Saturday, April 19, 2014

Weekend Ag News Update - April 19

Conditions Right for Planting; Precipitation on the Horizon
State Climatologist Al Dutcher

After starting the week with lows below freezing for two days (4/14-15), "we've turned the corner into spring," says State Climatologist Al Dutcher. Soils will be warming across the state and conditions will be conducive to planting.

On Monday lows in western Nebraska dropped to 10 in Alliance and 13 in Kimball with sites across the state reporting temperatures in the teens to mid 20s. Cold temperatures continued Tuesday with lows across the state in the low to mid 20s.

The spring warm-up will continue over the next two weeks with significant intermittent opportunities for precipitation in eastern Nebraska, with a total of 2-3 inches expected over the period.

Eastern Nebraska is expected to see "robust" precipitation this Sunday and Monday, followed by warmer temperatures up through Wednesday, when another significant precipitation event is expected. Western Nebraska is expected to see less rain during this period.

Cooler periods may still occur, but they won't be long-lived, Dutcher said. There are no signals through May of further polar vortexes reaching down into Nebraska.

Gov. Heineman & Nebraska Cattlemen Honor Conservation Efforts for Earth Day

(press release from Gov. office)

Friday, Gov. Dave Heineman was joined by the Nebraska Cattlemen and the Sand County Foundation in announcing the recipient of the 2014 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award as the Pelster family of Pelster Angus Ranch of Ericson, in central Nebraska. The award is presented annually to private landowners who practice responsible land stewardship and management.

“Congratulations to the Pelster family for winning the 2014 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award,” said Gov. Heineman. “As we prepare to celebrate Earth Day, this is a good time to acknowledge the conservation efforts of Nebraska landowners. Conservation on private land is something Nebraskans do very well and we all benefit from the work of private landowners who are preserving the natural beauty of our state.”

The Leopold Conservation Award, named in honor of world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is comprised of $10,000 and a Leopold crystal. Sand County Foundation, Nebraska Cattlemen and Cargill present the award annually.

“As farmers and ranchers, it is our responsibility to preserve and protect the land for future generations,” said Jeff Rudolph , President of Nebraska Cattlemen. “The Pelster family is an excellent example of ranchers who are committed to living as responsible stewards of the land.”

The Pelster family celebrates six generations on the ranch. The family notes that they take pride in looking back on the past to see the progress they have made in conservation, and they look forward to what the future may bring. Located along the Cedar River in Garfield County, the Pelster Angus Ranch is focused on responsible and sustainable land management for the benefit of the entire community.

Duane and Nancy Pelster are third generation owners of the ranch. Generations of the Malmsten’s, Nancy’s family, slowly grew the ranch by many efforts of preserving the natural integrity of the land. They passed down the love of the land and the ethics of caring for it to their children. Nancy shares that her father’s advice and method to land management was, “If you’re good to the land, the land will be good to you and will take care of future generations.”

The Pelster family prioritizes the longevity of their operation through incorporation of rotational and conservative grazing techniques. Duane works to mentor young ranchers. His willingness to share his methods helps young ranchers start their own operations. The family is involved in the agricultural community, and they serve on numerous boards and organizations.

“The Pelster family carry on a longstanding family commitment to ranching practices that benefit the land, wildlife and all of us,” said Brent Haglund, President of Sand County Foundation.

In 2014, the Sand County Foundation will present Leopold Conservation Awards in Nebraska, California, Colorado, Kentucky, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The awards are presented to recognize extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation, inspire other landowners by example and provide a visible forum where leaders from the agricultural community are recognized as conservation leaders to groups outside of agriculture.

2014 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award Recipient Announced

(press release from NC)

Sand County Foundation, the Nebraska Cattlemen and Cargill are proud to announce The Pelster Angus Ranch as the recipient of the 2014 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award.  The annual award honors Nebraska landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.

Duane and Nancy (Malmsten) Pelster represent the third generation to manage this ranch land along the Cedar River in the Nebraska Sandhills. Duane’s ongoing development of a management plan has increased livestock profitability and land health simultaneously. He is committed to responsible, sustainable land management and is recognized as a pioneer in the use of rotational grazing.

The grazing practices combined with on-going cedar and weed control have improved grass health and allowed wildlife to thrive.  Prairie chickens, deer, duck and geese abound on the ranch in addition to a pond of otters. Leaving standing grass for nesting and fawning has also enabled limited hunting on the ranch.

Over the years, the Pelsters have reduced the risk of soil damage and made conditions better for livestock and wildlife by installing over 25 miles of pipeline. And nearly 80,000 coniferous trees have been planted to provide shelterbelts and windbreaks on the ranch.  To benefit water quality, Duane decommissioned 27 wells and made a special effort to maintain healthy stands of riparian vegetation along the entire length of the Cedar River within his ownership.

"The Pelsters carry on a longstanding family commitment to ranching practices that benefit the land, wildlife and all of us,” said Brent Haglund, President, Sand County Foundation.

The Leopold Conservation Award is presented in honor of renowned conservationist and author Aldo Leopold, who called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. Award applicants are judged based on their demonstration of improved resource conditions, innovation, long-term commitment to stewardship, sustained economic viability, community and civic leadership, and multiple use benefits.

The $10,000 award, and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold, will be presented to the Pelsters at the  Nebraska Cattlemen’s Annual Convention in December.

“As farmers and ranchers it is our responsibility to preserve and protect the land for future generations,” Nebraska Cattlemen President Jeff Rudolph said. “The Pelster family is an excellent example of ranchers who are committed to living as responsible stewards of the land.”

"On behalf of Cargill’s customers and employees, we are proud to recognize Pelster Ranch for conservation that increases the sustainability of animal agriculture in the U.S.,” stated Jarrod Gillig, vice president and general manager at Cargill’s Schuyler, Neb., beef processing plant.  “Through effective land management that includes livestock grazing and preservation of wildlife habitats, Pelster Ranch is a shining example of best practices for cattle and beef production.”

The Leopold Conservation Award in Nebraska is possible thanks to generous contributions from many organizations, including: Cargill, Farm Credit Services of America, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Cattlemen Research & Education Foundation, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, Sandhills Task Force, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Assoc., World Wildlife Fund, Farm Credit, DuPont Pioneer, The Mosaic Company and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

Upper Big Blue NRD Places a Temporary Stay on well Drilling in Sub-Areas

The Upper Big Blue NRD Board of Directors issued a temporary 180-day stay on well drilling in District sub-areas at the April 17th Board Meeting.  The stay is immediately in effect.  Representatives from the Villages of Dwight and Brainard had expressed concern over the future viability of their water supply and the impact that surrounding irrigation wells have on their municipal wells’ ability to pump water for citizens.  Municipal concerns, along with drought conditions experienced during 2012 and 2013, prompted the temporary stay. 

By statute, NRDs have the authority to put an immediate temporary stay on well drilling.  At some point during the 180-day stay, a public hearing will be scheduled to discuss further actions regarding the stay.  The stay allows NRD board and staff members to review data in the sub-areas, further research possible solutions and alternatives to alleviate concerns within these areas, and develop a common-sense approach to mitigate current and future issues regarding water quantity and quality in the affected areas of the District.

Selected Sub-areas

Several sub-areas within the District are known to have marginal aquifers.  The selected sub-areas for the stay encompass 1,064 square miles, or about 37% of the District’s total 2,863 square miles.  The stay affects portions of each of the nine counties that make up the District.  The resulting geologic conditions are such that construction of additional high-capacity irrigation wells could increase the likelihood of future municipal and domestic well interference issues.  The Upper Big Blue NRD office has maps available delineating the 180-day stay sub-areas.  This map can also be found at the website homepage.

Conditions of the stay on well drilling

Under the stay, the following conditions apply:  Drilling of replacement wells is allowed; Water wells of public water suppliers are exempt from the stay (this includes but is not limited to test holes, monitoring wells, and livestock and domestic wells with a pumping capacity of 50 gallons per minute or less).

Vilsack Announces Additional USDA Actions to Combat Spread of Diseases Among U.S. Pork Producers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that in an effort to further enhance the biosecurity and health of the US swine herd while maintaining movement of pigs in the US, the USDA will require reporting of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) and Swine Delta Coronavirus in order to slow the spread of this disease across the United States. USDA is taking this latest action due to the devastating effect on swine health since it was first confirmed in the country last year even though PEDv it is not a reportable disease under international standards. PEDv only affects pigs and does not pose a risk to people and is not a food safety concern.

"USDA has been working closely with the pork industry and our state and federal partners to solve this problem. Together, we have established testing protocols, sequenced the virus and are investigating how the virus is transmitted," said Vilsack. "Today's actions will help identify gaps in biosecurity and help us as we work together to stop the spread of these diseases and the damage caused to producers, industry and ultimately consumers."

In addition to requiring reporting of the PED virus, today's announcement will also require tracking movements of pigs, vehicles, and other equipment leaving affected premises; however, movements would still be allowed. USDA is also working with industry partners to increase assistance to producers who have experienced PED virus outbreaks in other critical areas such as disease surveillance, herd monitoring and epidemiological and technical support.

As part of USDA's coordinated response, USDA's Farm Loan Programs is working with producers to provide credit options, including restructuring loans, similar to how the Farm Service Agency successfully worked with livestock producers affected by the blizzard in South Dakota. In the case of guaranteed loans, USDA is encouraging guaranteed lenders to use all the flexibility available under existing guarantees, and to use new guarantees where appropriate to continue financing their regular customers.

USDA is already providing assistance to researchers looking into this disease, with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) working with the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa to make models of the disease transmission and testing feedstuffs. This modeling work is contributing to some experimental vaccines to treat animals with the disease. ARS also has a representative serving as a member of the Swine Health Board. USDA also provides competitive grant funding through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program and anticipates some applications on PEDv research will be submitted soon. In addition, USDA provides formula funds to states and universities through the Hatch Act and National Animal Health Disease Section 1433 for research activities surrounding this disease.

In conjunction with the pork industry, state and federal partners, the USDA is working to develop appropriate responses to the PEDv and Swine Delta Coronavirus. A question-and-answer sheet on today's reporting requirement is available on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website here: (PDF, 31KB). For a summary of USDA actions to date, additional information is available here: (PDF, 150KB).

Pork Checkoff Updates Youth PQA Plus Program

Consumers want to know how their food is produced.  Through its Youth Pork Quality Assurance Plus® program (PQA), the National Pork Board will make training available to young producers so they can continue to earn the trust of consumers through transparency and training. Recent changes to Youth PQA Plus include an online training, testing, and certification option to accompany the current in-person process. Delivered to students in the form of an engaging, interactive online learning module, the new online option allows participants to learn, test, and become certified in Youth PQA Plus. For youth age 12 and under, there is a parent log-in for security, as well.

Youth PQA Plus is one part of the pork industry's We CareSM initiative, which reflects the ongoing commitment to responsible farming and fosters continuous improvement. Youth PQA Plus consists of two main elements: food safety and animal well-being training. The new online certification option for Youth PQA Plus was made available on April 15, 2014. Because it is interactive, it engages students, making learning fun.

"Consumers are paying more and more attention to how animals are raised and cared for. As such, we must prepare all producers - newcomers and veterans - to assure they're aware of the best on-farm practices available," said Jodi Sterle of Iowa State University. "I think it is extremely important for youth swine exhibitors to understand they are part of something bigger; they are part of the overall swine industry, producing food to feed the world."

Sterle is the Harman Endowed Professor in Teaching and Learning and Undergraduate Teaching Coordinator in Iowa State's Department of Animal Science and an advisor to the Pork Checkoff's YPQA Plus curriculum.

"There's a lot of pride that comes along with producing food - and understandably - a lot of responsibility. Youth PQA Plus helps make today's young farmers more aware of their personal responsibility, and the tools available to meet this duty."

Austin Langemeier is a third-generation livestock producer from Texas. As a young producer, he has shown livestock in state and national swine shows where Youth PQA Plus certification has been required. To Austin, the benefits of certification continue to grow.

"Youth PQA Plus is a unique experience and allows me to better understand my purpose in raising swine with a focus on the big picture. I understand the true endpoint and meaning of market animals - feeding the world - creating the protein necessary in any person's diet," Langemeier said. "Youth PQA Plus really hit home for me. My show pig is not an animal for my personal enjoyment, but serves a larger purpose.

When the community and consumers come to shows across the nation, they personally see how their food is raised and the care that goes into it. Youth PQA Plus training has enhanced my personal understanding and role as a swine producer."

More information on the revised Youth PQA Plus program is available at Click on the Youth PQA Plus link.

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