By Governor Dave Heineman
This week I joined farmers, ranchers, agribusiness leaders, and policymakers to celebrate the accomplishments and future outlook for Nebraska agriculture. The Governor’s Ag Conference is one of my favorite annual agriculture events because it serves as a venue for frank discussion and dialogue about how our state’s number one industry has fared in the past year and what we can look forward to in the coming year.
The focus of this year’s conference was “Nebraska Agriculture: Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Opportunities.” This annual event is an annual opportunity for agricultural producers and leaders to learn more about their industry.
This year’s keynote speaker was John Doggett who is the Senior Lecturer of International Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainability, and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. Mr. Doggett discussed Nebraska’s agriculture role in the global economy of the future.
Bruce Knight, the Principal and Founder of Strategic Conservation Solutions, gave an update on the federal Farm Bill reauthorization. Mr. Knight is a former USDA Under Secretary and he also shared insight on the farm policy picture and its potential impact on Nebraska. He stressed the importance of Nebraska agriculture because of our productive advantage, irrigation advantage, grains and livestock, food processing capabilities, food handling and merchandising, renewable investments, and finally our advancements in transportation and infrastructure.
To feed an ever growing world population, farmers will likely need to double agriculture output by the year 2050. Two speakers addressed how Nebraska agriculture can respond to this challenge – Dr. Archie Clutter and Mr. Bill Holbrook.
Dr. Clutter is with the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska and he explained how the University is positioning itself to be a part of meeting the challenge to provide food to a growing world population. Mr. Holbrook works for The ProExporter Network, an agribusiness economic research and analysis provider. He discussed opportunities and challenges farmers will face in meeting food production demand.
A panel of Nebraskans joined us to discuss their organizations and how they connect consumers with farmers and ranchers. These panelists included Willow Holoubek from A-FAN, Dawn Caldwell from Common Ground Nebraska, and Pete McClymont with We Support Agriculture.
Overall, the farm economy is doing well. Farmers and ranchers generally reinvest profits in their industry in order to improve their production capabilities for the future. They are making needed investments and improvements. They are putting additional conservation practices in place that improve the land and protect the environment. They are putting up new machine shops and bins, and they are paying down debt.
The 24th Governor’s Ag Conference was informative and productive. I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit with our farmers and ranchers who play a critical role in supporting our Nebraska economy. Agriculture is the backbone of the Nebraska economy and by working together we can continue to grow our great state.