Fudge Puddles

fudge-puddles1

Ingredients
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
 FUDGE FILLING:
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chopped peanuts
Directions
1.    In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, peanut butter and sugars until blended. Beat in egg and vanilla.
2.    In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Refrigerate the dough, covered for1 hour or until easy to handle.
3.    Preheat oven to 325°. Shape into 1-inch  balls. Place dough balls in greased mini-muffin cups.
4.    Bake 14-16 minutes or until light brown. Remove from the oven and immediately press a 1/2-in.-deep indentation in center of each cookie with the end of a wooden spoon handle or a mini-tart shaper.
5.    Cool the tarts in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
6.    For the filling, in a microwave, melt chocolate chips; stir until smooth.
7.    Whisk in sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until smooth.
8.    Fill each cookie with filling.  Sprinkle with peanuts. (If desired, refrigerate remaining filling; serve warm with ice cream.)

Yield: 3-4 dozen

Honey-Garlic Glazed Meatballs

honey-garlic-glazed-meatballs2Ingredients
2 large eggs
¾ cup milk
1 cup dry bread crumbs
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons salt
2 pounds ground beef
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon butter
¾ cup ketchup
½ cup honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions
1.    In a large bowl, combine eggs, and milk.  Add the bread crumbs, onion, and salt.
2.    Crumble beef over mixture and mix well.
3.    Shape into 1-inch balls.  Place the meatballs on a greased rack in a shallow baking pan.  Bake, uncovered, at 400º for 12-15 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.
4.    Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute garlic in butter until tender, but not brown. Stir in the ketchup, honey, and soy sauce.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
5.    Add meatballs to the sauce.  Carefully stir to evenly coat.  Cook for 5-10 minutes.
6.    Serve as appetizers or as a mealtime meat dish.
Yield:  5-4 dozen, depending on meatball size

A Lay of the Land… Farm Bureau’s Chief Lobbyist Talks Term Limits, Elections and Other Issues Affecting Ag at the State Capitol

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Bruce Rieker, Vice President of Governmental Relations

There are lots of factors that come into play when it comes to what will or won’t get done when it comes to agriculture issues in the 2017 legislative session. And while we’re months away from the start of the session, what happens in the coming weeks and months will shape the political and policy landscape in 2017. Farm Bureau News visited with Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Vice President of Government Relations, Bruce Rieker to get a lay of the land on where things are headed.

Farm Bureau (FB) – Bruce, let’s start by talking about money, because ultimately that shapes what the state budget looks like and plays a major role in terms of what the legislature does and doesn’t do. Generally speaking, it’s easier for senators to provide tax relief if the state is in a good position financially. How are things looking right now?

Bruce Rieker (BR) – If there’s any doubters about whether the health of Nebraska’s economy is tied to the agriculture economy, you don’t have to look any further than the legislative fiscal office projections. When the legislature adjourned in April they estimated state revenues would fall $234 million short of what had been budgeted for the two-year budget cycle beginning July 1, 2017. The projected shortfall was in large part due to the struggles in the agriculture economy.

Currently, state tax receipts are down $71 million below projections for the fiscal year. If things continue to head in this direction it sets the stage for the legislature to build a budget that doesn’t have much room for growth, so basically every dollar the state is short of projections is a dollar that potentially adds to the cost of tax relief or tax restructuring that would help us address the issue of property taxes.

FB – While financial status is important, what gets done legislatively also depends on who is in the Legislature. We’re set for some major changes in both the make-up of the legislature and in leadership positions, correct?

BR – There are 11 state senators who won’t return in January due to term-limits. Among them is the Speaker of the Legislature who leads the overall agenda for the body, as well as the Chairs of the Appropriations, Education, Health and Human Services, Natural Resources and Revenue Committees. That means there will be new leaders in the majority of the Committees that work on issues of interest to Farm Bureau. It’s important whoever takes over those positions has a good feel for our issues because they will have a strong influence in determining what gets done.

Term-limits have definitely changed the body if you look at the actual on-the-job experience of senators in the Legislature.  Depending on how elections go, 34 of the 49 state senators could have two years or less of experience in the legislature when we start the 2017 session. We know for sure there will be only seven senators who have been there for six years or more.

FB – What does all that mean for farmer and ranchers?
 
BR – It means a number of things for those of us in agriculture. For starters, it puts more responsibility on all of us, particularly our members, to engage with senators to help them understand the importance of agriculture to our state and the issues that directly affect them it such as property taxes, livestock issues, water issues, and so on.

It also means things tend to become less predictable in the body, at least in the short-run. Anytime you put a large number of new people together it takes time for them to get to know one another and how they operate. Last session we saw a record high 24 filibusters on the floor. There’s a lot of reasons for that, but a contributing factor is the transition of people in the legislature. It’s the equivalent of a major league baseball team changing half its roster in the off-season and expecting it to look and perform the same as it did the year prior. That just doesn’t happen.

FB – We can’t talk legislative turnover without talking elections. All but one of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s “Friend of Agriculture” candidates advanced to November’s General Election. What do things look like there?

BR – As you mentioned, all but one of our “Friend of Agriculture” candidates advanced to November’s General Election which is great news.

It was an interesting primary, particularly for some of the incumbents seeking re-election. One of those, Nicole Fox from Omaha, did not advance to the General Election. Five other incumbents finished second in the primary election, including Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis and Sen. Jerry Johnson of Wahoo. Both are “Friend of Agriculture” candidates and have been very good for Farm Bureau on key issues, including work on property taxes. In addition, Sen. Johnson serves as the Agriculture Committee Chair and he was instrumental in working on bills to advance livestock growth opportunities in the state last session as well as working with us on the “Right to Farm” issue. Agriculture needs their continued leadership in the legislature so it’s vital our members support those candidates in particular.

FB – Why is it so important that Farm Bureau members support “Friend of Agriculture” candidates?

When we have people who come into the legislature who understand and support agriculture, it increases the chances that we can successfully implement Farm Bureau policy positions. And sometimes, more importantly, make sure we stop measures that would harm our members. That’s why our “Friend of Agriculture” designation for political candidates is important. We have a better chance getting things done for agriculture if we have senators in the body who get why it’s important to support Nebraska’s farm and ranch families.

With that said, there will be plenty of opportunities this summer and fall with county fairs, parades, festivals and such where members can support and help out our “Friend of Agriculture” candidates. I can’t emphasis enough how vitally important it is for our members to support these candidates. It’s a great way for members to build the relationships with their future senator. While Farm Bureau is at the Capitol everyday working with lawmakers, it’s important senators have Farm Bureau members in their district that they know so they can reach out to them for information and insight so they can personalize these issues for people in their district.

Hot Milk Cake

Hot Milk Cake3

Ingredients
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter

Directions
1.    In a medium bowl, beat the eggs using a hand mixer.  Add the sugar and vanilla; mix well.
2.    In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3.    Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.  Beat until just combined.
4.    In a small saucepan (or microwave), heat the milk and butter until very hot but not boiling.
5.    Slowly pour the milk into the cake batter and stir until thoroughly combined (batter should be smooth, yet thin).
6.    Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9”x13” cake pan.  Bake at 350º for 30-35 minutes.
7.    Frost as desired.

Yield:  12 servings

One Pot Cheesy Zucchini Rice

One Pot Cheesy Zucchini Rice1

Ingredients
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 ½ cups shredded zucchini
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt

Directions
1.    Over a medium-high heat in a medium saucepan, sauté onions and minced garlic in 2 tablespoons of butter until onions are translucent (about 2 minutes).
2.    Add rice, stirring continuously until slightly toasted.
3.    Pour in broth and bring to a boil.  Cover, and turn down heat to low.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
4.    Stir in shredded zucchini, cheeses, and salt.  Stir until well combined and cheeses are melted.

Yield:  4-6 servings

Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Maintain Optimism in the Face of Tougher Economic Times

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Left to right: Matt & Elizabeth Albrecht, Brian & Amy Gould, James & Katie Olson, Todd & Julie Reed

The future of agriculture relies upon the ability of young people to maintain and grow their farms and ranches. While the recent downturn in the agricultural economy could lead one to be pessimistic about the future, after a recent National Affairs visit to Washington D.C., the Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee, continue to remain optimistic about the years ahead.

“Given the importance of agriculture to the overall health of Nebraska’s economy, it isn’t hard to see why Nebraska has successfully weathered and even prospered through the economic uncertainty of the past. Yet, recent USDA projections of an over 30 percent reduction in net farm income, as compared to 2013, along with continued tax and regulatory challenges, could signal trouble on the horizon. These continued challenges make it more important than ever for our state’s young farmers and ranchers to speak out about the challenges they face on their operations,” Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau said.

“Of particular concern is a 33 percent rise in operating debt since 2012. As farmers and ranchers are adding debt, they have also been drawing down financial assets, such as cash or equity. Young and new farmers and ranchers are of particular concern as their ability to handle such a downturn is significantly less than a well-established farmer or rancher,” Nelson said.

However, with great challenges comes even greater opportunities. Throughout the trip, increased agricultural trade, Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), was highlighted as a way to provide a necessary boost to the agricultural economy. Passage of TPP continues to be a Farm Bureau priority. According to analysis conducted by the American Farm Bureau (AFBF), the TPP will increase annual net farm income by $4.4 billion and increase U.S. agricultural exports by $5.3 billion per year.

“Nebraska also stands to make significant annual gains from the TPP with a $378.5 million increase in ag cash receipts and a $229.2 million boost to ag exports. According to the Nebraska Farm Bureau analysis, Cuming, Custer, Platte, Dawson, and Lincoln counties would be among the biggest winners under TPP, as those counties would each experience more than $10 million in additional cash sales of agriculture commodities per year once TPP trade protocols are fully enacted. Congress needs to pass the TPP quickly as we continue to lose market share in many of the TPP member nations each day this agreement is not in place,” Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee Chairman Todd Reed said.

Another issue front and center during the trip was the GMO Labeling bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives while the group was in town. This important piece of legislation will help provide certainty to food companies who would have been unable to work through a patchwork of state GMO labeling laws.

“As with all compromises, there are pieces we like and pieces we don’t. The bill’s mandatory nature continues to be a problem for us, however we simply could not allow a system of state-based GMO labeling to occur. While not perfect, the Roberts-Stabenow compromise bill will set a national standard on GMO labeling utilizing digital disclosure technologies,” Reed said.

Besides visiting with Nebraska’s Congressional Delegation, the Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers met with the Federal Aviation Administration to discuss recently released rules regarding the commercial use of “unmanned aircraft systems”, or “drones”, and met with CropLife America and Syngenta to discuss the latest efforts to remove the well-known product Atrazine from their toolbox of crop protection products.

“The list of challenges young farmers and ranchers face is no doubt long. However, the need for young producers to answer the call of growing food for our nation and world remains as strong as ever. Continuing to communicate our message to key decision makers is vital to the future success of our nation as well as for farm and ranch families,” Reed said.

Those attending the National Affairs visit are:

Steve Nelson, president Nebraska Farm Bureau – Kearney/Franklin County

Todd and Julie Reed, chairman YF&R Committee – Lancaster County

Brian and Amy Gould, District 3 representative YF&R Committee – Cedar County

Matt and Elizabeth Albrecht, District 7 representative YF&R Committee – Dawson County

James and Katie Olson, District 6 representative YF&R Committee – Holt County

Lemon Whirligigs with Raspberries

Lemon Whirligigs and RaspberriesIngredients
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon cinnamon, optional
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
4 cups (2 pints) raspberries
WHIRLIGIGS
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons shortening
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons half-and-half
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions
1.    Preheat oven to 400º.
2.    In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, optional cinnamon, salt, and water until smooth.  Bring to a boil, cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
3.    Place berries in an ungreased shallow 1 ½-quart baking dish. Pour hot sauce over top.  Bake for 10 minutes.
4.    Meanwhile, for whirligigs, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl; cut in shortening until crumbly.
5.    Combine egg and cream; stir into dry ingredients to form a stiff dough.
6.    On a lightly floured board, gently work the dough into a ball.  Roll into a 12 in. x 6 in. rectangle.
7.    Combine the sugar, butter, and lemon zest; spread over the dough.  Roll up the dough, jelly roll style, starting at a long side.
8.    Cut the roll into 10 pieces; pat each piece slightly to flatten. Place over the hot berry mixture.
9.    Bake for 15 minutes or until whirligigs are golden brown.

Yield:  10 servings