North Platte NRD Thanks Agricultural Producers

North Platte NRD Thanks Agricultural Producers


The North Platte Natural Resources District (NPNRD) would like to add its voice to the chorus singing agriculture's praises in celebration of Ag Day on March 25, 2014. Whether it be the producer, the processor, the wholesaler, the retailer, or any one in between, these men and women are responsible for the well-being of the economy in our District, our state and our country. Franklin Roosevelt once said of agriculture: "as agriculture fares, so fares the nation." We agree. If it weren't for our robust agriculture sector, unemployment in rural states during the economic downturn would have been comparable to our urban neighbors. If it weren't for our record trade surpluses in agricultural goods, our position in the world marketplace would have suffered greatly. Finally, if it weren't for a strong agriculture economy starting with on farm production, main street economies in rural communities, like those peppered across our District, would suffer.

Far beyond the economic prowess of this industry, and more important than that, we must also recognize the more basic needs that agriculture satisfies. The theme of the 2014 Ag Day is "Agriculture: 365 sunrises and 7 Billion Mouths to Feed." Each American Farmer feeds more than 144 people on average, a huge increase since the 1960's when the number was closer to 25, and the challenge is only set to increase - we have heard innumerable times that by the year 2050, the world population will grow to 9 Billion people. This additional major shift in population will demand that the American producer double production of foodstuffs from today to meet this demand, all the while using less arable land and less water. This will require even more stewardship and conservation measures to maintain the productivity of the land for generations to come. We have no doubt that American agriculture, and more narrowly Nebraska agriculture can meet these demands through management, conservation, technology and sheer will to get the job done, and get it done right.

Producers in our District are well-positioned for this challenge as they have been operating for over a decade with regulation on their groundwater, and this regulatory scheme required changes in management decisions and changes in practice that have, at times, been difficult. They rose to that challenge, doing everything we have asked, and because of that we are producing more with less water than we did decades ago. As we embark on a new era in agriculture and water management, we at the NPNRD would like to do better in terms of partnership in accomplishing this new task of doing a great deal more with less. We would like to be an education partner, hosting producer-led field days where producers can share their experiences in cropping techniques, water management and their successes and failures with both. We are exploring incentive-based regulation - where might we be able to expand our cost-share programs to ensure that producers are getting the most out of that program while getting the most out of their operation. We are exploring ways that we can use other incentives to encourage changes in cropping rotations to promote water savings, tillage practices to promote soil health, and potential ways that we can leverage our resources with state and federal resources to look at short term and long term retirement options for marginal land to add another tool to our tool box in managing water.

We are hopeful about the future of agriculture in this District and this state. We are hopeful because of the ingenuity, capacity and nimbleness exhibited by our farmers not just on Ag Day, but every day.