Posted in Crops, Livestock, Programming

Reflections from Dr. Kohl

Those of us in agriculture are no stranger to risks involved with agriculture that are taken every day, whether it is financial, production, legal, price/market or human resource risks.  While we can’t control everything, there are measures that can be taken to protect one’s operation and reduce risk. Each year the Farmers & Ranchers College hosts Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus from Virginia Tech who does an excellent job describing global risks which affect us locally and how those risks will affect the agricultural industry.

Approximately 120 people gathered for the first Farmers & Ranchers College program for the 2017-2018 programming year.

Several points I’d like to share in this week’s column are what Dr. Kohl coins as the top 40% of proactive producers or “greenliners” and the bottom 30% of producers or “redliners” and his top twelve practices observed of successful farmers and ranchers.

Characteristics of the top producers include being proactive by challenging themselves to improve their operation in three areas. These producers also have a sound financial system which includes accrual adjustments, knowing their cost of production for each enterprise or even better, each field.  Sound financial systems also look at trend analysis and ensure the records are in a safe and secure place (backed up, protected from cyber-attacks and in a fireproof safe). Proactive producers also have lower rental and fertilizer costs, have a third-person audit their practices and practice modest living. Understanding that a family might have to make sacrifices and pass on that new boat or trip can cut costs drastically, as they rose during the “good times”.

Now let’s take a look at the bottom 30% of producers. These producers typically overpay on marginal resources such as land. They lack financial or marketing skills. Kohl pointed out that something as simple as making one’s own spreadsheets or utilizing a solid record-keeping system is crucial to monitoring one’s cost of production and recommends quarterly meetings with your lender.  “Redliners” often do not make necessary improvements in their operation to keep with the times such as replacing worn out equipment. In fact, when operations are transitioned to the next generation, if everything is rusted and wore out, that next generation’s chance of “making it” are significantly reduced. These producers need to manage taxes, not minimize taxes. These producers often have a high cost of living and lack the ‘HUT’ principle which is to Hear what others tell you, Understand what they are saying and Take Action.

College students who attended the program were tasked with asking someone for agricultural advice and Dr. Kohl had them report back to the group what they discovered.

Dr. Kohl also shared when he teaches producers strategies for success, he spends a large amount of time teaching about goal setting. Half the problem with businesses is that they don’t have WRITTEN goals. These should include business, family, personal, one and five-year goals. Balance in life is essential in every career, including farming and ranching. Making time for your spouse and other family members will prevent problems down the road. In addition to goals, he teaches producers to have a projected cash flow, break evens calculated, consider different “what-if” scenarios, updated balance sheets by Groundhog’s Day, develop a personal living budget and monitor your business with a lender or advisory team on a quarterly basis.

Dr. Kohl also provided the ten commandments of character. Character is often overlooked, but crucial to one’s integrity and success. His ten commandments of character included:

  1. Follow thru on commitments (educational program and financial statement requests).
  2. Use borrowed funds as agreed upon.
  3. Be accurate with financial statements such as balance sheets, income statement, etc.
  4. Have a willingness to sacrifice lifestyle pursuits and balance with business growth.
  5. Practice good communication of goals and in times when there are issues and challenges.
  6. There should be minimal surprise business purchases.
  7. Be willing to work with an advisory team, including a third party.
  8. Consider constructive coaching.
  9. Properly use profits, cash flows and windfalls.
  10. Utilize a network of people, peers and pursuits.

In summary, those who are unable to embrace change should open their minds and consider making changes. Kohl encouraged the college students in attendance to do an internship or take a job away from home to learn from others and bring fresh, new ideas back to the operation. He applauded those producers in attendance, as they are willing to learn and improve their business. When you graduate from high school or college, you are not done with learning and if you think you are, you will likely be left behind. This is where I’m proud to be a part of Nebraska Extension as we offer educational programs that provide research-based knowledge and our Nebraska On-Farm Research Network is a great avenue to test new practices, ideas or products.

Posted in Crops, Livestock, Programming

Ag Liens, Loans and Leases Workshop

One of the most common agricultural related questions our office receives is on cropland leases. If you have any questions similar to this, you are welcome to attend a free workshop on Ag Liens, Loans, and Leases.   The workshop will be held in Davenport, (December 13, 2017) at the Community Center. A lunch will be provided.  The workshop runs from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm.  There is no charge for the workshop.  To register (and for questions) call the Rural Response Hotline at 1-800-464-0258. For an accurate meal count please RSVP by Dec. 8th.

What the workshop is about?money bag.jpg

  • Liens – Nebraska’s statutory agricultural liens, from the producer’s perspective:  What are they?  How do they work? These are liens that give creditors rights in certain property, such as crops, feed and livestock, to secure payment of obligations for goods or services, such as seed, fertilizer, ag chemicals, petroleum products, veterinary assistance, cattle care, harvest work and machine repair.  The discussion will focus on identifying the liens and understanding how they work from the producer’s perspective.
  • Loans– The presentation will provide producers with an inside look at “What your lender is looking for.” The impact of Collateral, Cash Flow, Credit Score, Character and Trends on loan applications.  A brief overview of Balance Sheets, Trend Sheets and Ratio Analysis will also be included.
  • Leases– The importance of lease communications between the landlord and tenant and useful lease provisions will be discussed, along with highlights of current lease rates and trends in Nebraska.

This workshop is being presented by:

  • Joe Hawbaker, Agricultural Law attorney, with Hawbaker Law Office, Omaha
  • Dave Goeller, Agricultural Finance and Transition Specialist
  • Alan Vyhnalek, UNL Ag Economics, Extension Educator for Farm/Ranch Succession

This workshop is made possible by the North Central Risk Management Education, Nebraska Network for Beginning Farmers & Ranchers, the Farm and Ranch Project of Legal Aid of Nebraska, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Next Gen, Nebraska Farmers Union Foundation, Nebraska Extension- Thayer Co.

Meal sponsors include Cornerstone Bank- Davenport & Bruning State Bank.

Posted in Crops, Livestock, Programming

Farmers & Ranchers College


The Farmers & Ranchers College was formed in January 2000 with the purpose of providing high quality, dynamic, up to date educational workshops for area agricultural producers in south central Nebraska through a collaborative effort between business, industry and higher education leaders. Furthermore, the Farmers & Ranchers College will provide the tools necessary so that agricultural producers will be able to respond positively to these changes using a profitable decision making process.

The Farmers and Ranchers College is a unique opportunity to educate agricultural producers in south central Nebraska. Approximately four hundred producers participated in the 2016-17 Farmers & Ranchers College programs. Producers attending these workshops managed over 170,500 acres. Participants surveyed indicated an average of $18.00/acre of knowledge gained from participating for a potential impact of $3 million.

IMG_7242.jpgThe sixteenth annual Partners in Progress- Beef Seminar featured a variety of industry, University and agricultural organization presenters. Participants managed over 8,500 head of cattle and indicated that on average the information presented will increase their profitability $17.50/head with a total potential impact of nearly $150,000.

Contributions and support of area businesses allow participants to attend at no cost, however for programs that have meals, it is requested that people RSVP at least a week in advance for an accurate meal count by calling Fillmore County Extension at (402) 759-3712.

The Farmers and Ranchers College Committee consists of Fred Bruning of Bruning, Bryan Dohrman of Grafton, Sarah Miller of Carleton, Jennifer Engle of Fairmont, Ryne Norton of York, Jim Donovan of Geneva, Bryce Kassik of Geneva, Eric Kamler of Geneva, and Brandy VanDeWalle of Ohiowa.

2017-18 Program Schedule:

December 7, 2017 – “Positioning for Success in the Economic Reset”” w/ Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of AAEC, VA TECH at the Opera House in Bruning, NE from 1-4:00 pm

January 30, 2017** – “Partners In Progress Beef Seminar” Cow/Calf College at U.S. MARC near Clay Center, NE from 10-3:30 a.m., Registration at 9:30

February 23, 2017** – “Crop Insurance, Farm Bill Policy Update & More!” with Steve Johnson from Iowa State Extension and Brad Lubben, Nebraska Extension at  the Fillmore Co. Fairgrounds- Geneva, NE from 10- 3:00 p.m.,Registration at 9:30 a.m.

 ** Programs are free; however registration is appreciated for a meal count. Please call the Fillmore Co. Extension Office at (402) 759-3712 one-week prior to the program to reserve your spot.

Posted in Crops, Livestock, Programming, Youth

Food Label “Quiz”

With the holiday season upon us, many consumers will be preparing food for family and friends. When you go to the grocery store and select food, how well do you really know your food labels?  A survey of over 1,200 Nebraskans was conducted on how people think and feel about their food. Food labels were identified as the major information source by almost 64% of respondents. This work was done as a part of our Consumer Confidence team which works to find ways to inform people about food production. Are you an able food label reader? Do you know the answers to these questions? (Answers at the end of this article.)

Photo Credit: FDA
  1. A label box of cereal starts like this: “Ingredients: Whole wheat, brown sugar, molasses….”
    Which of these ingredients is present in the largest amount by weight in this food? a. Whole wheat      b. Brown sugar    c. Molasses     d. They are present in equal amounts
  2. Two chicken broths are labeled the following: Label 1: Real herbs, real flavor, sodium free chicken bouillon and Label 2: All natural, 100% chicken bouillon
    Which label does NOT have an approved “definition?” 
    a.  Label A     b. Label B
  3. A label says, “best if used by Dec., 27, 2019. Is a “Best If Used By” date a “safety” date?
    a. Yes     b. No
  4. Which of the following foods is “hormone free”?
    a. Meat     b.  Bread      c. Peas      d. None of them are “hormone free”
  5. Which animal is raised with “added” hormones?
    pig and chicken
    Photo Credit: Microsoft Powerpoint icons

    a. Pigs      b. Chicken      c. Both of them      d. Neither of them

  6. If “bananas-A” are labeled “GMO-Free” and “bananas-B” have no GMO labeling, which is a TRUE statement?
    a. Bananas-B are a GMO food      b. Neither of them are GMO foods       c. It’s impossible to tell if bananas-B are a GMO food


  1. a. Whole wheat. Ingredients are listed by their common or usual name in descending order by weight. For example: If “whole wheat” is listed first, that ingredient is found in the largest amount by weight in the product. The ingredient listed last contributes the least amount by weight.
  2. b. Label B. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not developed a definition for use of the term “natural.”
  3. a. No. A “Best If Used By” date describes product quality, where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume.
  4. d. None of them are “hormone free.” Anything that is or has been alive contains hormones, including plants. There is no such thing as “hormone free” meat or animal product.
  5. d. Neither of them. Added hormones aren’t allowed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in pork and poultry. A claim of “no hormones added” on pork or poultry must be followed by the statement, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”  Be aware, the claim of “no hormones added” may be in much larger letters than the statement saying the use of hormones is prohibited.
  6. b. Neither of them are GMO foods. In today’s market place, you may find foods promoted as “GMO free” or “contains no GMOs.” Before you pay extra for this food, be aware it may not be made with any ingredients that contain GMOs in the first place. In other words, the same type of food without that label may also be free of GMO ingredients.

Neither banana is a GMO food and never has been! GMO foods currently available in the United States are: Corn (field and sweet), Soybeans, Cotton, Canola, Alfalfa, Sugar beets, Papaya (Hawaiian), Squash

NOTE: Not all versions of all these foods are genetically engineered. Artic apples will be available in some areas by 2017. Before being placed on the market, genetically modified foods must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information or to view a self-paced slideshow on labeling, go to UNL’s food webpage.  

Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Programming

On-Farm Research

Nebraska Extension has a long history in on-farm research. In 1989, twenty Saunders County producers came together through Nebraska Extension to form the Nebraska Soybean and Feed Grains Profitability Project. This group began doing randomized, replicated research to answer questions that impacted the profitability of their farming operation. Due to the original group’s success, the idea spread to surrounding counties and in 1998 the Quad Counties research group was formed in Clay, Fillmore, Hamilton, and York Counties in south central Nebraska. Extension Educators and Specialists worked with 20 farmers to produce reliable, unbiased research. The Nebraska On-Farm Research Network builds upon the success of these two organizations, expanding on-farm research to a state-wide effort in 2012.SoybeanPopCount.JPG

On-Farm Research Brainstorming/Discussion Session:  You hear and read about various production practices and products that work for other farmers.  You may have questions regarding a specific practice or product working on your farm.  On-farm research is a way to answer this for yourself!  In the past, our area on-farm research cooperators met before the growing season to brainstorm ideas and discuss potential research topics together.  We are resurrecting this brainstorming/discussion session with it to be held on Monday, November 27th from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the Fairgrounds (4-H Building) in Aurora.  We encourage farmers who have conducted on-farm research in the past or are considering/interested in on-farm research in the future to attend.  If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP to Steve Melvin at or Jenny Rees at

Posted in Crops

Harvest Safety

It is hard to believe that harvest is starting and just as a reminder that with harvest comes more traffic on the county roads and other stresses for farmers. It never fails, that equipment can break, there can be delays at the elevator and those extra-long hours can all add extra stress to farmers. That being said, it is important to carefully slow down and realize the many hazards you are being exposed to during harvest.

IMG_9973.jpgAn Iowa State Extension publication, Harvest Safety Yields Big Dividends points out that injuries can occur by taking shortcuts to perform routine tasks, not getting enough sleep or regular breaks, or failing to follow safety practices. Some injuries occur when operators are pulled into the intake area of harvesting machines, such as balers, combines, or corn pickers, and many injuries occur from slips or falls around these machines. Exposure to powerful machinery is highest during the harvest season. The equipment must be powerful to effectively handle large amounts of agricultural commodities. When equipment plugs, NEVER try to unplug it with live equipment, instead always disengage power and turn off the engine before trying to manually clear a plugged machine. Regular maintenance of these machines can also make harvest go smoother. Also, lots of accidents actually happen by the operator slipping and falling off equipment.

In the same publication listed above, there are several tips for reducing fall hazards:

  • Always keep all platforms free of tools or other objects.
  • Frequently clean the steps and other areas where workers stand to service, mount and dismount, or operate the machine.
  • Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes with non-slip soles.
  • Use grab bars when mounting or dismounting machinery.
  • Be sure your position is stable before you work on a machine.
  • Recognize that fatigue, stress, drugs or alcohol, and age may affect stability.

Slow Down.png

Other helpful tips during harvest are to keep kids away from machinery. Tell them the dangers that can occur and not to play near the equipment, even when it is shut off; you never know when they will be playing in hidden areas of the equipment. Operators should double check where kids are before moving the equipment. Too many accidents can occur when youth are in the path of equipment out of the operator’s view. Operators of all equipment should check in regularly and let someone know where you are. Keep all guards on equipment; it is there for a reason!

It is also important for the public to understand the increased traffic on public roads and be patient. The greatest threat raised between farm equipment and passenger vehicles is the difference in speed. Farm equipment runs at an average speed of 20 miles per hour while passenger vehicles average 60 miles per hour. If the motor vehicle overtakes a tractor, the impact is comparable to a passenger vehicle hitting a brick wall at 40 miles per hour. If the tractor and a car, mini-van or pickup collides head on, the impact is the same as hitting a brick wall at 60 miles per hour.

Farmers can reduce the chances of an accident by using warning lights, reflectors and reflective tape on their machinery to keep passenger vehicle operators aware of their presence on roads. Some farmers may choose to install supplemental lights to increase visibility. It also is a good idea for producers to keep off heavily traveled roads as much as possible and avoid moving equipment during the busiest part of the day.

Some farm equipment, such as combines, can take up more than half of the road. Even so, it is up to both drivers to be aware of their own limitations and adjust accordingly. Farmers should not take up more space than is needed, but other drivers should try to provide as much room as possible. It is a good idea for passenger vehicles to turn off onto side or field roads until larger machinery has passed. Whenever possible, farmers should use an escort vehicle such as a pickup to precede or follow large machinery and equipment on public roads. More than one escort may be necessary. Ideally, the escort vehicle would have extra warning lights and a sign indicating oversized or slow equipment ahead or following.

Have a safe harvest!

Posted in Crops, Youth

Making One Agronomist at a Time

Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club of Cuming County and Colfax County 4-H represented Nebraska in the regional youth crop scouting competition on August 28, 2017.


In late August, seven Nebraska youth traveled to Indiana to participate in the 2nd Annual Regional Youth Crop Scouting Competition held at Purdue University’s Beck Ag Center near West Lafayette, Indiana.  These youths scouted six fields for diseases, insects, abiotic/biotic disorders, weed identification and crop growth stage and development. Teams from Iowa and Indiana also competed. Nebraska teams ranked 3rd and 6th respectably. Between all three state competitions, 195 youth competed from Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana. Top two teams from each state competed at the regional competition. Congrats to all of the youth who not only networked with agronomic professionals, but also gained the most by improving life skills related to a potential career path. Next year’s regional competition will be hosted by Nebraska Extension.

While this is one program, which impacts a very small percentage of youth, it is very important to start training the next generation of ag leaders to feed our growing population. In fact, globally there is an effort to encourage youth in agricultural positions. According to the U.N. International Labor Organization (a specialized agency of the United Nations), globally there will be about 74.2 million unemployed young people (ages 15-24) in 2017 which is an increase of 3.8 million since 2007. While it is troublesome that those graduating high school and/or college are unemployed, this could present an opportunity for those in the agricultural industry. If we can create programs which spark an interest in agriculture, there is potential to attract youth to the agricultural industry.

Getting over the stigma that agriculture is a back-breaking with little room for advancement, while in fact it is quite the opposite. As educators, we should be promoting agricultural careers as “intellectually stimulating and economically sustainable” according to Programs designed to encourage young people into agriculture are in numerous countries across the world including the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project in the U.S., a variety of USDA initiatives and programs like Farm Africa for youth in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda or the International Fund for Agricultural Development Rural Youth Talents Program in South America. If you know of a young person undecided in his/her career path or a youth who is passionate about agriculture, let them know of the bright future and opportunities available in agriculture.

For more information on how to engage youth in crops, visit our UNL CropWatch site at