Tag Archives: Nebraska

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Some Nebraska and Iowa businesses are still struggling to recover from flooding that damaged their properties or otherwise kept customers away from their doors.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated that in Nebraska alone, more than 1,000 businesses were affected by March’s severe weather.

Flooding continued into May and June in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, especially along the Missouri River. Central Nebraska got hit by flash floods earlier this month this month, hurting Kearney’s hotel and tourism industry.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that businesses and boosters have been taking extra steps to send a message: Our towns and businesses haven’t been wiped out, and we need customers now more than ever.

In northeast Nebraska’s Knox County, for example, officials have been handing out maps so visitors can navigate flood-damaged roads and bridge reconstruction. The community of Verdigre held an event called “Good As New” at the end of May.

A Harley-Davidson dealership in Iowa’s Pacific Junction threw a party at the end of June to celebrate the dealership’s return to its regular location after cleaning up and repairing soggy drywall. Loess Hills Harley-Davidson moved employees and motorcycles to a temporary building in nearby Glenwood for months after taking on 18 inches of water.

“We can either sit back and say we’re victims and we’re going to play the pity party or say, hey, were going to take the opportunity to make something good out of something bad,” general manager Dan Roland said.

Agricultural company Cargill has helped employees pay for hotels in Nebraska City to ensure operations at its plant there weren’t interrupted too much by road closures and detours. Interstate 29 across the river in Iowa was closed by flooding, and the Iowa Highway 2 link to the bridge over the Missouri to Nebraska City was underwater for weeks as well.

Developers are speeding plans to build more housing on the Nebraska City side of the Missouri, in case Iowa residents hurt by flooding decide not to rebuild, said Dan Mauk, executive director of the Nebraska City Area Economic Development Corp.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers who want to update the state’s largest tax incentive program for businesses are getting ready to try again with a lot of confidence, despite a major setback that stalled their package earlier this year.

Senators who worked on the new incentives said they strongly believe the measure will pass in the 2020 session, just in time to replace the state’s current program before it expires at the end of that year.

“We as a state are not going to not have a package,” said Sen. Mark Kolterman, of Seward, the proposal’s lead sponsor. “I can almost guarantee that.”

Nebraska’s tax incentives have faced increased scrutiny in recent years amid suggestions that they are inefficient and the money is going to companies that would have come to the state anyway. In neighboring Iowa, state officials faced criticism for giving Apple $208 million in tax breaks to build two data shortage centers in Des Moines in a deal that would create at least 50 jobs. Business advocates defend the credits as necessary to compete given that every state offers them.

Nebraska’s influential business groups suffered a rare and surprising defeat in May when lawmakers rejected the “ImagiNE Nebraska Act” because of a spat over property taxes. Several rural lawmakers helped sink the measure after their top priority, an unrelated property tax package, failed to advance. Business and farm advocates have been at odds in recent years over who should get priority for tax breaks, with farmers arguing that their property taxes have soared over the last decade as farm incomes declined. The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry counters that tax cuts and incentives will make the state more attractive for investment.

“We’re very worried about our ability without incentives to compete with states like Iowa and Minnesota,” said Bryan Slone, the group’s president.

Supporters said the new incentives bill would allow Nebraska’s incentive program to continue but make it more transparent, easier to use, and do a better job of holding companies accountable for their progress in creating jobs. It also would focus more on attracting higher-paying jobs than the current “Nebraska Advantage Act” program.

Kolterman said the bill likely would have passed this year if not for the opposition from senators who wanted to lower property taxes, and he doesn’t plan to make any major changes.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, chairwoman of Nebraska’s tax-focused Revenue Committee, said she’s confident lawmakers can reach an agreement this summer that would allow both business incentives and property tax reductions to advance.

“We need an incentive package,” Linehan said. “Are we going to be the only state in the union without one? No.”

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts said he remained hopeful lawmakers would update the state’s tax incentive program to keep Nebraska competitive, but “we can’t take it for granted.”

“We need to make the case for why this is the program we want to have moving forward,” Ricketts said in an interview.

Supporters may still face a challenge from lawmakers who helped sink this year’s business incentive measure. Rural lawmakers who have pushed hardest for property tax cuts said they’ll work with other senators on incentives, but only if they’re tied to a property tax package.

Sen. Tom Briese, an Albion farmer, said he’s concerned that “one will get left behind while the other advances” if the bills remain separate. Rural senators are outnumbered in the Legislature and are likely to lose another seat when lawmakers draw new districts for themselves in 2021, but they still have enough influence to block measures they oppose.

“Business incentives and property tax reform have to advance together, or neither should advance,” Briese said. “The best way to ensure that is to have them both in one bill.”

Following torrential rainfall earlier in the week Lexington and other central Nebraska towns quickly flooded. Families were displaced and left with few options for lodging and immediate assistance. The American Red Cross came set up a shelter inside the Lexington High school.

The River morning show host Lana Greene talked with Vicki Halligan who helped oversee the shelter. Halligan explained that more than 150 people came through the shelter seeking multiple types of assistance from first aid, to meals and dry clothes. 15 families even stayed overnight. By Wednesday all, but one family had found more long term housing and the majority of other needs were met. Halligan said they plan to close the Lexington Shelter Thursday (July 12)  morning and move it to Wood River to serve the towns now experiencing the flooding.

Halligan was impressed and amazed to see the outpouring of support from the community.

 

See the interview and flooding images here:

Thirteen auction market members of the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) hosted the sale of a roll-over auction animal earlier this spring to support Nebraska flood relief efforts. The livestock sales, which took place across Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming raised more than $230,000 worth of proceeds.

 

Member markets who hosted roll-over sales included Alma Livestock Auction, Alma, Neb.; Atkinson Livestock, Atkinson, Neb.; Basset Livestock, Bassett, Neb.; Beatrice 77 Livestock Sales, Beatrice, Neb.; Columbus Sales Pavilion, Columbus, Neb.; Elgin Livestock, Elgin, Neb.; Fullerton Livestock Market, Fullerton, Neb.; Huss Livestock Market LLC, Kearney, Neb.; Sheridan Livestock, Rushville, Neb.; St. Onge Livestock, St. Onge, S.D.; Torrington Livestock Market, Torrington, Wyo.; Verdigre Stockyards; Verdigre, Neb.; Wahoo Livestock Sales, Wahoo, Neb.; and West Point Stockyards, West Point, Neb.

 

One LMA member who hosted a roll-over benefit auction was directly affected by the floods. Lu Rieken, owner of Fullerton Livestock Market, says there was less than an hour warning before flood waters hit their business. With 4.5 feet of standing water inside the market, damage from water and debris to the market was extensive.

 

Despite facing damage themselves, Fullerton Livestock Market chose to participate in a roll-over auction to assist relief efforts across the state.

 

“Our philosophy is that it’s not how far or how hard you fall, it’s how fast you get back up,” Lu Rieken says. “We weren’t the only ones suffering. Everyone was and we wanted them to know we put them first.”

 

A majority of the funds raised by participating member markets were contributed to the Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund or directly to feed, fencing and hauling needs of individuals. Some markets chose to serve as pick-up sites for producers to access feed, hay and other supplies.

 

Pete McClymont, Executive Vice President of the Nebraska Cattlemen Association, says the contributions given to the relief fund by LMA member markets were overwhelming.

 

“When I see Dennis Henrichs, with Beatrice 77 Livestock Sales, enter our office with an envelope full of donations, it just about makes you cry,” McClymont says. “It makes you feel good about mankind to know people are sitting in the seats of these markets bidding, saying ‘Yes, I want to help.’”

 

According to McClymont, all proceeds received by the Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund will be distributed back to those who completed an application for need. The LMA also contributed $3,000 to each participating member market’s total donations raised.

 

LINCOLN- Secretary of State Robert Evnen along with a representative of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture successfully completed a trade mission to Bulgaria.  The Secretary of State is the chief protocol officer representing Nebraska internationally. “My vision for this trade mission was to become a force multiplier for the Governor and Nebraska Department of Agriculture,” the Secretary stated.  “The project is part of the Emerging Markets Program of the USDA and is fully federally funded.”

As a leader in agriculture, Nebraska has a competitive advantage in the production of many agricultural commodities including dry beans of the Great Northern variety.

“Great Northern Beans are part of a traditional diet of the Bulgarian people, “stated Secretary Evnen. “Nebraska is number one in Northern Bean production and no one provides a better quality product than Nebraska producers when it comes to dry edible beans,” he continued.

Secretary of State Evnen was accompanied on this trade mission by Mr. Grant Hinze, General Manager for Sales of the Kelley Bean Company of Scottsbluff, by Assistant Secretary of State Cindi Allen, a dry bean farmer and member of the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee to the U.S. Trade Representative, and by Mr. Angel Velitchkov, Counsel for International Trade at the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

The delegation held talks with Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov; Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva; Minister of Agriculture Desislava Taneva; and Deputy Minister of Labor Rousinova, whose ministry is responsible for the distribution of food aid to needy people in Bulgaria, which contains dry beans.

The delegation organized a business forum with the largest importers and distributors in Bulgaria.

“Bulgaria is a great emerging market where we have had significant success with soybeans and beef, and we believe dry beans provides another excellent opportunity for growing Nebraska’s international agricultural trade,” Secretary Evnen said.

The Secretary concluded, “I thank the Governor, USDA, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission for providing this opportunity for our dry bean producers to increase their market share in the Bulgarian marketplace and the surrounding region.”

All layers in Nebraska during May 2019 totaled 8.82 million, up from 7.78 million the previous year, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Nebraska egg production during May totaled 223 million eggs, up from 201 million in 2018. May egg production per 100 layers was 2,527 eggs, compared to 2,584 eggs in 2018.

May Egg Production Up 3 Percent
United States egg production totaled 9.56 billion during May 2019, up 3 percent from last year. Production included 8.35 billion table eggs, and 1.21 billion hatching eggs, of which 1.12 billion were broiler-type and 90.9 million were egg-type. The average number of layers during May 2019 totaled 398 million, up 2 percent from last year. May egg production per 100 layers was 2,404 eggs, up 2 percent from May 2018.

All layers in the United States on June 1, 2019 totaled 395 million, up 1 percent from last year. The 395 million layers consisted of 332 million layers producing table or market type eggs, 59.9 million layers producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 3.46 million layers producing egg-type hatching eggs. Rate of lay per day on June 1, 2019, averaged 77.9 eggs per 100 layers, up 2 percent from June 1, 2018.

Egg-Type Chicks Hatched Up 2 Percent
Egg-type chicks hatched during May 2019 totaled 60.8 million, up 2 percent from May 2018. Eggs in incubators totaled 51.6 million on June 1, 2019, up 3 percent from a year ago. Domestic placements of egg-type pullet chicks for future hatchery supply flocks by leading breeders totaled 215 thousand during May 2019, up 16 percent from May 2018.

Broiler-Type Chicks Hatched Up 2 Percent
Broiler-type chicks hatched during May 2019 totaled 856 million, up 2 percent from May 2018. Eggs in incubators totaled 703 million on June 1, 2019, up 1 percent from a year ago. Leading breeders placed 8.77 million broiler-type pullet chicks for future domestic hatchery supply flocks during May 2019, up 6 percent from May 2018.

 

 

The last few weeks of price moves have changed the market outlook and put more spring in the step of Iowa farmers who have gotten their crops in.

Until recently, trade was the topic du jour for farmers worried about low prices and the market for their crops. The wet spring, floods and prospects for record prevented planting acres have changed the tenor of conversations, said Craig Hill, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

“The outlook for the producers was about trade, the tariff issue, and all of these question marks were out there,” Hill said. “With the spring we’ve had, there has been a complete paradigm shift.”

On Friday, Hill was watching the July corn contract, which closed at $4.53 Friday, and the December contract. Hill thinks the markets will remain uncertain over production and how the wet spring will affect yield.

“I think the market has a ways to go up yet, because I think we have destroyed a lot of yield,” Hill said. “The farmer in me, you know it seems like in wet years, you destroy your root system and lose nitrogen. It can have a more devastating effect than in dry years.”

DTN’s National Corn Index settled at $4.20 on Thursday, the highest level in five years. It may not have peaked, either, said DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman. There are a lot of doubts about whether USDA went low enough with its estimate for 1.675 billion bushels of ending stocks for the 2019-20 corn crop.

“My best guess is corn price is going to keep going higher because we haven’t seen credible ending stock estimates for corn yet,” Hultman said.

Hultman said USDA likely would continue moving down to a 1.4 billion- to 1.5 billion-bushel ending stocks estimate. A breaking point that could drive even more market reaction would be stocks under 1.2 billion bushels. “That’s kind of a critical level for prices,” Hultman said.

USDA’s price outlook released in February showed a decade of low prices going forward. “Net farm income was going to be dismal,” Hill pointed out. “So that was the paradigm we were all looking at. Now the paradigm is: How high will corn go?” Hill said. “Will it be $5? Will it be $6?”

Hill added, “It’s fun to see prices go up. It puts a little lift in your step.”

Farmers faced with prevented planting options cannot capture the opportunities of those higher prices with their insurance policies — unless USDA rules they can do so. On Monday, USDA issued a question-and-answer statement on trade assistance and disaster aid. On the question of the “harvest price option” for prevented planting, USDA stated, “USDA is currently exploring legal flexibility to provide assistance that better utilizes the harvest price in conjunction with revenue and prevent planting policies.”

PRODUCTION WORRIES

Kelly Nieuwenhuis, a member of the Iowa Corn Board who farms near Primghar, Iowa, is a little more nervous about his potential production.

“We have corn we planted June 4 and 5 that just emerged. We know the hope for that is going to be marginal,” Nieuwenhuis said.

After that crop went in, Nieuwenhuis said, a quick spike in heat last week baked the topsoil. He was thankful for some showers this week that were needed for the ground despite the water deeper in the soil.

Nieuwenhuis likes the direction prices are headed, but his problems planting this spring remind him of 1993 — the great flood year in Iowa — which led to Nieuwenhuis’ worst production years for both his corn and soybeans. Late-planted crops that year were hit with a mid-September frost, and yields were dismal, he said.

“This year is matching up to that now,” he said.

Like Nieuwenhuis, Hill also made the comparison to 1993 and the poor production that year. “These prairie soils don’t perform really well with too much water.”

South of Nieuwenhuis, Nathan Anderson, who farms with his father just outside of Cherokee, Iowa, likes how his corn crop looks so far. A board member for Practical Farmers of Iowa, Anderson uses cover crops and grazes cattle to help his soil health. Despite some struggles this season, Anderson said he got some corn planted early and experienced constant hit-and-miss rains this spring.

“We were able to get a couple of days here and there to get stuff done,” he said. “We planted a couple of days in the dark, but we were able to get an early start. We were later than normal by a little bit, but not too bad given the circumstances.”

Taking advantage of the weather to do some fieldwork Thursday, Anderson said he didn’t have time to frequently check prices, but he knows markets are moving upward.

“I probably wasn’t watching it as close as I should have, but it definitely catches your attention when the market is moving like this,” Anderson said. “It’s definitely a positive for those of us who were able to get a crop into the ground. It’s nice to have something the market wants.”

For consumers of corn, such as pork producers, the shift has moved from buying corn and soybeans hand-to-mouth to now looking to secure supplies before the prices get out of hand, Hill said.

TENSIONS SNAP

The rise in grain prices has also eased tensions in rural America over President Donald Trump’s trade agenda. Iowa farmers, in general, have supported the president. But Hill said the tensions have become like a rubber band being pulled back more and more with every economic hit to producers.

“I thought it could break, but now I think much of that tension has been relieved,” Hill said. “And I was one — it was pretty hard on me to think we were going to fight everybody in the world with renegotiation on trade to disrupt all of our relationships.”

Favorable prices, along with perhaps more long-term market support following the president’s year-round E15 sales decision, have quickly reduced some of the tension. “I think those favorability ratings are going up pretty fast,” Hill said.

Like many in the ethanol industry, Nieuwenhuis, a board member for a local ethanol plant, was pleased with the move to get E15 approved for year-round use. At the same time, Nieuwenhuis sees the president’s action being undercut by EPA’s aggressive approval of small-refinery exemptions, or hardship waivers, that have reduced ethanol use by 2.6 billion gallons over the past two years.

“We appreciate the E15 rule, but the hardship waivers are doing a lot of damage,” he said. “Those gallons need to be reallocated.”

The small-refinery exemptions may be the biggest issue concerning Nieuwenhuis, but he also wants to see the trade dispute with China resolved. Nieuwenhuis said he thinks other farmers agree China has been taking advantage of trade rules for too long. At the same time, farmers are becoming divided over the trade dispute.

“We don’t want to see our president fail,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who would want to see the president fail. In agriculture, the last thing we need to do is be divided.”

Near Rippey, Iowa, David Weaver said he is a little more concerned about political dialogue. Weaver, a Democratic state legislature candidate who lost last year, said he sees more division already in rural America because of party politics. “I’m concerned about how we treat each other. The discourse is so awful.”

Weaver also is worried about the trade battles and where soybeans are going to be sold, which is why only 25% of his acres this year went to beans.

“You kick your best customer in the shin, so if they have a chance, they are going to go somewhere else,” Weaver said. “We’re not the only ones who can grow soybeans.”

Weaver, though, also said he felt pretty lucky about his crops overall. His area in central Iowa largely avoided a lot of rains that slowed planting for most farmers. Weaver was able to get planting started in early April on the 1,800 acres he farms with his father. Weaver said planting got done in two- to three-day windows between rains.

“We’re in a pretty good spot,” Weaver said. “I think the crops in this area look pretty good.” Noting the price rally, Weaver added, “It’s a good time to be a farmer — and have your crops in.”