Precision Technology and Profitability . . .

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Research by Mike Castle, Brad Lubben, Joe Luck and Taro Mieno of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows the adoption of precision technology on farms is associated with profitability, but the researchers couldn’t definitively answer whether precision technology adoption led to increased profitability.  The researchers sought to answer the question of whether the adoption of technology drives increased profitability, or whether increased profitability drives technology adoption.  Using survey data gathered from members of the Nebraska Farm Business, Inc. (NFBI), estimates of adoption rates for various precision technologies since the 1990s were developed.  Technologies examined included global positioning system (GPS) guidance, automated section control, telematics, yield monitors, site-specific soil sampling, variable rate application of inputs, and crop imagery.

Figure 1 shows the adoption rates of various technologies by NFBI producers.  The researchers found yield monitors (YM), grid soil sampling (GSS), GPS-based guidance and auto-steer (AS) have been widely adopted with 70 percent or more of the NFBI members surveyed saying they have adopted the technology.   Over one-half of the NFBI members surveyed said they use GPS-based automatic section control (ASC) and variable-rate application of fertilizers and seed.  Only small percentages of producers have adopted the remaining technologies.  The adoption rates for NFBI producers are substantially higher than those reported in a USDA ARMS survey.  The researchers attribute the higher adoption rates to the fact producers in the NFBI program are more concentrated in crop production and are likely to be more progressive and management-oriented than average crop producers.

 

tech and profit

Source:  Precision Agriculture Adoption and Profitability, Cornhusker Economics, June 21, 2017

The researchers’ initial analysis found the adoption of technology was associated with higher net farm income. However, association alone does not prove causation.  A more in-depth analysis showed positive effects on net farm income of technology adoption, but the results were not conclusive enough to determine definitively whether the adoption of precision technology had a positive effect on net farm income.  The analysis also showed the profitability of technology adoption increases over time as producers’ experiences with the technologies mature.

The research concluded the overall economic impact of technology adoption remains unclear.  Clearly more research is warranted to study the economics surrounding the use of precision technology.   Experience in the field would suggest there are benefits of technology, or their adoption would not rise over time.  Further research will help illuminate these benefits.  For more information on the research, Click Here.

 

Jay RempeJay Rempe is the senior economist for Nebraska Farm Bureau. Rempe’s background in agricultural economics, years of experience in advocating at the state capitol, and firm grasp of issues allow him to quantify the fiscal impact of a regulatory proposal, and provide in-depth examination of key issues affecting Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.

The Joys of Fall

img_8345There is just something about fall and harvest that I love experiencing every year. Things like the cool morning air as the sun rises over the horizon, the deep rumble of the diesel engines warming, and the rows of finished crops just crying out to be picked. And while our harvest at the nursery is a bit different from more traditional row crop farming we also look forward to our fall harvest. For the Nurseryman, when we see fall colors coming onto our trees and we can begin our harvest, our hearts beat a bit faster. To me, fall really hasn’t arrived until I see the combines in the fields harvesting and our equipment digging fresh trees from our fields.

Every year as harvest arrives, whether it is acres of crops, fields of trees, or our own home landscapes and vegetable gardens, I believe we all smile a bit larger as we enjoy the fruits of our labor and the return of the fall.

img_8350Our fall harvest while similar to other farmers is also slightly different. Just as crop farmers wait for the beans or corn to dry to harvest, we need our trees to show good fall color before we can safely harvest them from our fields. Once harvested our job is just beginning, as we will spend the short time before winter planting our harvest in the landscapes of our clients. This means there is still plenty of time to install a new tree, shrub or even perennial in your landscape. Generally we feel you can safely plant perennials until early November, shrubs and evergreens through November, and shade & flowering trees until the ground freezes solid. Of course some years Mother Nature is kinder and other years a bit meaner so that schedule can vary from year to year based on weather so check with your local nursery professional for specific recommendations about your fall planting.

Beyond the harvesting and planting activities don’t forget that fall is also a great time to prepare for next year in our landscapes and gardens. Fall landscape cleanups and fall turf care are some wonderful ways to prepare for next year.

As cool fall weather arrives and our plants go into their dormant winter sleep, proper fall cleaning and trim back of our landscapes prepares our plants to sleep through winter and come back ready to grow next spring. Removing dead annuals opens the beds for next year’s planting and trimming off browned up perennial tops cleans them up and prepares them to regrow next spring. Also when removing your annuals or vegetables consider preparing your beds for next spring’s plantings by adding and tilling in some compost or peat moss & manure to further enrich your beds.

img_8349On the turf side when the leaves begin to fall don’t forget to spend time on your lawn. September to early October is the normal time for application of the third step of the four step lawn programs and November is perfect for the fourth step usually known as the Winter Turf Fertilization. Proper fertilization of your lawn this fall will give your turf what it will need next spring for a healthier lawn. Fall is also the time to aerate your turf to reduce compaction, encourage a vigorous root system and to increase water / air movement into the soil. And while you may need to mow a few more times, make an effort to rake up fallen leaves every week to ten days. Frequent rakings will reduce the possibility the leaves will get left in place caught under the snow. Short-term, leaves aren’t really a problem but if they are left to sit under the snow all winter they can mat down the grass and leave areas that could need to be reseeded or resodded next spring.

Finally, if Mother Nature doesn’t give us plenty of moisture this fall even as the weather gets cooler make sure to water your turf and plants to keep them hydrated as they head into their winter dormancy. By properly hydrating your plants, especially your evergreens, you ensure they are prepared for their winter sleep and your plants will be better prepared to begin growing again next spring. Just remember to detach your hoses between waterings to eliminate the potential of frozen or cracked pipes in your home.

When I think about it I really don’t know what it is about fall that I enjoy so much. Choices abound from the beauty of the fall foliage, the moderating weather, Husker football, the harvest, or any of the many other events that fall brings. What I do know though is that the events of fall, including the harvest, are such major parts of our lives here in Nebraska. So, as I will, make the most of a glorious fall this year and celebrate it before that evil beast winter shows up again.

 

Andy Campbell is manager of Campbell’s Nurseries Landscape Department. A Lancaster County Farm Bureau Member, Campbell’s, a family owned Nebraska business since 1912, offers assistance for all your landscaping and gardening needs at either of their two Lincoln garden centers or through their landscape design office. www.campbellsnursery.com.

Egg, Dairy and Chicken Prices Down, Beef Too

CS16_167 2016 Fall Harvest Marketbasket SurevyLower retail prices for several foods, including eggs, whole milk, cheddar cheese, chicken breast, sirloin tip roast and ground chuck resulted in a decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Fall Harvest Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $49.70, down $4.40 or 8 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 13 decreased and three increased in average price.

Egg prices dropped significantly due to production recovering well from the 2014 avian influenza, according to John Newton, AFBF director, market intelligence. Milk prices are down substantially from prior years, particularly compared to record-highs in 2014, due to the current global dairy surplus.

“For all commodities in agriculture there is a lot of product on hand and prices are depressed,” Newton explained.

The following items showed retail price decreases from a year ago:

  • eggs, down 51 percent to $1.48 dozen
  • chicken breast, down 16 percent to $2.86 per pound
  • sirloin tip roast, down 11 percent to $5.04 per pound
  • shredded cheddar, down 10 percent to $4.09 per pound
  • whole milk, down 10 percent to $2.84 per gallon
  • ground chuck, down 9 percent to $4.13 per pound
  • toasted oat cereal, down 9 percent to $2.80 for a nine-ounce box
  • vegetable oil, down 9 percent to $2.39 for a 32-ounce bottle
  • flour, down 7 percent to $2.21 per five-pound bag
  • white bread, down 7 percent to $1.58 for a 20-ounce loaf
  • orange juice, down 5 percent to $3.26 per half-gallon
  • bacon, down 3 percent to $4.40 per pound
  • sliced deli ham, down less than 1 percent to $5.45

These items showed moderate retail price increases compared to a year ago:

  • bagged salad, up 16 percent to $2.85 per pound
  • apples, up 10 percent to $1.59 per pound
  • potatoes, up 3 percent to $2.73 for a 5-pound bag

“Dry conditions in the Northeast and Northwest the last few years likely contributed to smaller supplies and higher retail prices for apples,” Newton said. In addition, he said salad prices are up due to lower output in the West, particularly in California and Arizona.

Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon regular milk, $1.86; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.26; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $3.48.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 17 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Newton said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $49.70 marketbasket would be approximately $8.45.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a Spring Picnic survey, Summer Cookout survey, Fall Harvest survey and Thanksgiving survey.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 59 shoppers in 26 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in September.

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

Sound Tax Policy isn’t Education’s Foe

steve corn head shotThere are two things I’m confident about when it comes to the beliefs of the majority of Nebraskans. One, we value education; whether it’s making sure we have high quality K-12 schools, or quality secondary education opportunities. Two, we believe in sound fiscal policy; including an appreciation for spending restraint and a balanced tax structure.

We don’t believe those two things have to be in conflict, but you might get that impression based on sentiment expressed by some in the education community as Farm Bureau has weighed in on the need for property tax and school funding reform. Farm Bureau’s calls for local spending restraint and property tax relief should not in any way be construed as adversarial to public education.

You know as well as I do that Nebraska Farm Bureau and its members value quality educational opportunities for Nebraska students. For decades, numerous members of our organization have given their time and talents to serve on local school boards, while many others have offered their service to Nebraska education as teachers and volunteers. Our members are proud to support their schools and their communities.

As I’ve said on many occasions, including testimony before the Legislature’s Revenue and Education Committees, how we as Nebraskans choose to fund schools is a separate and distinct question from whether we should provide quality educational opportunities for students.

We believe in quality education, but we also believe we must address the underlying imbalance in our tax structure that has led us to a point where property taxes carry the lion’s share of school funding. Nebraska is far outside the norm in terms of our reliance on property taxes when compared with other states. For example, the nationwide average contribution of property taxes for school funding is 32 percent. In Nebraska, it’s 51 percent.

Calls for reform are not an indictment of whether our schools are doing a good job, but rather an indictment of an imbalance in the way in which we fund schools in Nebraska and the over-reliance on property taxes to do so.

And make no mistake, Nebraskans want lower property taxes.

Over the last 10 years, (2005 to 2015) total statewide property tax collections for real property increased 66 percent, with property taxes levied on agricultural land increasing 176 percent, commercial property taxes 49 percent and residential property taxes 35 percent.

In 2015 alone, property tax collections increased statewide by six percent, a total increase of $216 million. That clearly outpaces the $204 million put into the state’s property tax credit program that was targeted to provide property tax relief.

We’re not getting ahead. We’re not even treading water.

To solve the property tax problem we as Nebraskans have to think bigger. We need visionary leadership. That’s the reason delegates at Nebraska Farm Bureau’s annual meeting adopted policy that seeks to set a limitation that no more than 40 percent of school spending could come from property taxes, bringing us closer to the national norm. The goal isn’t to harm education. The goal is to alleviate the pressure on property taxes and force the conversation that must take place about balancing the tax burden on Nebraskans. This is about fixing a problem that continues to be kicked down the road.

Those who believe that calls for property tax reductions and school funding reform are attacks on education, are simply missing the point.

We can work together to determine how much money it takes to provide adequate funding for schools. But, until we reform how we fund schools, there will continue to be undue pressure on property taxes.

There’s no question that re-balancing the tax burden and how we fund schools is challenging. But having the ability to problem solve and tackle these types of challenges is why we invest in education in the first place.

It’s time to think bigger on Nebraska tax policy. Reducing our over-reliance on property taxes to fund education is the right place to start.

Sincerely,

Steve Nelson

President

“Right to Farm” Protections Must Be Done Right

farmland

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Legislature should be cautious and a careful examination is needed before moving forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would put “Right to Farm” protections in the Nebraska Constitution, said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president, Feb.22.

“No one is more concerned than we are about ensuring our farm and ranch members continue to have the ability to use new practices and employ new technologies in their operations. After considerable input and a great deal of examination by our Board, we have concluded it’s critical we give more thoughtful consideration to any measure that would modify the state constitution as it relates to agriculture,” said Nelson. “We have an obligation to fully explore the pros and cons of these types of initiatives, including how they will impact our members not just today, but well into the future.”

The Legislature’s Agriculture Committee will hear testimony on Legislative Resolution 378CA, Tues., Feb. 23. The measure seeks to protect farming practices in the state constitution. Nebraska Farm Bureau will testify in a neutral position and encourage the Committee to consider placing “right to farm” protections in state statute as opposed to a ballot measure to amend the state constitution.

“Agriculture is vital to our state. It’s important that we make sure we handle this issue the right way and that means having a thorough discussion about what we’re trying to achieve and the best way to go about doing that,” said Nelson. “We already have “Right to Farm” laws in place as it relates to nuisance issues in agriculture. At this point in time, we think exploring legislative actions to similarly protect farming practices is a good place to continue “Right to Farm” discussions.

“We’re confident Nebraskans know the vast majority of farmers and ranchers are good people who care for their livestock and for their land. This is about working to find the best course of action and we need to look carefully at the options available to us,” said Nelson.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service and advocacy efforts. More than 61,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit www.nefb.org.

What’s a typical day like on your farm?

noe 5My family has been farming in Spring Bay, Illinois since 1875. Over the years, the farm has seen quite a few changes in which crops are grown and how they are raised. Currently, we raise corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, hogs, cantaloupes and watermelons. Since the farm is so diversified, each day is different throughout the year. The spring season consists of working ground, planting corn and soybeans, starting the melons in the greenhouse and then transplanting them into the field.

noe 4Summer is our busiest season. In the early months, we finish transplanting melons and begin to cultivate and hoe them to keep the weeds out. In July, we cut wheat, bale straw and hay and begin to pick cantaloupe. We will usually handpick about 300-400 cantaloupes on a daily basis. In the middle of the season, it’s not unusual for us to pick 800-1200 cantaloupes each night. We deliver truckloads to local grocery stores in addition to selling them at local farmer’s markets six days a week. The watermelons are usually ready in mid-August. We pick them about three times a week and continue to go to farmer’s markets and grocery stores. On a typical summer day, you can find my family up and working by 6:30 a.m. loading pickups, picking flowers and produce to go to the farmer’s market, and doing hog chores. One of us will go to the market and sell until noon. When we come home, we unload the leftover produce, eat lunch, and relax. Then we go out to pick more cantaloupes, reload pickups, eat supper, and make sure everything is ready to go for the next day.

noe 3September is an in-between month for our farm. The cantaloupe and watermelon season winds down and my dad and brothers start preparing the combine and equipment for harvest. We usually begin cutting beans and picking corn in the first week of October. Once harvest starts, my family spends a majority of the day in the fields or on the road moving equipment and hauling the grain to the elevator for storage. Mom takes breaks from driving the trucks to pack lunches and make supper for the crew. Harvest is an exciting and stressful time for the whole family. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done and the weather just never seems to cooperate. There have been numerous times when Dad combined through the night to get a field done before an early snow or to get an extra load up to the elevator before it closed for the evening. Despite the stress, breakdowns, and disappointments, it’s very easy to love the harvest season. It’s an exciting time you spend out in the field working with your family and bringing in the crops that you started way back in the spring.

noe 2By early November, we are usually finished with harvest and begin to prepare the equipment for the next season. Once the crops are harvested, everything starts to slow down. The winter months are mundane compared to the rest of the year. From December to March, we work to repair the things that broke during the spring, summer, or fall that we didn’t have time to fix in that season. This is also the time that we get to work on fun projects, hobbies, and finish taxes and other book work. When it gets cold and starts snowing, we use skid-steers to clear snow off our driveways and out of the hog pens. We also have to put straw in the outdoor hog pens to help them keep warm in the cold weather.

noe 1Although we’re busy throughout the year with our crops and melons, the hogs are an additional year-round occupation. Every morning and evening, we have to feed the hogs in the indoor and outdoor pens. We also have to move any pregnant sows into the farrowing house, wean piglets and give them shots, and move sows out of the farrowing house and back into the pens with the boars so they can be rebred. Once the pigs have reached market weight, we arrange shipments and send them off on the semi to become pork chops, bacon, sausages, and pork burgers.

Our farm is an exciting place to be and there’s always plenty of work to be done. Through our family farm upbringing, my brothers and I learned what it takes to run a successful business and have built a lot of character through the work that we did. One of the benefits of farming is that the job changes every few months and each day is different from the day before. It can be overwhelming at times, but it’s a very rewarding career in the long run.

Rachel Noe bio pic

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