your operation. Give yourself 3-4 points if you have a transition or business ownership plan. You score 2 points if you are working on a plan. You get 1 point if you have no plan or there is controversy that has not been worked through.

15. This category is all about attitude. Give yourself 3-4 points if you are proactive, meaning you anticipate potential problems and solve them quickly. You get 2 points if you are reactive and handle problems as they occur or when they get too big to ignore. If you are indifferent and most of the time you just “muddle through because things always work out in the end,” give yourself 1 point.

“Thirty-two or above is a good score,” advised Kohl. “Forty or above is a super-good score. If you scored 20-30 points, you are in ‘refinance’ mode and you need to move into the ‘reinvent’ mode,” Kohl added. Farms that score under 20 points are high risk.

Kohl also suggests having multiple business partners fill out the assessment independently and then compare notes to help determine the farms financial management strengths and weaknesses.


Lenders can use this to help determine if they want to stay with a customer who is going through a tough financial situation but is a good manager and is intent on turning the operation around. Also, the lender can use it to assess weakness in the operation.

“We found in the past that we can get to a point where we lend a client too much money for them to manage well. If they don’t have the financial management system in place, we are not doing them a favor by simply lending them more money,” said Nate Franzen, president of Agri-Business division, First Dakota National Bank.

The bank, based in Yankton, South Dakota, has used a similar management score card to assess their farm and ranch clients’ depth of management skills over the past year.

“We’re trying to put more matrix in our lending decisions,” Franzen explained.

Kohl suggests farm operators use it as a self-improvement tool, adding that the more you know about your operation, the better you can control its future.

“The 1980s wiped out the average to below-average farm production managers,” Kohl said. “This current environment will wipe out the average to below-average farm marketing and financial manager.”

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, an outspoken trade advocate and a China hawk, issued the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s deal to lift steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico.

“China is our adversary; Canada and Mexico are our friends. The President is right to increase pressure on China for their espionage, their theft of intellectual property, and their hostility toward the rule of law. The President is also right to be de-escalating tension with our North American allies. Today’s news that the Administration is dropping steel tariffs on Canada and Mexico is great for America, great for our allies, and certainly great for Nebraska’s agriculture industry.”

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Farmers and ranchers face uncertain times, which can lead to depression, stress, addictions and other mental/behavioral health concerns. Get the help you need.


  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line: Text “CONNECT” to 741741

Ag Behavioral Health:


The website of Michael Rosmann, rural psychologist, contains resources related to behavioral health for farmers and ranchers.

AFBF Rural Stress Poll

Recommended Videos/Webinars:

Mental/Behavioral Health Videos

Mental/Behavioral Health Webinars

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will vote on disaster relief next week, right before the lawmakers leave town for Memorial Day. He’s hopeful that the Senate will vote on legislation that the president is willing to sign.

While the House passed a disaster bill last week, congressional leaders and the White House have been hard at work on a bipartisan bill that can get through both chambers easily. Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby says that senators are on the verge of an agreement. Politico says McConnell, Shelby, and Trump all have interests that have been holding up the deal. McConnell is a big supporter of the hemp industry and is looking to make sure crop insurance by 2020 for hemp producers is in the legislation. Shelby wants more money for harbor maintenance while Trump is pushing for more funds to address border security.

Negotiators say the biggest points of contention yet to work through are nearly settled. Both sides have agreed to provide Puerto Rico with hundreds of millions in additional aid, an important point that Democrats had asked for.

U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is in Japan this week, talking with officials from America’s fourth-largest agricultural customer. In a Twitter post, the secretary says he was on the phone with President Trump and discussed the increase in tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports and the negative impact it will have on farmers.

Perdue’s tweet says, “While China may backtrack, @POTUS is steadfast in his support for U.S. farmers. He directed @USDA to quickly put together a plan to help American farmers. @POTUS loves his farmers and will not let them down!” Perdue will make stops in Japan and South Korea, participating in the G-20 Agriculture Minister’s Meeting.

President Trump said in a Friday Twitter post that the increase in the tariffs will be used to buy farm goods. He expects the new duties to generate more than $100 billion in extra revenue. The president was unhappy with the pace of negotiations and increased duties from 10 to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. In a Friday tweet, Trump said, “You’re all-time favorite president got tired of waiting for China to help out and start buying from our FARMERS, the greatest anywhere in the world!” Beijing has promised to retaliate in kind.

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) successfully amended the disaster supplemental bill to increase funding for crucial programs vital to Iowa recovery efforts. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved two Axne amendments that increase funding for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program by $300 million and the Federal Highway Administration Emergency Relief Program by $500 million. Congresswoman Axne debated her amendments on the House floor today as Rep. Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) presided. To watch a clip of that historic moment, click here.

Following the adoption of the Axne amendments, the House passed the robust emergency disaster supplemental bill to help disaster-stricken communities across the country. It builds on legislation that passed the House in January – with an additional $3 billion for Midwest flooding, thanks to the leadership of Rep. Axne. The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“I’ve been down to flood zones multiple times to speak with farmers, homeowners, and businessowners who have lost everything. Their resilience is inspiring but the damage is heartbreaking,” said Rep. Axne“From my firsthand experience in these flooded areas, I can attest to the serious damage and hazards that these communities face. This federal aid is vital to rebuilding Iowa communities. My amendments will increase funding for programs that will help with debris removal, fix our damaged roads and repair breached levees. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to immediately pass this bill.”


Congresswoman Axne has worked tirelessly to ensure that Iowans receive the federal assistance they need following this devastating flood. In addition to fighting for Iowans in Washington, Rep. Axne even rolled up her sleeves and helped a family in Pacific Junction muck out their home. More information on Axne’s efforts to fight for Iowa is available here.

Axne Amendment #1

This amendment increases funding for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program by $300 million. The EWP program helps communities to quickly address serious and long-lasting damages to infrastructure and land caused by natural disasters. The EWP program funding will help Iowans remove debris from streams, roads, and bridges and help repair the more than 40 levees that were damaged during the flooding.

EWP program funding can be used to:

  • Remove debris from stream channels, road culverts and bridges;
  • Reshape and protect eroded streambanks;
  • Correct damaged or destroyed drainage facilities;
  • Establish vegetative cover on critically eroding lands;
  • Repair levees and structures;
  • Restore conservation practices.

Axne Amendment #2

This amendment increases funding for the Federal Highway Administration Emergency Relief Program (FHP) by $500 million. The Federal Highway Administration – Emergency Relief Program will help Iowa address our immediate highway repair needs, restore traffic, and help restore our facilities. Following the devastating flood, key federal aid routes in Southwest Iowa were damaged, including I-29, I-680 and US-34. An initial estimate of damage from this storm tops $90 million, with the damage on I-29 alone estimated at $40 million.

Federal Highway Administration Emergency Relief funds are used to:

  • Address immediate needs;
  • Restore traffic;
  • Limit damage to remaining facilities;
  • Restore damaged facilities to pre-disaster conditions.

Michigan farmer Laurie Isley was excited to see how U.S. Soy was being used in the Philippines during her March 2019 visit. In this video, she highlights her visits to a soymilk manufacturer and a feed mill. At the feed mill, she learned they not only prefer U.S. Soy, but also use it 100 percent of the time.


The Department of Justice is seeking information regarding price-fixing of chickens by processors. Meat industry publication Meatingplace reports the Department of Justice has issued a grand jury subpoena to plaintiffs in a class action price-fixing lawsuit against the chicken industry.

The subpoena requests information produced in the discovery process by all parties in the case. Tyson Foods, in a regulatory filing, said it was notified of the request on April 26 by the plaintiffs. Decisions on class certification and summary judgment motions likely to be filed by defendants are not expected before the second half of 2020, under the scheduling order currently governing the case.

A food distributor in 2016 filed the class action lawsuit alleging Tyson and other poultry processors conspired to “fix, raise, maintain, and stabilize” prices for broiler chickens. Subsequent lawsuits of similar nature were filed, prompting the court to consolidate the complaints into three classes, including direct purchasers, indirect purchasers and consumers, and commercial indirect purchasers.