Saturday, 16 February 2013

Agriculture conference focuses on the future

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 events. It was an even more special event this year because it was the 25th anniversary.

This conference offers an opportunity to talk about our state’s number one industry. The theme this year was “A Platform for Nebraska Agriculture’s Future,” and so subjects such as agricultural research, livestock development, federal policy, weather, and trade with China were all featured.

While I was impressed and inspired by the discussion in each session, the highlight this year was having former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson present to discuss his vision for international trade and investment, and the United States’ and Nebraska’s positions in an increasingly global marketplace. Secretary Paulson has included Nebraska as part of The Paulson Institute, a “think- and do-tank” as he calls it, that is looking at global issues and has a particular focus on China.

We have been invited to serve as a member of the Agricultural Investment Experts Group of The Institute. Secretary Paulson told the Ag Conference participants that he sees opportunity for Nebraska to benefit from Chinese investment in value-added processing here as the country looks to feed its growing population. Opportunities particularly exist in agriculture, he said, because the sector generally has less political issues than other investment areas. Secretary Paulson encouraged Nebraska to continue its efforts on trade with China as its leaders look to diversify and modernize their model for food production. The Ag Conference featured several other quality speakers. Tyson Redpath, a consultant with The Russell Group on food, agriculture and other policy issues, highlighted interstate commerce questions created by state ballot initiatives addressing livestock production practices. These concerns are important to consider in Nebraska where livestock production makes up half of our annual agricultural receipts and where livestock is a key market for our grains.

Following Mr. Redpath, Dr. Ronnie Green, vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL, presented “Nebraska: Positioned to be the 2025 Global Epicenter of Food and Agriculture?” He carefully outlined Nebraska’s position regionally in the production of livestock, comparing numbers of beef cattle, swine and dairy cattle in several states. Dr. Green noted that while Nebraska generally is a leader, we are losing ground in some sectors compared to our neighbors. He encouraged conference attendees to have frank discussions about policies that may be holding Nebraska back from future livestock development and pledged the university’s support in such efforts.

Another key speaker included Dr. Roger Beachy, president emeritus with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. He focused on public sector research and emphasized how important such research is to the future success of agriculture.

Jerry Hagstrom, a well-known agricultural journalist who authors The Hagstrom Report, an analysis of agriculture issues in Washington, D.C., also spoke. He discussed the future of the Farm Bill, the impacts of the federal deficit on agriculture and trade policy.

Nebraska State Climatologist Al Dutcher gave conference attendees his best analysis of the potential for the ongoing drought to continue through this growing season. He cautioned farmers and ranchers that they need to prepare themselves to deal with ongoing dry conditions.

I want to thank all those who attended the 25th anniversary Governor’s Ag Conference. It was an outstanding event for our state’s number one industry.
Original Article Here

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