It doesn't take an aerial view of Nebraska to realize just how unique and diverse this state's agriculture is — but it's a good way to get a quick look at it. In September, I was lucky enough to join American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall along with Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson and Jordan Dux, national affairs director, in a fly-around tour of Nebraska.
Flying above the clouds in eastern Nebraska and descending below them into the Sandhills provides a perfect perspective of just how diverse Nebraska agriculture is. In Duvall's words, "It's like another world," in the Sandhills.
Nebraska is one of those states that experiences more change from east to west in elevation, climate and production systems than some regions see across multiple states. That also means different challenges and different resources to work with in different parts of Nebraska.
The objective of Duvall's tour of Nebraska ranch and feedlot operations was to learn not only about Nebraska agriculture, but also the challenges Nebraska agriculture faces. Like many U.S. producers, the key challenges include regulation, property rights, access to labor and, of course, low commodity prices. However, Nebraska producers face a challenge unique in its own right — high property taxes.
Curt Arens, Nebraska Farmer regional field editor, and I visited with several farmers and ranchers at Husker Harvest Days in September, and most producers identified tight margins and high property taxes as the most pressing challenges facing Nebraska agriculture at the moment. And the property tax burden exacerbates the overall challenge of tight margins in the ag economy.
But as Duvall saw firsthand during his fly-around of Nebraska, producers in this state are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges. Whether it's planting a cover crop for grazing, using rotational grazing to stretch pasture supplies, or using corn products like distillers grain, silage and corn stover to stretch feed supplies, Nebraska beef producers have shown they know how to make the most of the resources they have.
Likewise, crop producers in the state are using the power of data and on-farm research to step up their decision-making and ensure they spend their dollars where there is the greatest potential for return on investment. They're also using technology to create prescriptions for variable-rate nitrogen, seeding and irrigation. Recently, growers in the east-central part of the state are installing tile to improve drainage so they can hit the field earlier.
As Nebraska Corn Growers Association President Larry Mussack said during a press conference at Husker Harvest Days: "Farmers are resilient. Farmers are innovative. This has happened before. Prices have been down; costs have been up. We'll get through this. We're innovative; we can make this work."