Latest Crop Production Estimates . . .

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This year’s Nebraska corn production is forecast to be 1 percent less than last year, and soybean production is forecast to be 1 percent more, according to the latest USDA- NASS estimates released on Thursday.  The latest estimates peg Nebraska corn production at 1.683 billion bushels and soybean production at 316.4 million bushels, a record for the state.  U.S. corn production is forecast at 14.3 billion bushels, down 6 percent from last year, while soybean production is forecast at a record 4.43 billion bushels, up 3 percent from last year.  The percentage changes in production for Nebraska crops are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Percentage Change in Crop Production, 2016 to 2017

 Corn  -1 %
 Soybeans  +1 %
 Sorghum  – 19 %
 Dry Edible Beans  +49 %
 Sugar beets  +1 %
 Sunflowers  – 4 %
 Alfalfa Hay  + 4 %

Corn and soybeans together typically account for 90 percent of Nebraska’s total crop cash receipts.  As such, changes in revenues for these commodities, along with changes in beef sector revenue, will dictate the overall health of the state’s agricultural economy.  Calculations using the latest USDA production and price estimates suggest cash receipts received by corn and soybean producers could be less for this year’s crop.  Combined receipts for the two crops are estimated to decrease $389 million, or 4.48 percent from last year.  Revenue for the 2017 corn crop is estimated to be $325 million less, or 5.69 percent; revenue for the 2017 soybean crop will be $64 million less, or 2.16 percent less. The reduction in revenue would result in an estimated 0.61 percent reduction in net farm income, or $30.7 million, assuming corn and soybean receipts as a percentage of net farm income is the same as the average from 2008 to 2015.  The decline doesn’t necessarily mean total net farm income for the state will be down, as the beef feedlot sector has enjoyed positive returns for awhile this year.  But any positive returns in the beef industry or other commodity sectors must overcome the declines in corn and soybeans revenues to result in an uptick in income for the state.

 

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.

Federal tax reform-a first impression . . .

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The Trump Administration, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee announced last week they have agreed to a unified framework for federal tax reform.  The framework outlines several tax proposals for both business and individual filers.  Many details remain to be filled in, and legislation needs to be written, but the unified framework does provide some guidance for farmers and ranchers on issues they should monitor as the tax discussion evolves.

Most farm and ranch operations in Nebraska file federal taxes as individuals (Form 1040).  The 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture reported that 85 percent of Nebraska farms claimed the legal status of a family or individual for tax purposes.  The average annual federal income tax after credits reported on returns filed by Nebraska farm sole proprietors was $443 million for 2009-2015 according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data (2013 was not included as data was not readily available).  The average annual effective rate of taxation on farm returns over this period was 14 percent, which was two percentage points higher than the effective rate for all Nebraska individual returns over the same period.

For individual filers, the unified framework proposes to double the standard deduction, consolidate tax brackets from seven to three, lower the top rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, eliminate itemized deductions except for mortgage interest and charitable deductions, repeal personal exemptions for dependents but increase the child tax credit, and repeal the alternative minimum tax.  So, what are the tax implications for farmers and ranchers?

Like most Nebraskans, most producers claim the standard deduction on their individual returns.  In 2015, according to IRS, 72 percent of Nebraska farm returns claimed the standard deduction.  Thus, doubling the standard deduction has the potential to reduce taxes for these filers subject to other changes in tax brackets and rates, which are not known now.  For producers who itemize, total Schedule A deductions amounted to $196 million in 2015, excluding home mortgage and charitable contributions.  Losing these deductions, and what it means in ultimate taxes paid, will depend on individual filer’s amount of itemized deductions relative to the increase in the standard deduction, and ultimately, the changes in tax brackets and rates.  The proposals addressing the child tax credit and repealing the alternative minimum tax will have little impact on farm and ranch taxes.  Combined, the two provisions amounted to $23 million for farm tax filers in 2015, or 0.7 percent of reported adjusted gross income that year.

At this point, because all the details on tax brackets and rates are not known, the implications of federal tax reform for farmers and ranchers are difficult to grasp.  The changes to business taxes will also have implications for farm and ranch operations.  Future Tidbits will highlight provisions in the unified framework for businesses and other taxes that might impact farmers and ranchers.  Tidbits will also return to the topic of changes for individual filers when more is known on changes to brackets and tax rates.

 

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 September

Corn harvest in Illinois - SeptemberWhen it comes to Nebraska I love it when we get to September. From the cooler, crisper weather, to the shorter days and longer nights, to the promise of crops almost ready for harvest, September is a favorite time for me. September is also well known as the end of summer and the beginning of fall and while there are many other times of the year I enjoy, there is just something about September that grabs me every year.

Besides the reasons above, maybe it is because I can see the end of the year coming and I know that after all the hard work of the spring and summer our time is short until Mother Nature sends us another blast of Nebraska winter. September can be so much better than the heat of summer or the cold of winter, and in the Green Industry the return of September also brings with it being able to stop fighting the heat and being able to enjoy our work outside. Moreover, while fall isn’t truly with us until we reach Friday September 22nd, there is so much we can do in our yards, gardens, and landscapes in September and on into the fall.

img_8349To me, and many of my fellow green industry professionals, fall is a great time for planting in our landscapes. While there are many who think the best time to plant in the landscape is in spring I actually prefer to install new plants in the late summer to early fall. The moderation of Mother Nature’s extremes offers us a wonderful time to plant, harvest, maintain and encourage our gardens and landscapes to even better levels. Mother Nature usually offers a bit of rain and nice lingering warmth to give our new plants a perfect chance to settle into place before winter blows into town. I also know how busy my schedule gets each spring. By planting in the fall, as soon as Mother Nature decides to warm up next spring my fall installed plants can “wake up” and begin growing before I even have time to think about planting.

And when talking about fall planting I always think we should mention a few plants that offer gorgeous fall color so our landscapes have interest all growing season long versus just spring and summer. For perennials consider the Sedums, Hardy Hibiscus, Goldenrod, and ornamental grasses. If you are looking for something more sizable consider varieties of Burning Bush, Althea (Rose of Sharon), Ninebark, Sumac, & Viburnum. And when it comes to trees I find the bright reds and oranges a wonderful choice versus the yellows of our many native tree varieties so consider Maple and Oak varieties.

Fall is also a wonderful time to experience beautiful color through the planting of fall blooming Mums and Asters. Whether you are changing out your summer annual beds or a few pots on the patio, to pockets of them mixed into your landscape beds, Mums and Asters are some of the most colorful plants in the landscape each fall. They are also able to withstand some cooler weather prolonging your enjoyment usually well through October or longer depending on Mother Nature. In most cases wait to transition your annual areas to Mums and Asters to when we start getting a bit cooler toward the middle to end of September. And don’t forget that with cooler weather you could plant another crop of pansies or other frost tolerant annuals.

TulipsAnd before we move on no discussion of fall planting would be complete without talking about spring flowering bulbs. Many feel spring is really here when we see the spring flowering bulbs poke their bright colorful blooms out of the ground at the start of spring. But to enjoy your own spring bulbs you need to install them this fall. Try to mix your colors and bulbs here and there through your landscape in areas that will receive southern or western sun for best results. Spring flowering bulb planting is almost fool proof and gives such a colorful return on a simple investment of your time.

Finally, as you read this we are nearing the end of the best time to do turf grass seeding. We generally recommend mid August to mid September as the best time to seed but typically you should be fine as long as you seed before the end of September. Remember to properly prepare the areas, sow good quality seed, and utilize a covering material like peat moss, compost, or straw to keep the new seed moist through germination. Then once your young grass has germinated let it get a bit shaggy before mowing and try to get at least three or four mowings on the new grass before winter hits to help harden it off.

September and the return of the fall can be such an amazing time to enjoy in Nebraska. Whether it is enjoying the change in the weather, accomplishing some tasks around your landscape, or maybe being a spectator at a Husker game, September can be such a great time in Nebraska. It certainly is one of my favorites.

 

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.

It’s Official-Nebraska Farm Income Dropped for 2016 . . .

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The USDA Economic Research Service on August 30 released its official estimate of Nebraska net farm income for 2016.  The official estimate, $3.78 billion, is nearly $1 billion less than net farm income earned for 2015, and off almost 50 percent from net farm income reported for 2011.

farm income

In fact, 2016 net farm income is just slightly higher than the amount earned for 2010.  A decline in livestock receipts, about $2.1 billion, was the primary reason for the drop in net farm income.  Cash crop receipts were off slightly, but almost equal to that received in 2015.  Farm expenses were down also which helped compensate for the loss of revenue.

The cost of livestock purchases was down $1.7 billion, due to lower cattle prices, and fertilizer and insurance costs were also lower.  It was the third consecutive year net farm income declined in Nebraska, and unfortunately the most recent University of Nebraska estimate suggests 2017 net farm income will be down for a fourth consecutive year.

 

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.

Suprise Pie

Surprise Pie1Ingredients

3 egg whites

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

20 buttery crackers (Ritz), finely crushed

1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

1 cup whipping cream, whipped or 2 cups whipped topping

Milk chocolate bar or sprinkles for garnish

 

Directions

  1. Beat the eggwhites until soft peaks have formed.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff.  Stir in the vanilla.
  2. Fold in the crushed crackers and chopped nuts.
  3. Pile the mixture into a greased 9-inch pie pan.
  4. Bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes.
  5. When cool, frost with the whipped topping.
  6. Garnish with shaved chocolate or sprinkles

 

Yield:  8 servings

Summertime in the Landscape…

garden lanscape toolsWhen it comes to Nebraska weather, we all tend to forget how quickly our feelings can switch. Only six months ago many of us might be heard complaining about how cold it was outside. Many pleaded for Mother Nature to give us a bit of warm weather to remind us spring would soon return. But, then every year once spring arrives we may be pleading for Mother Nature to change the weather again. A perfect example would be the spring of 2014 and the wettest May on record. Moreover, a few years ago we were entering the beginnings of the 2012 Drought. The soil was parched, plants were withering, and many lawns were turning brown. It seems like many years Nebraska weather can be similar and quite different at the same time.

While this spring and early summer have been enjoyable, there is not anything quite like summer in Nebraska. The old adage “If you don’t like the weather – wait five minutes – it’ll change” certainly comes to mind. Every year Mother Nature eventually turns up the heat and sends us more normal summer weather and that normal weather will drive many of us into the cool respite of air conditioning and outside searching for shade to avoid the heat.

Front Pg - Farmers Market 2July and August for many is a time for vacations, celebrating the Fourth, and enjoying the sweet taste of vegetables from our vegetable gardens. For those of us in the nursery industry we spend our time helping clients try to keep their landscapes and gardens looking their best. For some that could mean dealing with disease and insects, while for others it could mean assistance with caring for their plants, and for others installing new plantings. Yes, I did say planting.

While the summer is not a time to “plant and forget,” it can be a great time to plant. Many have extra time and possibly some help from kids out of school or are simply spending more time at home caring for their kids over the summer. While some days bring terrible heat, most summer mornings or early evenings will bring moderation to the heat making it enjoyable to be out working in our landscapes and gardens.

When we talk about planting in the summer, it is with some understanding and care. Simply put, people who plant in the summer usually tend to care for their plants better than those who wait for fall. The nicer weather in spring encourages people to believe that Mother Nature will take care of new plants without our help. We see our plants standing strong and tall and mistakenly believe that we won’t have to do much because the plants are looking great. However, with our Nebraska summers we need to make sure we care for our plants, whether we planted them last fall, this spring, or this summer. Keep an eye on any plant younger than about 12 months, ensure you water them about once or twice a week and you should do fine.

watering lawnFor those who are itching to add a few plants or simply have finally found time to work in the landscape, summer planting can be rewarding and offer great success with proper care. A young plant, whether it is planted in the cool spring or the hot summer, simply needs a bit of assistance to make sure it survives until it can set its roots and begin caring for itself. How long this takes will depend on the plant. Check with your local nursery professional for specific care instructions for your specific plantings.

When it comes to caring for your older plants while they should not need, as much supervision, do not worry if they are not looking as good as they did in the spring. A bit of timely watering, maybe some trimming to shape the plant, and a bit of mulch to help hold the moisture around the root system can do wonders to help them through the summer. With a bit of care, plants showing stress in the heat should perk right back up and yes, even thrive, in our challenging summers.

Now when we talk to clients about summer plant care the first thing we mention is to try to walk the landscape at least once a week even in the heat. Check for weeds, look for insect or disease issues, and generally try to catch problems before they can get out of hand. A bit of work in the heat could solve a problem with minimal effort versus waiting until the weather is cooler but now the problems have grown and it might take lots of work to get things back in shape. Many of our clients usually do this walk around when they mow their lawn.

As you walk your landscape, keep an eye out for insects eating on foliage, red spider on evergreens, the jalapeno shaped husks of bagworms on evergreens, turf damage from grubs or webworms, and fungal issues on roses, turf, or other plants. Most problems, if noticed before too much damage occurs or pests are allowed to get out of control, can be controlled with timely treatment. While many chemicals are labeled for many different plants and pests, do always follow label directions and consider consulting a nursery professional with any questions and to get help picking the right control for your situation.

DSCN3725If you are able to check on your plants once or twice a week through the summer adding a bit of water as needed and can deal with any problems before they get out of hand, you should be able to keep your plants growing well and looking good even in the heat of summer.

Overall Mother Nature can be our best friend or worst enemy. Which one we believe she is all depends on what she brings us each day, and I for one have said a few choice words about her already this year. However, if we are there to care for our plants here and there, the summer time in Nebraska can be an enjoyable and often fulfilling time in the landscape.

 

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.

 

Almond Joy Cookies

Almond Joy CookiesIngredients

1 cup softened butter

1 ½ cups white sugar

1 ½ cups brown sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 ½ cups flour

2 teaspoons soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 cups sweetened coconut

2 cups chopped almonds

 

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375º. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line sheet pans with silicone mats.
  2. Combine flour, soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla.
  4. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until well mixed.
  5. At this point, you may need to transfer the dough to a very large mixing bowl. Stir in the chips, coconut, and almonds until these goodies are well distributed.
  6. Drop by rounded tablespoons (or use a small ice cream scoop) onto the prepared cookie sheets.
  7. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

 

Yield: 6-7 dozen