Nebraskans are fortunate to know the importance of agriculture because we live in an ag state. Agriculture is our number one industry. We know that it takes more than farmers and ranchers to make our food possible. One in four jobs are related to agriculture. The entire agriculture industry, all the way to the grocery store, are vital links in a chain that brings food to Nebraskans, Americans and millions of people around the world.

National Ag Week is a good time to reflect – and be grateful for – agriculture and the important role it plays in our daily lives. It’s also a good time to recognize and show appreciation to the people who provide the food, feed and fuel that we depend on every day.

Nebraska farmers, ranchers and others involved in agriculture are working harder than ever and it shows. Nebraska consistently leads the nation in several categories.

In 2018, Nebraska ranked number one among all states for beef exports, commercial red meat production, all cattle on feed and Great Northern bean production. We’ve ranked first in the nation for a number of years in popcorn production, too.

Nebraska ranks in the top ten nationally in several categories. In agricultural exports, Nebraska ranks third in the nation in corn exports and fifth in soybean exports, egg and egg product exports and pork and pork product exports. Nebraska ranks third in the nation for corn (grain) production and fifth in soybean production, alfalfa hay production, grain sorghum production and sugar beet production. These are just a few examples from a long and impressive list.

These successes and high rankings show how important the ag industry is to Nebraska’s economy. Nebraska’s ag industry adds more than $21 billion to the state’s economy, making growth in agriculture the key to growing Nebraska.

There are many ways to grow the ag industry in Nebraska like promoting our quality ag products internationally and adding value to our grains with investments in livestock and biofuels. With 30 percent of our production exported, international trade agreements like the USMCA are vital to ensure access to these markets.

Two programs that support livestock development in Nebraska are the Livestock Friendly County program and the livestock siting assessment matrix, both administered by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA).

Six counties were added last year to the Livestock Friendly County (LFC) program bringing the total number of LFCs in Nebraska to 49. That’s more than half of the counties in Nebraska! By requesting and receiving the state’s LFC designation, these counties are showing their support and their business-friendly atmosphere toward the livestock industry.

Additionally, Hall County joined Dodge and Merrick counties as the third county in the state to adopt the livestock siting assessment matrix to bring greater predictability to decisions on livestock siting applications. The matrix is a tremendous tool for planning and zoning committees and for farmers because it gives the board more information about the project, the owner, and their management.

Ethanol production is another area in which Nebraska agriculture exceeds. Nebraska ranks second in the nation in ethanol production capacity. According to the Nebraska Energy Office, more than 90 percent of all fuel in Nebraska is blended with locally-produced ethanol. This homegrown industry supports more than 1,300 jobs across the state and 25 ethanol plants.

Last October, President Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the use of E15 year around. A final rule from the EPA would allow E15 to be sold all year long.

Once E15 is approved for sale year-round, across the country, Nebraska ethanol producers will have more opportunities to produce and sell this proven, cheaper and cleaner fuel. More consumption of E15 will increase demand for our commodities and expand the use of lower cost, cleaner-burning fuel by consumers.

The EPA also recently approved a project requested by the State of Nebraska to study the use of higher ethanol blends. In the pilot program, Nebraska will study the use of E-30 in conventional vehicles owned by the state. We look forward to piloting the use of Nebraska-grown and produced E-30 in state vehicles.

Simply put, agriculture is all around us and vitally important to this great state. By promoting Nebraska agriculture both nationally and internationally, by encouraging livestock development, and by adding value to our commodities, we are supporting growth in the industry and creating more opportunities for Nebraskans.

It’s important – particularly during National Ag Week – to show our gratitude to the many men and women who make agriculture possible. Agriculture is an entire industry dedicated to providing plentiful, affordable and safe food, feed and fuel every day. That's really what National Ag Week is all about…recognizing the role of agriculture, and celebrating it! We’re excited about the opportunities ahead.