Crops, Livestock

Characteristics of a Successful Producer

A new year often brings a sense of hope for new opportunities and bright beginnings. For many Nebraskans, the year 2019 brought many challenges and hardships so a new year is welcomed. Last month, the Farmers & Ranchers College conducted a program with Dr. David Kohl titled “Agriculture Today: It Is What It Is… What Should We Do About It”. He provided many insights on key economic indicators that will impact agriculture. What I also appreciate about his message is how he points out key characteristics of what makes a farm or ranch successful. Goal setting is so important and also so under-utilized. I’ve heard and presented the importance of goal setting for years and it was refreshing to hear him emphasize some key points. Dr. Kohl pointed out that 80% of Americans don’t have any goals and of those who have goals, 4% that have written goals obtain more money and success than others who do not write their goals down.

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In any business, it is important to be proactive rather than reactive. Those who pre-market their grain are generally more successful than those who do not. Kohl mentioned that the culture of a workplace or farm is also important. Many leadership development speakers and researchers emphasize the importance of culture in the workplace. For example, in her book, Dare to Lead, Brene Brown points out the importance of a daring leader to cultivate a culture of belonging, inclusivity and diverse perspectives. She states that, “Only when diverse perspectives are included, respected and valued can we start to get a full picture of the world: who we serve, what they need and how to successfully met people where they are.” For years, Dr. Kohl has pointed out that farmers and ranchers need their own advisory board that involves people who will challenge you and differ from your thinking. If we only hear from people who always agree with us, you won’t be challenged to improve your operation.

With a passion for leadership development, I appreciated Dr. Kohl’s message that interpersonal skills will continue to be critically important. He also noted the importance of having a positive attitude and the need to invest as much in human capital as in technology. Effective communication and being able to interpret data with critical thinking skills are also critically important for the future generation.

Finally, I’ve leave you with a checklist of business IQ management factors and critical questions for crucial conversations that Dr. Kohl has created. In the checklist, the most successful producers have the following written down: cost of production, cost of production by enterprise, goals (business, family & personal), record keeping system, projected cash flow, financial sensitivity analysis and understanding financial ratios and break evens. Also, those who regularly work with an advisory team and lender have strong management skills. Successful producers have a marketing plan written and execute it, in addition to a risk management plan. Successful managers have modest lifestyle habits and a family living budget. Progressive businesses also have a written plan for improvement with strong people management, have a transition plan, attend educational seminars such as extension programs and also have a proactive attitude.

For more information about the next Farmers & Ranchers College program which will be the Cow/Calf College on January 28th go to fillmore.unl.edu.

Crops, Horticulture, Irrigation, Livestock, Youth

New Year’s Resolutions

If you are like many nearly half of the American population, you probably have a New Year’s Resolution set for 2020, while 38% of Americans absolutely never make New Year’s Resolution according to research by University of Scranton, 2016. A majority of those resolutions are self-improvement or education related resolutions (47%), weight related (38%), money related (34%) or relationship related (31%).  University of Southern California’s John Monterosso who is an expert on psychology and neuroscience of self-control offers insight on how to achieve setting those resolutions.

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Monterosso suggests thinking of a resolution as a special kind of plan and visualizing your future-self. If you have already made that resolution or still working to tweak it, he suggested keeping the following in mind:

  • Failed resolutions are not harmless. Most people don’t like to fail; in fact it hurts our confidence and can actually lead to worse behavior. Keeping this in mind and accepting the fact that one might not have accomplished all that was planned is important. If you get off track, you can always start again and don’t have to wait until a new year.
  • Resolutions work by linking single decisions to a bigger picture. For example, if you have a goal of quitting smoking or eating unhealthy foods and let a craving lead to poor decisions, you might think, “it’s just one cigarette or just one meal of fried foods” which may or may not lead to the continuation of a bad habit. If one takes a resolution seriously, think about the health consequences and the potential “relapse” that could occur.
  • Consider being less ambitious in your resolutions. We tend to be overly confident when making a resolution and think we can change our behavior overnight. While it is good to be confident with your goals, be careful not to make overly ambitious goals. For example, if you plan to work out one hour/day every day of the week and have an already packed life with a career, community obligations and a family, consider starting at 20 minutes/day and work up to more minutes if time allows. Setting a good resolution requires being realistic.
  • Resolutions should not be vague. If you set a resolution of “eating healthier.” What does that mean?  Does it mean drinking 64 oz. of water/day?  Does it mean to include a fruit or vegetable at every meal?  Write down a SMART goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
  • The New Year is a fresh start. Setting resolutions/goals at the first of the year helps us “clean the slate” and put past failures away. It gives us a sense of confidence and optimism. Capitalize on that.
  • Even successful resolutions can be mistakes. If you set restrict your diet to the point of starvation or over-exercise to the point of hurting yourself, you must be able to adapt, know yourself and use common sense and wisdom to correct the resolution.

In summary, Monterosso suggests that done correctly, “resolutions play a role in great human achievements.”

Extension’s Help with Resolutions

As stated above, almost half of resolutions made include education or self-improvement. If you need any educational resources or materials on nearly any subject, Extension has resources. Whether it is information on a website, talking with an extension professional, utilizing an app from your smart-phone, attending a face-to-face program, participation in a webinar or many other avenues, Extension works to solve complex problems for clients. If you haven’t been to Extension’s website recently, I encourage you to go to extension.unl.edu. There you will find an abundance of resources on topics such as food, nutrition and health, cropping & water systems, community vitality, community environment, learning child, beef systems and 4-H youth development. Consider attending a program or utilizing a resource to help you achieve a resolution or goal you may have.

For a list of extension programs in the area, visit our website or call our office at (402) 759-3712.

Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Managing Stress During the Holidays

I love the holiday season! It is a great time for getting together with friends and family and a time to reflect on the year. Holiday baking, looking at Christmas lights, and showing appreciation to those in your life by giving gifts are just a few of the many things I enjoy.  While I enjoy many things and truly do love the holiday season, it can also be a stressful time. Situations may be challenging, especially if there are increased financial stressors.

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For farm and ranch families, the stress is also very real – someone still has to break the ice and feed the livestock, manage financial recordkeeping, tax preparation, evaluate crop yields, and plan for the next growing season; there is lots to do. The downturn in the agricultural economy and weather-related disasters have only compounded the stress many agriculturalists have had to endure. This can make one’s situation seem hopeless. My colleague, Holly Hatton-Bowers shared an article that pointed out the American Psychological Association found that in the US people tend to feel more stressed around the holidays.

Before you become dragged down by negative feelings and stress, try to sprinkle your winter holiday with these seven tips compiled by my colleague, Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers. Doing these practices may help you manage your stress and even find some moments of joy during the holidays.

  1. Challenge Your Thinking – Often when we are faced with challenges, failures or even criticism, we begin to tell ourselves stories that lead to more stress. It can be helpful to ask yourself, “Is this True?” “Am I being Kind to Myself?” “What can I learn from this experience?” It can also be helpful to remember that feelings come and go. Acknowledge your feelings and also take note that they are not here to stay.
  2. Set Your Intentions to Eat for Gains, Sleep, and Move – During the Winter Holidays, many of us take joy in eating sweet, sugary and fatty foods. Sometimes our family and friends bake our favorite pies and cookies. Enjoy these foods in small amounts and also be intentional in eating foods that give you energy or a “net gain” for your wellbeing. Before drinking that next sugar filled coffee or soda, choose water. Choose a side of vegetables instead of French fries. It’s is also important to not skip meals which can lead to headaches, draining your energy and lead to you feeling more down. Set your intentions to get sleep. Turn-off technology an hour before bedtime and wake up at the same time each morning. Finally, set your intention to move your body. It is recommended to move your body every 20 minutes for at least two minutes.
  3. Reach Out and Connect with Your Support System– If you are feeling lonely, sad, or overwhelmed, you are not alone. Sometimes we need a friend or family member to listen or offer us support and help. Expressing your thoughts and feelings with those you trust may be helpful and deepen your relationships. Plan for difficult days by having an activity planned or by checking in with a relative or close friend. If you are having a lot of difficulty, reach out to a mental health expert. If you are feeling very isolated and having serious thoughts of self-harm or suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  4. Plan and Budget Expenses – It may feel daunting to stick to a reasonable budget during the holidays. In the moment you may think, I can just charge this and pay it later. Often these impulsive buys can lead to more stress later. Miriam Caldwell in her “Get Tips on Making and Sticking to a Holiday Budget” suggests listing out your holiday expenses, stick to a spending limit, and making a shopping list so that you are less likely to overspend.
  5. Embrace the Messy – At time we may have expectations for how events and activities will go. We plan celebrations and expect them to be filled with complete joy and fun. Often these expectations may not go as planned. Let go and be ok when this happens. Stop and breathe. It can be helpful to breathe in for a count of 5 and breathe out for a count of 7. Practice this breathing a few times and then tell yourself to embrace the mess.
  6. Create a To-Do or a Done List – Write down four things you can accomplish and do it! If a to-do list sounds stressful, then try a DONE list. Write down the things that you have accomplished today.
  7. Cultivate Gratitude – Practicing gratitude can help you de-stress by focusing on what you have, and what you value. Make a list of 5 things/people/experiences you are grateful for.

What will you do to combat your stress during the Winter Holidays? Take time to be present and find ways to intentionally create holiday experiences that are less stressful and a little more pleasant and meaningful.

Crops, Programming

Landlord/tenant cash rent workshops

Nebraska Extension’s Landlord/Tenant Cash Rent Workshops for 2020 and Beyond will provide the latest leasing, real estate and management information to operators, tenants and landowners in Nebraska this winter.

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The workshop is scheduled in 19 communities throughout the state, between Dec. 6, 2019, and March 18, 2020.

Extension educators Austin Duerfeldt, Jim Jansen and Allan Vyhnalek, all working in the Department of Agricultural Economics, have collaborated to develop a program that will address agricultural finance and the real estate market, negotiation skills and considerations for leases and strategies for farmland succession and communication.

“Austin, Jim and I have put together an excellent set of topics and have completely rewritten our land management curriculum for this set of workshops,” said Vyhnalek. “We encourage both landowners and farmers to attend to hear about land management in the next decade.

For the purpose of this column, I have included the workshops closest to us, including York and Clay Center. Registration for the free workshop is requested to ensure enough materials are available. Updated information is available at farm.unl.edu.

 Landlord/Tenant Cash Rent Workshops for 2020 and Beyond

Omaha
When: Dec. 17, 2019, 6-9 p.m. at Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties
Address: 8015 W Center Road, Omaha, NE 68124
Registration: 402-444-7804

 Seward
When: Jan. 7, 2020, 1:30-4:30 p.m. at Nebraska Extension in Seward County office
Address: 322 S. 14th St., Seward, NE 68434
Registration: 402-643-2981

York
When: Jan. 8, 2020, 9 a.m.noon at York County Fairgrounds – 4-H Building
Address: 2345 N. Nebraska Ave., York, NE 68467
Registration: 402-362-5508

Clay Center
When: Jan. 15, 2020, 1-4 p.m. at Clay County Fairgrounds – 4-H Building
Address: 111 W. Fairfield St., Clay Center, NE 68933
Registration: 402-762-3644

Kearney
When: Feb. 24, 2020, 9 a.m.-noon at Nebraska Extension in Buffalo County office
Address: 1400 E. 34th St., Kearney, NE 68847
Registration: 308-236-1235

Crops, Irrigation, Programming

Farm Bill Programs

Nebraska Extension and USDA Farm Service Agency in Nebraska will host a series of Farm Bill education meetings over the next two months 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.

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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 numerous locations across the state from late November to mid-December in advance of the coming ARC/PLC enrollment deadlines in early 2020.

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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 meetings are available statewide with several locations in each region of the state. The schedule for programming closest to us is as follows:

  • Red Cloud – Community Center – November 25, 1-4 PM
  • Bruning – Bruning Opera House – December 5, 1:30-4:30 PM
  • Grand Island – College Park Fonner Park Room – December 5, 1-4 PM
  • York – York County Fairgrounds Cornerstone Building – December 6, 9 AM-12 NOON
  • Lincoln – Lancaster County Extension Center – December 16, 9 AM-12 NOON
  • Kearney – Buffalo County Fairgrounds Antelope Meeting Room – December 17, 1-4 PM
  • Beatrice – Gage County Fairgrounds 4-H Building – December 17, 9 AM-12 NOON
  • Geneva – Fillmore County Fairgrounds Ag Hall – December 18, 9 AM-12 NOON

Please check the website for updates on locations, dates and times. All times are local with registration beginning 30 minutes ahead of start. Several additional meetings also are being planned locally across the state in various locations. Keep alert to additional opportunities and details as they are developed by checking the website for information or by contacting your county Extension or FSA office.

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: Brad Lubben, Nebraska Extension Policy Specialist: Email: blubben2@unl.edu

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.frcollege-logo-front-panel

The Farmers and Ranchers College is a unique opportunity to educate agricultural producers in south central Nebraska. Approximately two hundred fifty producers participated in the 2018-19 Farmers & Ranchers College programs. Producers attending these workshops managed over 100,000 acres and managed nearly 10,000 head of beef animals. Participants surveyed indicated a potential impact of nearly $1 million from knowledge gained from participating. The 18th annual Partners in Progress- Beef Seminar featured a variety of industry, University and agricultural organization presenters. Ninety-eight percent of participants surveyed were very satisfied or satisfied with the program quality and fifty-five percent indicated that previous programming improved their knowledge of making risk management decisions.

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.

2019-2020 Program Schedule

December 9, 2019 – “Agriculture Today: It is What it is…What Should We Do About It” w/ Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of AAEC, VA TECH at the Opera House in Bruning, NE from 1-4:00 pm

January 28, 2020** – “Partners In Progress Beef Seminar” Cow/Calf College at U.S. MARC near Clay Center, NE from 10-3:30 p.m., Registration at 9:30 a.m.

March 2020 – “Strategies for Family Farming Success in the Shark Tank” with Dr. Ron Hanson, UNL Harlan Agribusiness Professor Emeritus at the Fillmore Co. Fairgrounds- Geneva, NE     Details are still being finalized for this program.

 ** 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.

Crops, Livestock, Youth

Remember Ag Safety

Last week I attended the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day coordinator training. This training provides excellent resources for the annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day we have each May in Geneva. By participating in this program, national donors provides us the opportunity to provide youth t-shirts, access to vital curriculum materials and other support. At the training, two staggering statistics reinforced my reason for continually offering this program to area youth. In North America, every 3 days, a child dies due to an ag-related accident. Also, in North America, every day 33 youth are injured in an agricultural setting.img_6564

The vision of Progressive Agriculture Foundation is that “no child would become ill, injured or die from farm, ranch or rural activities.” As the mother of two school-aged children, I try to stress the importance of safety in and around crop and livestock areas, but it just takes one moment for an accident to happen so please remember to take it slow and easy this harvest season. The stress of farming and ranching is large and taking care of yourself is important not only for your health but to those around you.

Our local ag safety day planning committee will be meeting after the first of the year to plan our program. If you or your business would like to contribute financially to our local youth or be involved in our program, please contact me at (402) 759-3712 or brandy.vandewalle@unl.edu and I’d be glad to talk about ways to effectively teach our youth about ag safety.

Crops

CropWatch Resources

The year 2019 will definitely go down as one of the most challenging years in recent memory. With flooding in the spring and recent localized flooding last week, many are ready to wrap up this year and hope for a much better year in 2020. Just a reminder that the UNL CropWatch website has many resources to answer your questions and can be accessed by going to cropwatch.unl.edu.

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Also, please consider helping Nebraska Extension by completing the Nebraska Weed Issues Survey: By completing the survey you will be helping with a research project to update issues impacting you. Survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QZV8Z2T

Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Free Ag Law and Farm Finance Clinics

Free legal and financial clinics are being offered for farmers and ranchers at seven sites across the state in October. The clinics are one-on-one meetings with an agricultural law attorney and an agricultural financial counselor. These are not group sessions, and they are confidential.

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The attorney and financial advisor specialize in legal and financial issues related to farming and ranching, including financial and business planning, transition planning, farm loan programs, debtor/creditor law, debt structure and cash flow, agricultural disaster programs, and other relevant matters. Here is an opportunity to obtain an independent, outside perspective on issues that may be affecting your farm or ranch.

To sign up for a free clinic or to get more information, call the Nebraska Farm Hotline at 1-800-464-0258.

Funding for this work is provided by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Legal Aid of Nebraska, North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center, and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Clinic Sites and Dates

  • North Platte — Thursday, October 10
  • Lexington — Thursday, October 17
  • Fairbury — Wednesday, October 23
  • Valentine — Tuesday, October 29
  • Norfolk — Wednesday, October 30
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_3695

An 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.

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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!