With more than 48,700 farms across the state combined with other agriculture-related industries, Nebraska agriculture is the top economic driver in the state.
Based on recent figures, Nebraska ranks first in commercial red meat production, first in Great Northern bean production and first in popcorn production. The state also ranks second in ethanol production, among the top three in the production of pinto beans, proso millet, light red kidney beans and corn for grain, and fourth in the production of alfalfa hay, grain sorghum and soybeans.
In addition to the economic impact and the production of key commodities, agriculture helps define the character of Nebraskans, says Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
“We are hard workers with ethics and integrity, and those values stem from our agricultural roots,” he says.
Even though the number of young farmers is dropping nationally according to the USDA, Nebraska is bucking that trend. Figures show that from 2007 to 2012, the number of young farmers in Nebraska rose 41.5 percent, from 3,353 to 4,747. During that same five-year period, the national number of young farmers dropped 20 percent.
Benefiting from agriculture in Nebraska is about more than farming or ranching. Agriculture affects every citizen in the state, providing food, fiber for clothing, biofuels and other products.
The agricultural industry also generates approximately 25 percent of all jobs in Nebraska, according to a study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to many traditional jobs, agriculture also creates employment in other industries such as construction, finance, insurance, technology and law.
Nebraska’s Golden Triangle
No state is better situated with corn, livestock and ethanol than Nebraska, which is referred to as “Nebraska’s Golden Triangle.” Nebraska is the third-largest producer of corn in the country, second in ethanol production and distillers grains (the feed ingredient produced by ethanol plants), and number one in red meat production. It’s also an important location for the production of renewable corn-based polymers.
This means corn farmers have solid markets for corn – ethanol and livestock – while the two-dozen ethanol plants across state then provide renewable fuel and a feed ingredient for the livestock industry, giving livestock feeders in Nebraska more feed options and an advantage over feeders in other states. The livestock sector then provides high-quality, corn-fed meat to people across town, throughout the country and around the world.
In essence, Nebraska’s Golden Triangle is a perfect way to add value to corn – via a renewable biofuel, distillers grains and meat production – all within Nebraska’s borders, providing an incredible economic engine for the state.
Schooled in Ag
Nebraska colleges know that young people are the future, and they’re preparing them to uphold the success of the state’s number one industry.
At the University of Nebraska, students can choose from a variety of majors including water science, microbiology, horticulture, food science and more. The school also offers pre-professional programs for forestry and veterinary medicine, as well as graduate studies in areas such as plant health and agronomy.
State and community colleges across Nebraska also offer agricultural degrees to prepare students for industry careers in everything from production agriculture to agricultural communications to agribusiness.
Nebraska’s variety of crops and commodities are not only enjoyed here at home, but across the globe as well. Nebraska exported $7.2 billion worth of agricultural goods in 2014, earning the state an additional $9.2 billion in economic activity because each export dollar generated $1.27 in economic activity.
In 2014, Nebraska’s top five exports included soybeans and soybean meal, corn, beef and veal, feeds and fodder, and hides and skin. The state ranks No. 1 in the nation for beef and veal exports, bringing in over $1.1 billion. These goods are going to top markets including Canada, Mexico, Japan, China and Korea.
Learn more about Nebraska’s top exports and export markets from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
Grants Fund Research
Honey, hops, popcorn and peas – all are an important part of Nebraska’s agriculture industry. More than $620,000 in research funding from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program could strengthen these and other specialty crops in the state.
Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops. Two of the 16 projects funded in Nebraska involve dry edible beans – Nebraska ranks fifth in the nation for all dry edible bean production. Other funded projects involve hops, sunflowers, peas, popcorn, peppermint and spearmint, honey and table grapes.