Nebraska Crop Values . . .

Economic Tidbits 12.18.17

The value of Nebraska’s 2017 corn crop is $5.55 billion and the soybean crop is $2.95 billion according to recent USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS) estimates.  The corn production value is third-highest in the nation, falling behind Iowa at $9 billion and Illinois at $7.7 billion, and the soybean crop value is the fifth-largest.  The figure below shows the values of Nebraska’s corn and soybean crops since 2010.  The 2017 corn crop value is lower compared to 2016, but the soybean crop value is slightly higher.  The corn crop value exceeded $9 billion in 2011, but has since fallen to where it has been around $6 billion or less in recent years.  On the other hand, the value of the soybean crop has consistently hovered around $3 billion through the years.  The drop in corn prices and acres in production are both reflected in the lower crop values for corn.  Soybean prices have also come down, but increases in acres and higher yields have mitigated the effects on overall crop value.    Continue reading

Get To Know Your Nebraska Farmer: John Knapp

Sarpy County Farm Bureau President John Knapp knows farming; after all, it’s been his way of life for the majority of his lifetime. His hometown of Springfield is a rural community about ten miles southwest of Omaha that feels the negatives of urban sprawl with each passing day, but John doesn’t let that hinder his passion. In recent years, John has played a key role in issues that Sarpy County Farm Bureau has dealt with concerning the Learning Community and the property taxes attached to it.

Although John grew up on the farm and is farming full-time now, he hasn’t always been. When John returned home from college, where he studied zoology with minors in math and chemistry, he and his dad knew there wasn’t enough farm to support both of them. John took a job with the State of Nebraska for eight years and with the State of Oregon for four years before coming home again to help his father who was struggling with emphysema.

Today, John’s farming operation consists of a small corn, soybean and alfalfa rotation. Like many farmers and ranchers, he often works side-by-side with family members to complete larger tasks during harvest and planting seasons.

John Knapp with some extra harvest help: cousin John Wiese, and Wiese’s daughter Carli, 7.

Being involved with Nebraska Farm Bureau has been a highlight for John. When asked why he got involved with the organization, he said, “I think it’s important. It’s an organization that represents farmers and it’s a voice for farmers. We get to work with policies and create a unified front for agriculture.”

“Farm Bureau fights for a lot of issues and we work with different commodity organizations to change policies that will benefit Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.”

John’s favorite part of agriculture? “I like being outside and working outdoors. I do enjoy the farming…especially in the good times.”

Continue to check back to the blog each Thursday to get to know more farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska as they share their everyday stories. And to read past farmer and rancher profiles, click here.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Get To Know Your Nebraska Farmer: Matt Jedlicka

Matt Jedlicka filling up the tractor.

Farmers spend a lot of time by themselves in the tractor and combine. It’s valuable thinking time, but extroverts like Matt Jedlicka of Columbus need people contact time, too. That’s one of the reasons Matt is both a farmer and a business consultant to other farmers.

“I’m a people person and that’s probably the one thing with farming that doesn’t fit me – a lot of time by yourself. I love the business side of farming, and that’s what I do – sit down with my clients and analyze their business.  So it’s a natural fit.”

Matt is a marketing and financial consultant with Russell Consulting Group in Iowa and has clients in Nebraska, Iowa and Colorado.  “What I really like is that my work is counter-cyclical to farming: when I’m busy on the farm, my clients are busy on their farms. A lot of this work is done in the winter.”

Matt farms 14 miles northwest of Schuyler with his Dad (Allan), Uncle (David) and Cousin (Rodney). The Jedlicka Brothers operation grows corn, soybeans and a little alfalfa and feeds cattle. Matt’s great-grandparents settled in the area in the early 1900s, so he’s a fourth generation farmer. The family added the feedlot in the early 1970s when they decided to feed cattle on a bigger scale. Most of the cattle come from ranches or sale barns in the Nebraska Sandhills, but some also come from South Dakota.

Matt and Sharee Jedlicka with their sons Bowden, 7, and Callen, 5.

Matt, who earned a degree in diversified agriculture from UNL in 1996, lives in nearby Columbus with his family. He and his wife Sharee will be married 15 years this fall. Sharee is a physical therapist and opened her own clinic, Dynamic Life Therapy and Wellness, in Columbus two years ago. Their two sons, Bowden, 7; and Callen, 5; attend St. Bonaventure School.

The boys visit the farm often. “They come out a lot with me during harvest and a couple of days a week in the summer. My 7-year-old is starting to get more helpful. He likes to help and spends a lot of time with my Dad,” Matt says.

The boys play baseball and t-ball and Matt coaches one of their teams.  They play sports around the house and go to sporting events and the entire family gave skiing a try last winter.

Matt would like consumers to know that farming is a business, and it’s not easy. “I think sometimes the media and the public think farmers are really making a lot, when corn is $8 and they’re paying more in the grocery store for their meat and everything.

“Farmers are managing a lot more risk than people realize. Expenses fluctuate, markets fluctuate – farmers are really margin players. They’re continually selling grain and buying inputs to decrease their risk and a lot of time it’s not really as easy as the public thinks it is.”

Continue to check back to the blog each Thursday to get to know more farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska as they share their everyday stories. And to read past farmer and rancher profiles, click here.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Get To Know Your Nebraska Farmer: Robert Busch

Panhandle farmer Robert Busch tried college, he really did. But when it was time for the fall dry bean harvest, he cut class: “Somehow I thought I was the only one who could run the combine,” he said recently, from the farm on County Road J 11 miles west of Scottsbluff that has been his home for all of his 75 years.

All of Robert’s grandparents were Germans from Russia.  One grandfather took the German Train from Lincoln to Scottsbluff in 1914 to work sugar beets and his family settled there in 1915 when Robert’s dad was six weeks old. Robert’s Dad started farming on his own on 160 rented acres in 1947 and Baby Robert would sleep in the car while his mother thinned beets.

Robert helped with irrigation as soon as he was old enough to carry a shovel to repair furrows and when he was older he got up early to feed cotton cake to the family’s sheep before school—even though his Dad told him he didn’t have to. He was driving a tractor at age 12 and cultivating potatoes at 14.

“Basically I’ve been a farm kid all my life – still am. God put me on this earth first of all to worship Him and secondly to work. I’m very fortunate at my age to be able to work,” he says, expressing admiration for an 89-year-old farmer-neighbor who’s still going strong.

The Busch farm grows some alfalfa but the major enterprise is sugar beets, corn and dry edible beans, grown in a three-year rotation in equal-sized fields watered with furrow irrigation. The rotation helps maintain the soil and control sugar beet cyst nematodes. It also keeps the weeds down, but Robert notes that Roundup Ready sugar beets and corn have been a blessing for weed control, too. Another blessing is the researchers at the nearby University of Nebraska Panhandle and Research Center who’ve done much to improve sugar beet and dry bean varieties over the years.

Robert is well-known in Nebraska agriculture for his interest and expertise on water issues. In 1989, as chairman of the Scottsbluff Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee, he brought together the presidents of three irrigation districts in the area for a one-hour meeting that lasted twice as long. “I realized how naïve I was about water issues,” he recalls.

Three weeks later, Robert organized a bus tour of Bureau of Reclamation projects that supplied irrigation for the region. “I got my taste of water issues and just kept on doing it.” Today the annual two-day, 500-mile tour travels to sites in eastern Wyoming, including the Wayland Diversion Dam west of Ft. Laramie, Wyo., where the North Platte water project starts. Speakers on the bus, such as Wyoming state water engineers, provide additional information and perspective.

Robert served on former Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns’ Platte River Council and worked on the Platte River Cooperative Agreement with Colorado, Wyoming and the federal government, and has served on other water-related task forces. He’s currently a member of the Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation District board.

Former Nebraska Farm Bureau President Keith Olsen awarded Robert Busch the Nebraska Farm Bureau Silver Eagle Award at the NFBF Annual Convention in 2008. Also pictured is Robert’s wife Norma.

And while serving as president of the Nebraska Sugar Beet Growers, he was a key force in forming the Western Sugar Cooperative, which purchased the Western Sugar Company, to preserve a buyer for western Nebraska’s sugar growers and growers in three neighboring states. The cooperative raised $170,000,000 for the purchase. For these achievements and others, he received Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Silver Eagle Award in 2008.

Robert and his wife Norma have been married 34 years. Oldest son Robert Jr. works for Aon insurance brokerage in Charlotte, N.C. Middle son Jay Johnson is a flight-certified paramedic for Guardian Air ambulance company in Gillette, Wyo., and youngest son Kendall runs the Busch farm. “I work for him now,” Robert says of Kendall.

Robert would like consumers to know that farmers like him produce a safe food supply. “Our food is safe – that’s the first thing.

“The second thing is, farming is very high-risk. It has changed so much over the years. The (profit) margins have stayed relatively stable, but your chance for losses is much greater today. You hear in the news media about high prices for corn, soybeans and sugar these days. But the cost of production is also horrendous.”

Back to the first thing: “I can pick a pan full of dry beans in the field, rinse ‘em, boil ‘em, throw in a ham hock and you’ve got some great bean soup. The chemicals we use on our beans are all totally safe.”

Continue to check back to the blog each Thursday to get to know more farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska as they share their everyday stories. And to read past farmer and rancher profiles, click here.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Get to know your Nebraska farmer and rancher: Carol Sisco

It’s not unusual for farm family members to have jobs in town. But Carol Sisco of Burchard, Neb., has one that’s a little unusual: she’s the editor of a weekly newspaper, the Pawnee Republican. It’s a perfect fit for her, she says, because neither farming nor journalism have regular hours and she can balance the two.

Carol grew up on a farm in Sarpy County and earned a degree from Doane College in English, language arts and education. She was teaching in Humboldt in 1987 when she and a girlfriend went to a fair in nearby Table Rock. That’s where she met Paul, whose family has farmed in the Burchard area for several generations. They’ve been married since 1988.

“I always was very like my mother,” Carol says. “She always told me I was going to marry (someone like) my father. She was right: my husband is a newer, updated version of my father.”

The Siscos farm north and south of Burchard and live east of the town. They have a Black Angus cow/calf herd and grow corn and soybeans, and alfalfa and prairie hay to keep the cattle through the winter. Every once in a while they’ll try wheat or oats.

In 1992, she was recruited to gather the local news for the Pawnee newspaper. “They said: ‘You’re an English teacher, you can do this,’” Carol recalls, and she did – earning the princely sum of 10 cents a column inch PLUS the postage to mail her articles to the newspaper.

Before too long, she was asked to be the fill-in typesetter at the paper. If she found an error in someone’s copy, she fixed it: “I couldn’t type it wrong – the English teacher in me would fix it.” Next came reports of news from her local area and a humorous article that led to a regular weekly column – and eventually to being the newspaper’s editor. She continues to write her column (which is also published in the Tecumseh Chieftain) and the topic often has something to do with agriculture.

“Most farmers are interested in making a profit and to do that we have to be good stewards,” she explains. “We’re trying to do what’s best for the land and our animals. We really do care about the creatures. My dad had a saying: ‘Chickens are people too,’” and that guided the care her family gave their livestock.

Carol does all kinds of farm work and helps with the cattle. She takes a lot of lunches to the field and is a gopher for parts. If his equipment won’t work at all without the part, Paul joins her on the parts run:  “That’s our alone time,” she jokes.

Carol and Paul have three children. Paige, 17, will be a high school senior at Lewiston this fall and is interested in a medical career, like her sister, Bonnie, 19, who’s studying pre-med at Wayne State College.  Their brother Adam, 21, farms with Paul and is working on a beginning farmer loan application to buy a piece of ground.

Several years ago, Carol was recruited to fill out Pawnee County Farm Bureau’s nomination slate and was elected along with everyone else on the ballot.  Soon she was a delegate to the state convention, where her education background enabled her to add to the discussion on a home school issue.

“Everybody listened to me even though I was new, and I thought it made a difference. I had the chance to be every bit as influential as the guys who had been doing it (serving as delegates) a long time,” she recalls.

She’s since served on the State Legislative Policy Committee, which studies issues intensely to prepare for the annual meeting of Farm Bureau delegates. “It gave me insight into all the work that goes into developing Farm Bureau policy – it gave me a lot more respect for the process. Developing policy can be a little tricky: sometimes what’s good for an eastern Nebraska farmer is not what’s good for a western Nebraska farmer, and we have to consider the needs of both.”

Continue to check back to the blog each Thursday to get to know more farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska as they share their everyday stories. And to read past farmer and rancher profiles, click here.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Get to know your Nebraska farmer: Dave Murman

The dairy farm near Glenvil where Dave Murman lives now was started by his grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. with David’s grandmother in 1921. He started working for other German farmers in the Glenvil area and Dave’s heard from an old-timer that “the farmers all around gave my grandpa a cow or a calf or a hog or a turkey, and then he had more livestock than anyone else!”

Dave’s grandfather started his dairy in the late 1920s/early ’30s with 10 cows. When Grandpa moved to town, Dave’s Dad took over.  Dave remembers the family had 30 cows when he was in grade school, 50 by high school and close to 70 when he returned from college. Today the Grade A dairy has 240 cows and because the dairy raises its own replacement heifers, the herd is about 500 all told.

Dave majored in dairy management and business at UNL and came close to a minor in political science. He’d always been interested in politics, and “Hey, it was the late ’60s, early ’70s, a pivotal time in U.S. history,” he says.

He came back to the family farm in 1976. Today he farms in partnership with his younger brother, Jim. Their farm is four miles south and four miles east of Hastings in south-central Nebraska.

Jim manages their 1,250-acre farming operation. Nearly all of the Murman land is irrigated corn with 100 acres of alfalfa for the cows. Dave is in charge of the dairy and enjoys the management challenges that come with dairying today.

Dave’s barns are free-stall, with fans with misters to keep the cows cool during hot weather. They stay warm in the winter and are protected from predators – coyotes, and possibly cougars that have been sighted in the area. The dairy’s milk goes to the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative, usually to Ravenna but sometimes to Omaha where it becomes Roberts Milk.

American farmers do a great job of raising food and taking care of their animals, Dave says. “We care for our animals very much. That’s just part of our lifestyle. Most of us have grown up on farms and it’s just part of our nature to be good to our animals. If it means staying up all night during calving or storms, that’s what we do.

“The cows are a close second behind our families for what we care about.”

Dave’s wife Kathy is also from Glenvil. They have three young adult children:  Kelsi, who’s married to Grant Hewitt,  worked as a bank examiner after graduating from UNL and is now a full-time mother of two: Carter, 2-1/2, and Calvin, 1-1/2.

Whitney lives at home with her parents and always will. She was born with Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder, and is totally disabled and unable to talk. Neighbors and college students help the Murman family with her care.

Chase just graduated from Sandy Creek High and will attend Concordia University in Seward on a football scholarship, possibly studying physical therapy or business.

Dave was a member of LEAD Group IX and is a graduate of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Leadership Academy.  He’s a past state president of the Nebraska State Dairy Association and serves on the corporate resolutions committee for the upcoming DFA national convention. He’s also been a member of the Sandy Creek School Board.

Dave’s thinking about retiring from dairying in a few years and a run for the Nebraska Legislature may be in his future, he says, because, hey, it’s a pivotal time in U.S. history.

Continue to check back to the blog each Thursday to get to know more farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska as they share their everyday stories. And to read past farmer and rancher profiles, click here.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.