Oatmeal Walnut Bread

Oatmeal Walnut BreadIngredients

2 cups bread flour

1 pkg. instant yeast

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 cup water

¼ cup molasses

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ cup quick-cook oatmeal

1 cup whole wheat flour

¾ cup walnuts, chopped

1 egg



Note:  Directions are for using a mixer with a dough hook, but this bread can be easily be made by hand.

  1. In a large mixer bowl, combine 1 ¼ cups bread flour, yeast, and salt; blend well.
  2. Heat 1 cup water, molasses, vegetable oil, and oatmeal until warm (120-130º).
  3. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture. Using the mixing paddle, blend at a low speed until moistened, then beat 3 minutes at medium speed. Add whole wheat flour and nuts.  Mix to combine.
  4. Change to the dough hook. Add enough remaining bread flour to make a firm dough.  Knead for 3 minutes.
  5. Turn onto a lightly floured board. Work the dough into a ball with a smooth surface.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to oil the top.  Cover; let rise in a warm place until double (30 minutes-1hour).
  6. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface; punch down to remove air bubbles. Shape into a round loaf.  Place on a greased cookie sheet.  Cover; let rise in a warm place until doubled (approximately 1 hour).
  7. Combine egg and 1 tablespoon of water; brush the top of the loaf. Optional—you may sprinkle with oatmeal.
  8. Bake in a preheated 375º oven for 30-40 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and place on a cooling rack.


Yield:  1 loaf

Recipe source:  Red Star Yeast

Secret Documents, Questionable Actions Paint Ugly Picture of EPA

steve corn head shotGeorge Strait made a living putting out country hit singles. “Ace in the Hole” immediately comes to mind. You might remember the song for its message about having a little something up your sleeve to ensure things ultimately go your way. “You’ve got to have an ace in the hole,” sang Strait. “A little secret that nobody knows.”

While I don’t know if officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are George Strait fans, I do know they understand the idea of having a little something up their sleeve and know a thing or two about secrets. This became apparent a few weeks ago when documents came to light pointing out the joint Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and EPA “Waters of the U.S.” regulatory proposal was, in fact, virtually all EPA and very little Corps. Worse, the documents paint a picture of the EPA ignoring concerns the Corps had raised regarding the regulatory proposal to vastly expand EPA’s control over private property.

The documents came to light when Sen. Jim Inhofe, Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, asked the Corps to provide information concerning the development of the “Waters” rule. The Corps provided the documents, but asked they be kept hidden from public view. Evidently they show that Corps staff had questions about the validity of EPA’s economic analysis and the rule’s unworkability due to lack of clarity concerning what “waters” were to be regulated. If those concerns sound familiar it’s because they are the same concerns echoed by virtually every opponent of the rule, Farm Bureau included.

And it doesn’t end there.

As I write this, a Dear Colleague letter is making its way through Congressional offices. The letter seeks to have EPA’s Office of Inspector General investigate all matters relevant to EPA’s efforts in generating support for the “Waters” rule. The effort stems from a recent New York Times article exposing EPA’s abuse of the public comment process by engaging in an unprecedented advocacy campaign intended to generate public support for the proposal. According to the Times, EPA engaged in a grassroots solicitation for public comments by partnering in social media campaigns with groups like the Sierra Club to intentionally drown out opposition and to help justify EPA’s actions.

EPA has consistently made claims it received over one million comments on the rule with 90 percent of them being supportive. However, according the Corps (EPA’s jilted partner) only 20,000 plus of those were considered unique, and of those, only 10 percent were considered substantive. The vast majority of comments appear to be mass mailings generated by EPA’s own lobbying efforts. Not only are EPA’s actions on this front potentially illegal, but reflect an abuse of the most democratic component of the federal rulemaking process designed to give a voice to those impacted.

The picture painted by EPA’s actions, while ugly, is clear. The EPA was determined to push this proposal through no matter what; keeping secrets and working to manipulate the public.

At Nebraska Farm Bureau we continue to work with our Congressional delegation and other partners to push back against this blatant overreach of power and disregard for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. There is much at stake not only in how we respond to the rule, but in the way EPA has conducted its business in this matter. I do know one thing. If EPA believes we’ll go away quietly I’d point them to another George Strait song; one that involves selling ocean front property…in Arizona.

Until Next Month,

Steve Nelson

President, Nebraska Farm Bureau

EPA Waters Rule Bad for Farmers, Ranchers

steve corn head shotRemember the movie ‘Groundhog Day’; the one where Bill Murray plays a TV weatherman assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania? The twist being Murray’s character becomes trapped in a time loop, re-living the same day over and over and over again.

In a world where art often imitates real life, the ‘Groundhog Day’ effect is alive and well with farm and ranch families having a front row seat for the Obama Administration’s repeated and expansive attempts to regulate farms and ranches.

The Administration’s latest version of “Coming Soon” highlights EPA’s proposed “Waters of the U.S. Rule;” a proposal to grant the agency unprecedented authority and control over farmland. That’s right … a water rule giving the agency control over land use.

Like Murray’s ‘Groundhog Day’ character, agriculture is becoming way too accustomed to a repeating cycle of less than farm-friendly proposals. The Administration’s body of work includes some real rotten tomatoes. Few in farm country will forget their plans to prevent children from working on farms, or their initiative to require farmers to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to drive tractors. Nebraskans have also been touched by their efforts to subject grain storage bins to OSHA standards, complying with overzealous fuel storage standards and the now infamous airplane fly-overs of farms and ranches.

While there are some doozies in their list of credits, the latest is the most heinous. Under the proposal, any land where water flows, pools, collects or stands during or after a rainfall event would be considered to be “Waters of the U.S.” While that sounds harmless, there’s a catch.  Waters of the U.S. are subject to a multitude of federal Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations, including both EPA’s pollutant discharge permit requirements and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s dredge and fill permits.

Farmers and ranchers with land that contains any of these water features (and most will) will find out quickly that farming practices like applying fertilizer, cutting hay and even building fences would require CWA permits. The real kicker is that EPA has no legal obligation to issue permits to individuals. In simplest terms, EPA would have clear control of what happens on an individual’s farm or ranch.

Agriculture needs to take notice. While ‘Groundhog Day’ was a comedy, the Administration’s land grab is anything but. The agency is investing heavily in trying to create a positive buzz around their blockbuster, touting the rule as good for farmers and pointing to a series of USDA approved “agriculture exemptions” to the rule. The move has swooned environmental groups and fooled some in farm country. Those who’ve studied the proposal, however, understand farmers shouldn’t need exemptions from normal farm practices that aren’t subject to regulation in the first place, something EPA seems to ignore.

Slowing EPA’s zest for greater land control won’t be easy. At the conclusion of ‘Groundhog Day’ Murray’s character successfully breaks the cycle of re-living the same day over and over by making personal improvements and becoming a better person. In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court has already turned EPA away twice before when questions were raised about how far the agency could reach in controlling land use in the name of protecting water quality. EPA’s new straight-forward approach of attempting to regulate everything certainly leaves few hairs to split, but still heads in the wrong direction for agriculture and the environment.

While farmland is squarely in the cross-hairs, the reach of the proposal goes well beyond agriculture boundaries. Anyone who puts a spade in the ground to turn the soil should take notice. This rule, like so many of its predecessors, needs turned back before the final credits roll.

Steve Nelson
Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation

Water conservation not new to farmers

DSC_0021A Dec. 16 World-Herald editorial raises an opportunity to hold more discussion about the expansion of irrigated acres on Nebraska farms.

The editorial was based on a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Agricultural Economics piece that pointed out the growing trend of dryland farm acres being converted to irrigated acres and the possibility that sometime down the road we’ll have more irrigated than dryland acres in our state.

The editorial rightly points out the importance of Nebraskans embracing sound water conservation ideas, but it may have led some readers to believe that more irrigated acres means more water use.

While it would be easy to jump to that conclusion, that thinking misses out on one very important point: Nebraska farmers have been working to get better at conserving water using new practices and new technologies. The proof is in the numbers.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the number of irrigated acres in Nebraska increased from 7.8 million in 2000 to 8.3 million in 2005. (The 2010 data from the USGS are expected sometime in late 2014.) During that same timeframe, the amount of irrigation water used in Nebraska actually declined from 9.8 million acre-feet per year in 2000 to 9.4 million acre-feet per year in 2005.

How is it possible to have more irrigated acres but use less water? Many farmers have aggressively worked to better manage how water is used on the farm. From the equipment used to the seeds put in the soil, the goal for most is to get more out of each drop of water.

Today, technology and new conservation practices are allowing farmers to monitor applications and collect data to aid in making timely decisions about when and where to apply water to help ensure they are conserving and enhancing efficiency.

Farmers now have the ability to do a better job of measuring their crops’ water use, water needs and keep tabs on soil moisture content. Many farmers are on the path of converting from gravity irrigation systems to center-pivot irrigation systems that enhance efficiency. In some cases, farmers are using subsoil irrigation systems that put water directly into the crop’s root zone.

New technologies in seed varieties that use less water, developed through research at land-grant universities and private companies, also are making their way into Nebraska crop fields. Changes in tillage practices, cropping rotations and adjusting plant populations are other tools used to save water. It’s the combination of all of these that allows us to help raise food using less water.

These changes are being made to not only help us be better farmers but because of a belief that we have an obligation and responsibility for preserving water resources for the next generations — not just those that live on the farm.

Despite our efforts, we can’t escape the fact that raising food requires water. We all need to eat. And in Nebraska, irrigation has implications beyond the dinner plate. A Nebraska Farm Bureau-funded study released earlier this year showed that irrigation contributes $11 billion to Nebraska’s economy. It also creates more than 30,000 Nebraska jobs, which, if all were located in one county, would be Nebraska’s 10th largest.

The connection among irrigation, food production, jobs and Nebraska’s broader economy is the reason we believe so strongly that managing our water resources is a statewide issue.

Innovations and improvements in water conservation will continue on the farm, but we all share some responsibility in helping ensure we have sound long-term water policy. This includes developing the water programs, projects and activities needed to make sure water continues to be available to all of Nebraska’s water users in the future.

–Steve Nelson, farmer of Axtell, Neb.

Farmers Share Commitment to Water Conservation

Steve Nelson1

Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau President

One of the great things about being president of Farm Bureau is the opportunity it gives me to travel Nebraska. And while there is great diversity in Nebraska, the one constant in my travels last summer and fall was the reality that the drought touched everyone in our state in one way or another. Water use restrictions, well problems and fires that ravaged parts of western Nebraska were making headlines more than any of us would like.

While southeastern Nebraska has been fortunate to receive much needed moisture, drought conditions continue to grip much of the central and western parts of our state. The most recent national weather service report predicts above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for much of Nebraska in the months of June, July and August. The report is a stark reminder that when it comes to the drought, we are not out of the woods yet.

As a farmer, I tend to get questions about how I use water on the farm. Those questions are magnified in the height of a drought when water restrictions are being enacted on my non-farm neighbors living town. Enactment of emergency water restrictions in neighboring communities is not news welcomed by anyone, especially farm neighbors.

Regardless of drought, water conservation and efficient use of water is a goal farmers and ranchers share with their neighbors. Over the years farmers have aggressively worked to make changes to better manage how we use water. Those changes have been made to not only help us become better farmers, but a core belief that we share in the responsibility for preserving water resources for the next generation of water users, including those that don’t farm.

These on-farm changes are numerous and have required significant investments in new technologies, tillage practices and management strategies. From irrigation equipment to the very seeds we put in the ground, everything we do is now targeted to getting the most out of every drop of water.

Today we can measure a crop’s water use, water need and the existing soil moisture content; and do so in real time. Monitoring and data gathering allows us to make timely irrigation decisions conserving water and enhancing efficiency. Other new technologies in seed varieties, developed through research at land-grant universities like the University of Nebraska and private companies, have led to more drought tolerant seeds that allow farmers to use less water and still achieve optimum crop yields. Tillage practices, cropping rotations and adjusting plant populations are all management decisions farmers and ranchers now employ to save water.

The good news is that these strategies have been paying off. Data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows total water use for irrigation in Nebraska actually decreased from 2000 to 2005, despite a growth in the number of irrigated acres during that same time period. Moreover, the Middle Republican Natural Resources District located in southwest Nebraska, reports groundwater irrigators in the district used an average of 9.5 inches of water per acre from 2005-2012. To put that number in context, my understanding is the citywide average water use in Lincoln equates to roughly 12 inches of water per acre annually.

When sacrifices are made by our urban neighbors related to water conservation, we in agriculture don’t take them for granted. The water we use is critical to our ability to help raise food for the people of our state, nation and world. Despite all of our efforts, we can’t escape the reality that we can’t raise food without water. Having said that, we all have a role in managing Nebraska’s water resources. Preventing impacts to other water users is one of the many reasons farmers and ranchers continue to put their time, effort and resources into doing what’s right as water stewards. At the end of the day, conserving water is truly is a commitment that we all share.

– Steve Nelson, president, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation