Value-Added Ag Grows Rural Nebraska
By Governor Pete Ricketts
October 15, 2019
Governor’s official photo here.
Nebraska’s official nickname is the Cornhusker State, and unofficially we’re known as the Beef State because of the world-class red meat produced by our cattlemen and women. Our family farms and ranches grow and raise some of the finest agricultural crops and livestock on the planet. Our soybeans, corn, eggs, beef, pork, wheat, grain sorghum, and other ag products have an unsurpassed reputation for their quality.
This has been the toughest year for agriculture since I’ve been Governor. From flooding and low commodity prices to trade uncertainty and a packer fire, ag producers have been through a lot. As we pull through this together, it’s critical that we grow agriculture for the next generation of Nebraskans to keep our state strong. One of the keys to growing agriculture is adding value to our traditional commodities. We can do this by expanding livestock production, attracting investments in biosciences, and growing our biofuels industry.
Growing livestock production helps create new ag products and creates more demand for the corn and soybeans we already raise in Nebraska. This week, Costco is celebrating the grand opening of its poultry operation in Fremont, which will turn Nebraska-grown broilers into Costco’s popular rotisserie chickens and other chicken products. Costco sells 90 million rotisserie chickens at its stores annually, and the plant in Fremont will help meet this demand. At full capacity, the facility will process over 2 million chickens each week.
In addition to the jobs at the plant in Fremont, this new poultry operation is already creating opportunity for many farm families. Costco is partnering with more than 100 farm families to build new chicken barns in Nebraska. Thanks to this, next generation farmers, like Hannah Borg of Wakefield and Joe Schulz of Seward, will be able to return home to carry on their family’s legacy in agriculture. Additionally, corn and soybean growers will supply the equivalent of 2,000 acres of corn and 2,000 acres of soybeans to Costco every week. Having a direct buyer will improve these local farmers’ basis. Overall, Costco’s $450 million investment in Nebraska could have an annual financial impact of $1.2 billion, or roughly 1 percent of our state’s GDP.
From fish farming to ethyl acetate, investments from bioscience companies have been growing opportunities in agriculture in recent years. In June, Veramaris, a Dutch-German joint venture, cut the ribbon on a brand-new production plant in Blair. Veramaris CEO Karim Kurmaly is a marine biologist who is passionate about stewarding our oceans’ resources. His company will produce omega-3 fatty acids using fermented algae and dextrose from Nebraska-grown corn. Producing the omega-3s in Nebraska allows fish farmers to give salmon the nutrition they need without having to use wild fish as feed. In turn, reducing reliance on wild fish prevents the depletion of marine life. Veramaris is creating high-tech manufacturing jobs in a rural community, while simultaneously strengthening agriculture in Nebraska.
Biofuels are another way we’re creating opportunity through value-added agriculture. Nebraska is the second largest ethanol producing state in the nation. Ethanol groups and my administration have been working with President Trump to expand ethanol production over the last year. In May, the President finalized approval of year round E15. Previously, E15 could only be sold during certain months of the year. Two weeks ago, the Trump Administration announced plans to cut red tape so that distributors can more easily sell E15 at the pump. In the same announcement, the President agreed to ensure that Renewable Volume Obligations do not fall below 15 billion gallons. Since 2017, the EPA had given waivers to oil refineries, exempting them from over 1 billion gallons of renewable fuel obligations each year. Going forward, the EPA will make up for the waived gallons so that they no longer lower demand for ethanol.
Value-added agriculture opens up exciting new possibilities for our state’s farmers and ranchers. Through innovative partnerships and initiatives, we can take advantage of these economic opportunities so that Nebraska’s youth can succeed in agriculture. Time and again—in places like Fremont, Seward, and Blair—I’ve seen the difference a dedicated, unified, and hard-working team can make in attracting value-added agriculture projects that create opportunities for young farmers. I applaud the leaders in these communities for having the vision to grow their local economy and for successfully promoting their cities and area ag producers.
In the coming years, Nebraska’s rising generation will harness new techniques and technologies to grow the economy, create jobs, and expand value-added agriculture in our state. If you want to share your perspective on the future of agriculture in Nebraska, please contact my office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 402-471-2244. No matter how the landscape of agriculture changes, I have total confidence that the ingenuity, resourcefulness, and grit of our ag community will lead to a bright future for the industry here in Nebraska.