Weekly News Releases and Columns

December 9, 2019



Extension, FSA to Host Farm Bill Education Meetings Across Northeast Nebraska in December

Nebraska Extension and USDA Farm Service Agency in Nebraska will host a series of Farm Bill education meetings next month to assist producers as they begin to make farm-bill related program decisions. The 2018 Farm Bill, signed into law last December, reauthorized the existing Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) safety net programs that were in the 2014 Farm Bill, however producers will need to make new program enrollment decisions over the coming months.

While the ARC and PLC programs under the new farm bill remain very similar to the previous farm bill, a few program changes coupled with changes in market conditions and outlook could significantly impact producer decisions.

“These meetings will help producers understand the programs and recent changes, as well as the decisions to be made at sign-up now and in the coming years,” said Nancy Johner, State Executive Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency in Nebraska. “There are some changes, such as an optional PLC program yield update, and other tweaks to the ARC and PLC programs that producers should consider as they make their selections.”

“Producers face a familiar choice between ARC and PLC, but under very different circumstances now as compared to 2014,” said Brad Lubben, Policy Specialist with Nebraska Extension. “Understanding the program mechanics, analysis and available decision tools will help producers make sound enrollment decisions with FSA.”

The joint Nebraska Extension and Nebraska Farm Service Agency producer education meetings are scheduled at seven locations in northeast Nebraska in December in advance of the coming ARC/PLC enrollment deadlines in early 2020.

The meetings are all free and open to the public. Advance registration is encouraged for planning purposes for materials and facilities. Attendees can register for any of the meetings conveniently on the web at farmbill.unl.edu or by calling or visiting their county FSA or Extension office. The educational programs are each set to run three hours in length, featuring information and insight from FSA specialists and Extension experts, as well as other relevant information from local agencies.

The meeting schedule for northeast Nebraska is as follows:

Wayne - Wayne Fire Hall - December 16, (2 meetings) 1-4 PM or 6-9 PM

Norfolk - Northeast Community College Lifelong Learning Center - December 18, 1-4 PM

Please check the website for updates on locations, dates and times. All times are local with registration beginning 30 minutes ahead of start.

There also are resources available online that can educate producers in their ARC/PLC decision-making process. Links to these resources are available from FSA at www.fsa.usda.gov/ne under the Spotlights section or from Extension at farmbill.unl.edu.


SOURCE: Larry Howard, Extension Educator

RELEASE DATE: Dedcember 9, 2019


Leading Farm and Ranch Employees Seminar to be held at three locations in Nebraska

Finding, hiring and retaining quality employees are major challenges for agricultural business in Nebraska. Competition for the available workforce comes from area industries, and the labor market is tight. 

Nebraska Extension will host seminars in December at O’Neill, Valentine and North Platte designed to help agricultural employers learn techniques and leadership practices to help motivate and empower employees.

Dr. Bob Milligan, Senior Consultant with Dairy Strategies LLC and Professor Emeritus from Cornell University will lead the seminars. Topics will include:

• Identifying the future direction of the operation and its workforce needs;

• Developing position descriptions, performance expectations, and accountability;

• Learning effective recruitment, interviewing, and hiring procedures; and

• Identifying employee training and development needs.

Dates and registration contacts for each location:

O’Neill, Dec. 17: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Holt County Courthouse Annex. Call (402) 336-2760

Valentine, Dec. 18: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Niobrara Lodge. Call (402) 376-1850

North Platte, Dec. 19: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., West Central Research & Extension Center. Call (308) 532-2683

 Cost is $75 per person and includes materials, breaks and the noon meal.  Registration is requested by Dec. 10 to insure pre-meeting preparation material is available to participants.

 For questions about the seminar or for more information, please contact Aaron Berger, Nebraska Extension Educator at 308-235-3122 or aberger2@unl.edu.

 The Leading Farm and Ranch Employees Seminars are sponsored in part by the Nebraska Extension Beef Home Study Course and Nebraska Women in Agriculture.


SOURCE: Aaron Berger, Extension Educator

RELEASE DATE: December 9, 2019

Farm Survival Workshop Focuses on Crop Insurance and Marketing Strategies

An upcoming Nebraska Extension workshop will help farmers develop marketing plans for 2020.

“Risk and Reward: Using Crop Insurance and Marketing to Manage Farm Survival” will be presented  in Scottsbluff, North Platte, West Point and Clay Center in January and February.

Extension economists will discuss the role of farm location and yield/price relations in making informed grain marketing and crop insurance decisions.

“This is a unique opportunity to think about grain marketing differently,” said Jessica Groskopf, a regional economist with Nebraska Extension.  “Often, we think of marketing and crop insurance as two separate decisions. This workshop will show the importance of how these tools work together to help farms survive.”

“Understanding production risk becomes especially important as farm locations move farther from the center of the corn belt,” said Cory Walters, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics. “These workshops are designed to assist Nebraska farmers improve their decision-making and understand the role of production risk considerations in their marketing plans.”

Participants will learn how to use crop insurance and pre-harvest marketing together. The workshops will encourage producers to focus on specific risks to evaluate the balance between these two tools, which will vary from operation to operation. 

“The role of crop insurance and marketing is not the same for everyone,” said Walters. “Farm location matters.”

Attendees should leave the workshops with a strategic plan of farm survival, focused on the role and use of crop insurance and pre-harvest marketing specific to their location and crop.

Schedule for “Risk and Reward: Using Crop Insurance and Marketing to Manage Farm Survival”

  • Scottsbluff, Jan. 9, 9 a.m. -2 p.m., at the Panhandle Research & Extension Center, 4502 Ave I. To register, call 308-632-1230.
  • North Platte, Jan. 30, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., at the West Central Research & Extension Center, 402 West State Farm Road. To register, call 308-696-6734.
  • West Point, Feb. 4, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Nielsen Community Center, 200 Anna Stalp Ave. To register, call 402-372-6006.
  • Clay Center, Feb. 5, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Clay County Fairgrounds, 701 N Martin Ave. To register, call 402-762-3644.


SOURCE: Larry Howard, Extension Educator

RELEASE DATE: December 9, 2019

Confronting Cropping Challenges

 Getting the latest information on issues facing crop farmers AND an opportunity to renew your private pesticide applicator license will all take place at a series of meetings in December. This is the fourth year for Confronting Cropping Challenges and responses from last year’s programs were very positive. This year the program will be offered at five locations in the area.

 Monday, December 16 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – American Legion - Neligh

  • Tuesday, December 17 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Fire Hall - Wayne
  • Wednesday, December 18 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Nielsen Community Center - West Point
  • Thursday, December 19 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Club Room, Ag Park - Columbus
  • Friday, December 20 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Rybin Building, Fairgrounds - Arlington

 Topics that will be covered this year include:

  • What can we learn from the Thistle Caterpillar feeding in 2019?
  • How can we deal with Frogeye Leafspot in 2020?
  • What are our options to deal with herbicide resistant weeds in 2020?
  • Alfalfa management
  • Private Pesticide Applicator Recertification

 Anyone that just wants the crops information can attend the first four sessions and leave. If you need to have your private applicator license renewed (renewal only, not initial certification) in 2020, you can stick around for the final session to be recertified. Even though this training is being offered in 2019, you will not lose a year of certification on your license.

The cost for the program is $10 if you are only attending the first four sessions. If you are being recertified, the cost will be $50. The additional $40 is the same as you would pay to be recertified at a traditional private pesticide applicator training.

Preregistration is appreciated but not required by calling Nebraska Extension at 402-374-2929.

Stay tuned for additional private pesticide training dates that will be held in the area during the first part of 2020.

For more information, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.


SOURCE: Larry Howard, Extension Educator

RELEASE DATE: December 9, 2019


Beef Quality Assurance Transportation Being Offered by Nebraska Extension

Nebraska Extension will be holding BQA (Beef Quality Assurance) Transportation trainings & certification at the following locations:

-December 5, 7:00 p.m. – O’Neill, Holt Co. Courthouse Annex

-December 17, 1:30 p.m. – Columbus, Platte Co. Extension Office

-December 17, 6:00 p.m. – York, York Co. Fairgrounds 4-H Building

-December 18, 6:00 p.m. – West Point, Courthouse Meeting Room

-December 19, 1:30 p.m. – Lexington, Dawson Co. Extension Office

-December 19, 6:00 p.m. – Lexington, Dawson Co. Extension Office

BQA Transportation plays a critical role in the health and welfare of cattle.  The proper handling and transport of cattle can reduce sickness in calves, prevent bruises and improve the quality of the meat from these animals.  When a transporter participates in the program they are showing consumers they are ready to take very step possible to keep cattle as healthy and safe as possible.

The program covers many topics including:

  • Cattle handling guidelines and diagrams
  • Checklists for loading/unloading
  • Checklists for hot/cold weather factors
  • Checklists for fit/injured/weak cattle
  • Checklists for traveling
  • Loading suggestion and worksheets
  • Bio-security & Emergency Action Plans

Anybody who hauls fat cattle or weigh-ups to Tyson, Cargill, JBS and National for slaughter are required to have completed BQA transportation training by January 1, 2020.  Currently this training is free to attend and the certification is good for 3 years. If truckers have already attended an earlier session they do not need to attend again for 3 years.  This training was held earlier this past March in Beemer where 92 people were certified.

For further information contact Rob Eirich@ 308-632-1230.


SOURCE: Larry Howard, Extension Educator

RELEASE DATE: December 9, 2019


Larry Howard

Extension Educator

Nebraska Extension

Serving Cuming County

Soybean Stubble for Cows

After soybeans are harvested, cows sometimes are put out on the residues to graze.  Some bean residues are even baled.  But how good is this feed? 

We know how useful grazing corn stalks are, but recently more and more residue from soybean fields are being grazed.  Cows seem to like licking up what’s left behind after combining.  But many may think their cows are getting more from those soybean residues than what truly is there. The problem is a matter of perception.  When most of people think of soybeans, they think high protein, so we expect soybean residues will be a high protein feed, too.  Unfortunately, the opposite is true; soybean residue is very low in protein.

Soybean stems and pods contain only about 4 to 6 percent crude protein, well below the 7 to 8 percent needed for minimum support of a dry beef cow.  Even though leaves can be up to 12 percent protein, it’s only around one-third digestible, so that’s not much value.  In fact, protein digestibility is low in all bean residues. 

Energy is even worse. TDN averages between 35 and 45 percent for leaves, stems, and pods.  This is even lower than wheat straw. As a result, cows fed only bean residue can lose weight and condition very quickly.  Heavy supplementation is needed to maintain cow health. 

This doesn’t mean soybean residues have no value for grazing or when baled.  They can be a good extender of much higher quality hay or silage.  However, cattle must be fed quite a bit of higher energy and protein feeds to make up for the deficiencies in soybean residues.  Don’t be misled into thinking bean residues are as good or better than corn stalks.  Otherwise, your cows will suffer the consequences.



Every day you can graze corn stalks or winter pasture saves you fifty cents to a dollar compared to feeding hay or silage.  Protein supplements are critical to your success, though. Winter grazing saves money and usually takes less labor than feeding cows all winter.  But these advantages are less important if cows don’t stay healthy or if they loose body condition due to a lack of protein.

Why is protein so important?  In ruminants, like cattle, protein is used twice – first by the microbes in the rumen that are digesting the fiber in the corn stalks and winter grass and secondly by the animal. For the microbes to digest these low quality forages, the diet must contain at least seven to eight percent protein. Otherwise the microbes become protein deficient and are unable to work effectively.  When this happens, the amount of energy the animal receives from the forage is low and the animal becomes energy deficient. So one major reason to supplement protein with winter forages is to make sure the microbes are fed properly so your animal does not become energy deficient.  In other words, protein increases energy.

The protein supplement you use is important.  Many cheap protein sources contain mostly urea and other forms of non-protein nitrogen.  These supplements are less effective at this time of year when cattle are eating mostly winter forages that contain low energy. Instead, use supplements that contain more all-natural protein.  Alfalfa often is the cheapest natural source of protein, but other sources also work well.

Winter grazing can reduce winter feed costs and labor.  Feed the right protein with it, and you will be successful.

Food, Nutrition and Health
Hannah Guenther
Extension Educator
Nebraska Extension
Serving Cuming County

Four Things You & Your Family Can Do Every Day To Stay Healthy This Holiday

I don’t know about you, but this Monday after Thanksgiving my pants feel the slightest bit tighter, my sweet tooth is raging, and I’m still reveling in the fun and food from this past holiday. With one down and one to go, our days are filled with Christmas music and Christmas treats. It is very easy to fall into poor eating habits and a lack of physical activity during the busy holiday season. Today I am going to share with you 4 things that you and your family can do to stay healthy this holiday.


Assign refillable water bottles to each family member. Before they are able to have any sort of soft drink, sports drink, or sugary beverage require that family members drink a water bottle first. This will not only satiate their thirst but help avoid unwanted, extra calories.  With dropping temperatures, many of us drop our water consumption as well. Just because we aren’t sweating, doesn’t mean we don’t need water! Many still follow the 8 cups a day rule in terms of drinking water, but it is not that simple. Activity level, environment, and health all have determining effects on the amount of water needed to stay hydrated. Carrying around a water bottle and making a routine of drinking water will help keep your family hydrated during the holidays.


It is easy to get stuck on the couch behind a phone or tablet. An easy way to not waste the day away is to set the timer. Allow your kids only 20 minutes of screen time by setting the timer on the oven or use a kitchen timer. This is a great rule of thumb for adults as well. Not only will it make you more cognoscente of time spent behind a screen, but it will make sure that you are getting up and moving. As recommended by the USDA Activity Guideline’s for Americans children 6-17 should have at least 1 hour of physical activity daily. Adults age 18-64 should be getting 150 minutes of physical activity each week. It is difficult to meet that recommendation when you are on your phone, iPad, or watching TV most of the day.


Holidays are the season of cookies, candies, and desserts galore. It’s easy to put your healthy diet on the backburner. With many fresh fruits and vegetables out of season, it can be a challenge to eat the recommended 2 and 2 ½ cups of produce each day. Keep it simple for your family by simply asking for every member to eat something green and eat one piece of fruit each day. You can hold each other accountable sharing what the something green one was at dinner each night!


It is challenging to stay active during cold winter months when it is not possible to enjoy the outdoors. With available online resources, keep active inside during the winter months with a new workout class or a dance cardio session. Get your kids involved and have them move right alongside with you!  

Like this list? Make a copy of this check list for each family member and have them check off each step each day to make sure they are completing it each day! Feel free to make it your own by adding or subtracting items to meet your family’s needs.







Pruning Hydrangeas

By Kathleen Cue, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

 In the realm of gardening questions, answering “When can I prune my hydrangea?” can be the most complicated.  This is because of the number of hydrangea types that grow in this region, requiring an understanding on our part before the pruning saw is even employed.

It’s important to note that pruning most woody plants in April, May or June is best in order to minimize wound closure time and maintain plant health. While this may be the ideal time from a plant health perspective, it may mean not pruning at all is key to having reliable blooms.  This is where an understanding of whether the plant blooms on new (current season’s growth) or old wood (stems that developed last year) makes all the difference in having flowers or not.

Smooth Hydrangea

Hydrangea arborescens, sometimes called smooth hydrangea or snowball hydrangea, produces white flowers on current season’s wood.  So no matter how hard the winter or how severe the pruning (in April, May or June), the smooth hydrangea will still reliably flower.  This old-fashioned favorite has well-known newer introductions such as ‘Annabelle’ and Incrediball™. 

Panicle Hydrangea

Hydrangea paniculata is a large shrub that produces huge panicles of white to blush-pink flowers.  Well-known varieties include Limelight®, PeeGee, ‘Tardiva’, ‘Burgundy Lace’, and ‘PeeWee’. Flower buds are reliably winter hardy.  Pruning beyond removal of dead stems, rubbing branches and spent blooms is really not necessary but can be done in April, May or June.

Bigleaf Hydrangea

Hydrangea macrophylla is the most problematic because of hardiness issues in our area.  It produces pink flowers (or blue flowers if aluminum sulfate is added to the soil), primarily on old wood. Rough winters and hard pruning destroy flowering wood, affecting bigleaf hydrangea’s ability to flower. Varieties that belong to this group include ‘Nikko Blue’, ‘Pia’, and Endless Summer®. Blooms can occur on both new and old wood of the Endless Summer® series, which lends some resiliency to flowering after winter dieback or severe pruning means loss of last year’s wood.  But be aware that hot dry periods during the growing season will affect Endless Summer’s ability to bloom on new wood too. It’s best to site all bigleaf hydrangeas where they’re protected from winter winds and, except for dead wood removal, refrain from pruning them altogether (and hope for the best).

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Hydrangea quercifolia produces creamy white flowers and oak-shaped leaves.  While resources state flower buds are killed when winter temperatures drop below -10° F, I’ve observed the one in my yard consistently flowering, even when the winter has thrown -25° winds at it.  Pruning the oakleaf hydrangea involves removal of dead twigs, spent flowers, and rubbing branches, and really nothing more. ‘Alice’ and ‘Snow Queen’ are two well-known varieties of the oakleaf hydrangea.

 Nebraska Extension Master Gardeners can answer your gardening and plant questions!  The horticulture helpline is available for questions from the public at these dates and times:

Mondays, 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Washington County Extension, 402.426.9455

Tuesdays, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., Cuming County Extension, 402.372.6006

Wednesdays and Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Dodge County Extension, 402.727.2775