Sunday, April 10, 2022

Friday April 8 Ag News

 Faculty, students making plans for opening of Northeast’s farm operations/animal handling building

Agriculture faculty, staff and students at Northeast Community College are making plans to fully utilize the new farm operations/animal handling building constructed on the Acklie Family College Farm.

“The new building will be much more conducive to teaching and learning than the old barn,” said Jill Heemstra, ag program director at Northeast. “The animal handling area will be safer for both students and animals and the shop area is quite an upgrade, since we had no indoor shop for the farm at the old location.”

Heemstra joined the staff at Northeast two months ago, after more than 20 years with University of Nebraska Extension. During that time, she worked in research at the Haskell Ag Lab, as an extension educator in Dixon and Wayne counties, and on multi-state and national grant projects. Among those projects was one developing environmentally focused curriculum for high school ag instructors, and another developing modules to help bring together staff from EPA and representatives of ag animal trade organizations like the National Cattlemen and National Pork Producers.

At Northeast, Heemstra oversees the ag department and the farm.

“Right now, I’m busy learning more about what all the instructors teach,” Heemstra said, “and making sure the farm operation is planned in a way that provides instructors with the experiences they need for their curriculum. I’ve already learned this is a ‘can do’ department. These instructors take on a lot in addition to their classroom instruction.”

Heemstra is excited for Northeast ag instructors and students to have access to the new farm operations/animal handling building.

“Mr. (Mike) Zierke will be able to bring his class inside the shop area to learn how to change oil in a tractor,” she said. “Mr. (Mike) Roeber can do animal handling demonstrations in a way that gives students more hands-on experience with the animals.”

The Acklie Family College Farm also includes a new feedlot and outdoor animal handling pens.

“The feedlot pens can be divided,” Heemstra said, “allowing for more applied research. And the facility is designed to help students learn about minimizing environmental impact. The feedlot drainage will be handled through a vegetative system.”

Another feature of the new farm site at Northeast in Norfolk is a three-sided commodity storage building.

“We will be able to maintain higher quality rations with feed storage under a roof,” Heemstra said. “Now Dan Radenz, the farm operations specialist, can only pile ground hay and other feed on a concrete slab. Winds like we’ve had this week just blow that all over.”

Tara Smydra, dean of science, technology, agriculture and math at Northeast, said the new farm operations building was designed to be used both by the farm staff and by instructors.

“The large overhead doors allow us to bring any piece of equipment inside,” she said. “There is room for the Farm Experience students to store projects as well as for staff to do routine maintenance on college equipment.”

Smydra says the shop area has an exhaust system, some storage space, and an office for the farm manager.

“One of the special features of the animal handling area,” Smydra said, “is the mezzanine that provides space to view activity from above. This is not only a safe area for students, but also provides a unique perspective on the bud box and pen area.”

The large animal facility is used by animal science vet tech students. “There are several horse stalls and four stanchions that allow vet tech students to work and learn safely,” Smydra said. “The building also has a wash bay and a dedicated space for medicines and tools needed to work on animals.”

As far as the feedlots and animal pens outside the new building, Smydra said they are “flexible, flexible, flexible.” The three feedlot pens can easily be broken into six pens with water access in each. There is a sick pen and a sheltered area on the south side of the building.

“It’s hard for students to learn in the elements,” Smydra said. “A teacher might offer great instruction, but if students are fighting to stay warm and dry, they don’t learn much.”

The college farm site is a work in progress, Smydra added.

“We could really use a large shed to store machinery, and we will need grain bins and bulk tanks.”

Smydra and Heemstra said the new facilities will allow more community education events. AI (artificial insemination) training will be offered in the animal handling facility. The improvements also could allow such things as crop scouting training, low stress animal handling demonstrations, or even training for feedlot employees.

Public tours of the Acklie Family College Farm buildings and the new vet tech clinic will be offered from 1-4 p.m. on Tue., April 26. Ribbon cutting ceremonies will begin at 1:30 that afternoon at the vet tech building, located just west of the Chuck M. Pohlman Agriculture Complex at 2301 E. Benjamin Ave., in Norfolk.

UNL hires new faculty to boost Nebraska ag teacher preparation and support

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication (ALEC) department on Wednesday announced major steps to strengthen agricultural teacher training and support. ALEC has hired two ag educators — one in northeast Nebraska, the other in the Panhandle — to support ag teachers throughout their region. In addition, a new tenure-track faculty member at ALEC, with firsthand experience as a high school ag teacher and FFA advisor, will focus on enhanced teacher preparation and other supportive strategies.  

UNL and Nebraska FFA leaders announced the new hires during a news conference on UNL’s East Campus during the first day of the Nebraska FFA State Convention. The three new hires will work to improve retain current ag educators, attract new teachers to the field, and work to better meet the needs to ag educators of all levels of experience all across the state.  

Monty Larsen, with wide-ranging experience as a rancher and high school ag instructor, will help ag teachers in northeast Nebraska. The satellite ALEC faculty member in the Panhandle will be Troy White, a Ph.D. who comes to Nebraska from a faculty position in ag teacher preparation and ag-related STEM education at South Dakota State University.  

Becky Haddad, a Ph.D. currently teaching agricultural education at the University of Minnesota, will hold the tenure-track faculty at ALEC. She was a high school ag teacher for five years in her native Minnesota.  

“We've seen in Nebraska unprecedented growth of new ag education programs in the state, and lots of communities wanting to add teachers, add programs,” said Mark Balschweid, the ALEC department head. In 2010, the total number of Nebraska high schools with an ag instructor was 133. Now the number is 202. Some schools have two ag teachers, and a few have three.  

In all, Nebraska’s number of high school ag teachers totals 230. Yet, supply is coming up short of the demand — statewide, 64 positions have opened up so far this school year, with 21 remaining unfilled.  

"We’re already hearing from superintendents and principals from across the state saying, what can we do to attract candidates?" says Matt Kreifels, an associate professor of practice in ALEC specializing in teacher preparation and leadership.  

The stresses from the COVID crisis have been one factor behind the ag teacher shortage. Another is the wide-ranging instructional expectations for ag teachers, who in many cases are expected to be skilled in everything from the latest ag science developments to crop management to woodworking to welding. And it’s especially important for beginning teachers to receive mentoring and support tailored to their specific needs.  

Haddad learned about such challenges during the five years she was a high school ag instructor and FFA advisor in Minnesota. As “a single-person department teaching everything from welding to Minnesota wildlife to animal science, giving students a little taste of everything,” she found support and input from the community to be vital in helping the program succeed. Such collaboration, she says, “provides a richer environment for everybody involved when you have a whole team on board and it's not just you."

Teacher preparation has been one of the central focuses for Haddad in her current position at the University of Minnesota. Another focus for her: strategies to help ag instructors look to their mental health by properly balancing the stresses from work and home. The strategies, she says, aim to help ag teachers “find a more palatable work and family balance, to manage your total program, to think about what are those things that I choose to take on and recognizing those things as choices.”

Having the two new satellite ag educators —Larsen in northeast Nebraska, White in the Panhandle — can provide multiple benefits, ALEC leaders say.  

“These satellite educators,” Kreifels says, “will have the ability to work with teachers to find out what are the needs, what are the challenges they're facing, and then connect with the experts here on campus and in the research centers in finding how we can best serve and meet those needs."

White observes: "We have the time and the flexibility to go in and ask, what do you need, and hopefully meet that need for as many teachers as possible."   

Melissa Bonifas, an ag teacher at Blue Hill High School in Webster County, knows Larsen and says his breadth of experience — as a rancher as well as an ag teacher with three schools systems — will be especially valuable in helping beginning teachers.  

“I think it will be so helpful to have someone who has been in the business for quite a while and has handled all types of situations,” says Bonifas, who served on the search committee that interviewed candidates for the ALEC faculty position. “It's just going to be phenomenal for people to be able to ask questions and get real help when they need it."

Both Larsen and White have strong ag science backgrounds, seen as a major plus for their duties.  

“We're going to work on having STEM-based ag curriculum that teachers can take and modify,” White says. “Hopefully that helps free up their time and give them some quality resources that they can go through and adapt to what they need in their local classroom."

Larsen’s duties will include presenting programs at Nebraska Extension’s Haskell Agricultural Laboratory in Concord, about 15 miles north of Wayne. The 550-acre site includes extensive cropland, farming and ranching facilities, an arboretum, pollinator gardens and beehives.   

“I'm really impressed that for a facility of that age, it's really been very well taken care of,” Larsen says. Possibilities, he says, include hosting events on the latest science curriculum developments as well as career days that can introduce students to ag research.  

The site, he says, “is an outstanding facility that could be a hub” for the northeast Nebraska education compact whose members include 21 school districts plus UNL’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and other higher-education institutions.  

The career opportunities in modern agriculture range widely, ALEC leaders note, with around 300 career choices in all. In addition to direct production agriculture, examples include ag-related business management, software development, laboratory analysis, environmental studies — and high school ag instruction.  

“If we're going to talk about preparing people for careers hopefully in Nebraska, this program is the premiere one,” says ALEC graduate Matt Dolch, district manager with Syngenta for sales of NK Seeds in Lincoln. The opportunities are there for urban youths as well as rural ones, says Dolch, who served on the search committee that interviewed candidates for the ALEC faculty position.  

Bonifas, the ag teacher in Blue Hill, concurs: "If the kid is interested in agriculture, there is a career out there for them."

The new initiatives that ALEC is pursuing, Kreifels says, have particular importance by providing the department with “the person power, the human capacity, to support beginning teachers and current teachers to help retain them in the profession.”

With these new hires and the strategy behind them, "It feels like we're on the start of a new era in ag education in Nebraska.”

FFA Chapters Recognized for Bringing Agricultural Literacy into Classrooms and Communities

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation recognized 58 Nebraska FFA Chapters during a ceremony at the Nebraska State FFA Convention in Lincoln on April 7.

FFA Chapters participated this year in the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation’s Connecting Chapters program. Connecting Chapters equips high school FFA chapters to connect with their local elementary school to increase agricultural literacy in their communities.

“We are proud to recognize these FFA Chapters and their commitment to sharing the importance of agriculture. Agricultural literacy is not only important for educating and informing future consumers, it also inspires and equips students to explore future careers in agriculture. These students are securing the future of agriculture by being strong advocates,” said Courtney Shreve, director of outreach education.

FFA Chapters that participate complete four tasks during the school year. This includes attending a training from an agricultural literacy expert, reading and donating an agriculture themed book to an elementary school classroom, planning and leading an agriculture activity in their local school, and connecting with their local County Farm Bureau to learn more about Nebraska Farm Bureau and build a community connection.

“When we take the Connecting Chapters activities into the elementary grades, the kids just soak up the information. They look up to the older kids and learn so much from them,” said Lisa Kemp, Wallace FFA advisor.

2021-2022 Connecting Chapters Participants
Adams Central
Arapahoe- Holbrook
Arthur County
Central City
Central Valley
East Butler
Falls City
Garden County
Hayes Center
High Plains
Keya Paha
McPherson County

Shelby - Rising City
Tri County

The mission of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation is to engage youth, educators, and the general public to promote an understanding of the vital importance of agriculture in the lives of all Nebraskans. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. For more information about the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation, visit  

New UNL Manure Nitrogen Crediting Recommendations for Crop Fertility

Javed Iqbal - Extension Nutrient Management and Water Quality Specialist
Leslie Johnson - Animal Manure Management Extension Educator
Amy Millmier Schmidt - Livestock Bioenvironmental Engineer

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) has changed recommendations for crediting nitrogen following manure applications for field crops.

Previously, recommended availability factors varied by species, only credited feedlot manure organic-N availability as 25% for the first year. However, new research has shown that most manures are similar; and recommended organic-nitrogen availability factors have moved up to 40% in year 1; 20% in year 2; and 10% in year 3 following application for most animal manures (except for poultry layer and composted beef feedlot manures).

Research has also shown less nitrogen loss from the ammonium-N fraction in liquid manure when applied by pivot irrigation at two different rates. The new changes show that the availability factor of ammonium-N from sprinkler irrigation is 80% when applied at more than 0.4 inches and 40% when applied at or less than 0.4 inches.

To read more about the new recommendations and resulting impacts for field crop producers, read this UNL Water article

Nebraska Farm Bureau Political Action Committee Endorses Bob Evnen for Secretary of State

Bob Evnen has been endorsed by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Political Action Committee (NEFB-PAC). Evnen is running for re-election as Nebraska’s Secretary of State.

“Bob Evnen has a long and impressive record of engagement that makes him well qualified to serve as Nebraska’s Secretary of State,” said Sherry Vinton of Whitman, chair of the NEFB-PAC and first vice president of Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Evnen is a former member of the Nebraska State Board of Education, where he was appointed by Gov. Dave Heineman in 2005 and was elected in 2008. Evnen also served for many years as a board member of Nebraska Continuing Legal Education, Inc., the education arm of the Nebraska State Bar Association. He has served in numerous leadership roles in the Nebraska Republican Party.

“The Secretary of State has many important responsibilities, including overseeing trade missions to promote Nebraska’s agricultural products and protecting voter integrity in our state elections. Bob Evnen will serve Nebraskans well and we are pleased to offer him our support as he seeks re-election as Nebraska’s Secretary of State,” said Vinton.

Nebraska Farm Bureau Political Action Committee Endorses John Murante for State Treasurer

John Murante has been endorsed by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Political Action Committee (NEFB-PAC). Murante is running for re-election as Nebraska’s State Treasurer.

“During his first term as State Treasurer, John worked with Nebraska Farm Bureau to make it easier for Nebraskans to claim the Refundable Income Tax Credit for Property Taxes Paid to Schools. We are proud to offer our support as he seeks re-election to the office of State Treasurer,” said Sherry Vinton of Whitman, chair of NEFB-PAC and first vice president of Nebraska Farm Bureau.

From his time as a state senator to his service as State Treasurer, Murante has brought honesty and integrity to his elected office. During his tenure in the Legislature, Murante demonstrated a commitment to Nebraskans by prioritizing tax relief and government reform, including successful efforts in the Legislature to reduce unnecessary boards and commissions.

“John is a proven leader who understands agriculture,” Vinton said.

Nebraska Farm Bureau Political Action Committee Endorses Mike Hilgers for Attorney General

Mike Hilgers has been endorsed by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Political Action Committee (NEFB-PAC). Hilgers is seeking election to serve as Nebraska’s State Attorney General.

“Nebraskans are best served when we have an Attorney General who understands the role of agriculture in our state’s economy. Throughout his legislative service, Mike Hilgers has demonstrated a firm grasp of the issues that can have tremendous impacts on the well-being of Nebraska farm and ranch families. Because of that, we are pleased to support him in his bid to serve as Nebraska’s Attorney General,” said Sherry Vinton of Whitman, chair of NEFB-PAC and first vice president of Nebraska Farm Bureau.

According to Vinton, Hilgers will fight federal overreach, protect the constitution, and keep our Nebraska communities safe. From the courtroom to the Capitol, as Attorney General, Hilgers will fight tirelessly every day for Nebraskans.

“Mike has consistently fought to lower taxes, eliminate bureaucracy, and empower people to build businesses and achieve prosperity here in Nebraska. As Speaker, the Legislature had one of the most successful tax cutting years in its history, including providing a record amount of property tax relief. Mike has introduced and passed bills to cut red tape in building roads and helped expand broadband infrastructure around Nebraska. We look forward to continuing to work with him as Attorney General on behalf of Nebraska farm and ranch families,” Vinton said.

EPA Lets Small Oil Refiners Off the Hook After Failure to Comply with RFS

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released the following statement today after the EPA announced the agency will provide “an alternative compliance approach” for 31 small oil refineries who failed to comply with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) during the 2018 compliance year.

“This recent announcement is yet another example of this administration’s failure to stand up for rural America. Despite campaign promises to promote biofuels, Biden’s EPA is letting small oil refiners off the hook at the expense of farmers and ethanol producers. I will continue to work to build bipartisan support in Congress for policies that will uphold the integrity of the RFS and provide certainty for farm country.”

Senator Fischer is a champion of policies to promote biofuels and fix the small refinery exemption process. She is the lead sponsor of two bipartisan pieces of legislation to address these issues.
    The bipartisan Fischer/Klobuchar Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act would extend the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) volatility waiver to ethanol blends above 10 percent. It would increase market access and continue to allow retailers across the country to sell E15 and other higher-ethanol fuel blends year round, eliminating confusion at the pump.
    The bipartisan Fischer/Duckworth RFS Integrity Act of 2021 would provide more certainty for rural America by bringing transparency and predictability to EPA’s small refinery exemption process. The bill would require small refineries to petition for RFS hardship exemptions by June 1st of each year. This change would ensure that EPA properly accounts for exempted gallons in the annual Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) it sets each November.

Soil Temperature Map Can Help Guide Farmers' Planting Decisions

Soil temperature is one of the most important factors crop farmers use to guide their planting decisions. The rule of thumb is to wait until the upper 4 inches reach at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with a warming trend in the forecast.

One way farmers can keep track of soil temperature in their county and across the state is by using the soil temperatures map compiled by the Iowa Environmental Mesonet at Iowa State University. Updated daily in the spring, this map provides current and historical soil temperatures for each county in Iowa.

“The 4-inch temperature is one of the key indicators that we use to indicate if soils are warm enough to plant corn and soybean,” said Mark Licht, assistant professor in agronomy and cropping systems specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “The map provides averages that can help inform producer decisions.”

Licht said some fields may be warmer or cooler than what appears on the map, but he said it’s a good reference for making assumptions about different counties and regions of the state. As of April 7, soil temperatures ranged from 46 F in southern Iowa, to as low as 33 F in the north.

Daily fluctuations are common, especially in early spring. Historically, the optimum planting window for Iowa corn has been April 11 to May 18, with a shorter window in the northern part of the state compared to the south. The risk for a heavy frost (temperature below 28 F) remains above the 50th percentile until about mid-April.

“We want to make sure that we have a soil temperature that is warm enough for the seed to germinate and also for the shoot to emerge, without having to worry about heavy frosts,” said Licht.

Although farmers can plant whenever they like, doing so under 50 F increases the chances of damage to the seed and plant, and the potential that replanting may be necessary. Farmers who want to take advantage of the replanting provision in their crop insurance should not plant before April 11.

“Planting early ensures you will not be planting late, but it does not mean that you will not experience damage or have to replant,” said Licht.

In addition to the current soil temperature, Licht said farmers should pay attention to the forecast and where the trend is headed. A cooling trend with a strong chance of precipitation should be avoided. The forecast should call for temperatures to remain steady or to increase after planting.

Soybean Growers Appreciate EPA Denying Backlogged Waivers, Need Ongoing RFS Support

Soybean farmers in the U.S. are pleased by news that close to three dozen small refinery exemptions (SRE) granted by the previous administration in 2019 and later remanded by the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. back to the Environmental Protection Agency have been denied.

Brad Doyle, American Soybean Association president and soybean grower from Weiner, Arkansas, commented on behalf of ASA, saying, “We appreciate EPA denying these waivers from 2018. While we wish the SRE petitions were resolved sooner, we are very glad EPA is working to remove the backlog of pending waiver requests and is requiring refineries to comply with more stringent hardship and economic impact reporting requirements.”

While the announcement is on face value positive, EPA is allowing an alternative option for the 31 refineries impacted to meet their new 2018 compliance obligation without any further need to procure or redeem additional compliance credits. Those 31 SREs represent roughly 1.3 billion gallons of biofuels, demonstrating that SRE volumes can quickly add up and risk undermining the integrity of the RFS--and why EPA continuing to deny waivers is important to the biofuels industry.

The agency is still wading through 69 pending SRE requests from refineries dating from 2016 to 2021. The Biden administration is also working to finalize renewable volume obligations under the RFS for 2020, 2021, and 2022 by this summer.


Live-Breeding Canadian Sheep, Goats Now Eligible for U.S. Import

This week, live-breeding sheep and goats became eligible for import into the United States from Canada, reports USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Importers must provide supporting documentation showing the scrapie-free status of the Canadian herd of origin at the time an import permit application is submitted to USDA APHIS. Importers must also contact the U.S. port of entry at least 10 business days before the intended date of arrival. Post-entry requirements about traceback of imported animals and recordkeeping will apply.

Go to for additional import and post-entry requirements on the USDA APHIS Live Animal Imports website.

Please contact USDA APHIS (Live Animal Imports and Exports) by phone at 301-801-3300, Option 2, or email with any questions.

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