Farm Progress

LEAD Comment: Livestock and poultry development creates win-win opportunities, not only for farm and agribusiness sectors, but also for all Nebraskans.

February 3, 2017

4 Min Read
PRIME FOR EXPANSION: With its feed resources, water availability, and wide open spaces, Nebraska is a prime location for livestock and poultry expansion, which also presents an opportunity for young and beginning farmers to get started in agriculture.Copyright Scott Olsen, Getty Images

Willow Holoubek

Question: Nebraska is seeing an increased interest in livestock feeding, particularly among young and beginning producers. What potential is there for livestock expansion in Nebraska and what benefits does it provide for the producer as a diversification tool, as well as the economic benefits to the community and state as a whole?

Answer: Nebraska is the place to be when considering livestock expansion for many reasons. The state's greatest assets include available water, plentiful feed stuffs, isolation and most importantly hardworking farmers who understand a strong work ethic.

Nebraska is the largest irrigated state in the nation. Through diligent work of the NRD's, Nebraska has managed this critical resource and allows Nebraska to be sustainable in crop production. Nebraska also sits above the largest regenerating aquifer in the world. The Ogallala Aquifer is estimated to contain five times the water of Lake Erie.

Nebraska has a number of advantages because of its location and resources. Ranking No. 3 in corn production and No. 6 in soybean production makes Nebraska an enviable place to feed livestock. There is a huge untapped potential for farmers to add value to their commodities through protein production. The populations of the world have an appetite for protein food, not raw commodities.

Working with livestock development and rural community development for the last 10-plus years, I have, until recently, not realized the benefits of the wide-open spaces of our state. Isolation is becoming ever more important in livestock and poultry production today with the spread of a growing list of diseases. Biosecurity in protecting the health of our animals and birds is critical. By strategically growing protein production, we can design locations to ensure safety for all species.

And most importantly, Nebraska farmers and ranchers are hardworking and dedicated to taking care of their families, land, livestock and communities.

Many farms and ranches in Nebraska have been in families for generations. Unfortunately, bringing the next generation back to a family operation is more difficult than ever before. With the current price of land and fluctuation of commodity prices, beginning farmers are finding it difficult. Through food chain alliances, young farmers can mitigate risks, create sustainable incomes, build equity and enjoy the benefits of diversification. By adding livestock production to a row crop farm, incomes are created in several income streams versus only the value of the crops. This creates a value-added scenario, which economically supports not only the family, but also the communities they live in.

A great example of this value-added scenario is the Costco/Lincoln Premium Poultry project in Fremont and northeast Nebraska. Lincoln Premium Poultry is offering the opportunity for Nebraska farmers to become partners in growing the chickens to be marketed through their retail stores. Through food chain alliances and custom feeding, young and beginning farmers can guarantee their household and loan expenses, while building equity and contributing to their communities. The farmer-growers will be creating a tax base as they build the poultry houses. With the new market created to use corn and soybean meal, farmers have the opportunity to receive higher prices for the crops they grow. The feed created for the poultry will require 350,000 bushels of corn per week and 3,000 tons of soybean meal every week.

Another great example is created through custom feeding of market pigs in Nebraska. With three major pork processors — Smithfield Foods in Crete, Hormel in Fremont and Tyson Foods in Madison — Nebraska is a perfect location for custom pork production. Again, with close proximity of feedstuffs and processing, feeding pigs is an opportunity to diversify, mitigate risk and bring the next generation back to the family farm.

We have discussed the opportunity for young and beginning farms, but why should communities support these farmers? There are a number of reasons, including increased tax base, creation of good paying jobs and overall economic impact. According to a third-party study, the Costco/Lincoln Premium Poultry project is proposed to bring $1.2 billion to the state annually. This equals about 1% of the state's current gross product. And entrepreneurial opportunities will abound, meeting the needs of a growing livestock and poultry industry. Through managed use of natural resources and use of our commodities grown in Nebraska, we can become the state that feeds the appetite of a growing world population while keeping funds in our state.

Livestock development creates win-win opportunities for not only the farm and agribusiness sectors of Nebraska, but also for all Nebraskans. Tomorrow is bright for rural Nebraska as we move forward with growing livestock and poultry in our great state.

Holoubek is a LEAD 26 fellow. Before joining Premium Poultry, she served as executive director of the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska. She is involved with the family farm, which raises corn, soybeans, alfalfa and registered Angus cattle. Holding a degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in animal science, she believes the economic value added by livestock is an important part of the future of rural Nebraska. Her four children have inherited her passion and are involved in the agricultural industry.


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