Celebrate Nebraska Agriculture During National Ag Week

Steve Wellman, Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, celebrates the importance of Nebraska agriculture during National Ag Week, March 20-26, 2022. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is a member of Bio Nebraska.
By Steve Wellman, Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, courtesy of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
Director Steve Wellman

From the food on our tables to the fuel in our cars, agriculture is an important part of our daily lives. In an ag state like Nebraska, agriculture is even more important to the people who live and work here in the good life. Every year National Ag Week gives us an opportunity to celebrate agriculture and thank the people behind the food, feed and fuel we depend on every day. This year, National Ag Week is March 20-26.

Nebraska’s booming agricultural industry has resulted in a strong economy and big tax receipts. With one in every four jobs connected to agriculture, Nebraska’s low unemployment rate means there has never been a better time to find a job in the state’s ag industry. We have a lot to be grateful for and a lot to celebrate. 

Nebraska’s celebration of agriculture today is built on our past successes. Boosted by strong crop production and top rankings in beef production, Nebraska exported more than $7.1 billion in agricultural goods in 2020. More than $847 million higher than 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That alone is a remarkable achievement. But Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and all the others who make up the state’s extensive ag industry didn’t stop there. They continue to work hard and outperform in nearly every agricultural category.  

Let me share some of Nebraska’s other top rankings. Nebraska is:

  • #1 in cash receipts from all farm commodities per capita; and
  • #1 in commercial cattle slaughter (2021) at 7,091,600 head; and 
  • #2 in cattle on feed (Jan. 1, 2022), all cattle and calves (Jan. 1, 2022), beef exports (2021), and commercial red meat production (2021).

The top national rankings start with beef but go much further. Nebraska is: 

  • #1 in the nation for popcorn production (2017); and 
  • #1 for Great Northern bean production (2021). 

Nebraska also has a reliable supply of corn and soybeans for livestock feed and renewable fuels: 

  • #2 in ethanol production (2021); 
  • #3 for corn production and exports (2021); and
  • #4 in the nation for soybean production (2021).  

While these rankings are national, agricultural products produced in Nebraska are known internationally for their high quality and competitive pricing. Ninety-five percent of the world’s population lives beyond America’s borders, so reaching those customers, promoting Nebraska’s premium ag products and growing international trade continue to be priorities.     

The international marketplace is vital for Nebraska farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses looking for ways to expand trade, and there are big opportunities for trade around the world. One way we are expanding markets for Nebraska’s ag industry is with our Nebraska: Straight from the Good Life program. 

The program is free to ag and food companies headquartered in Nebraska or with a significant presence in Nebraska, including companies providing grains, meat, consumer-oriented foods, agricultural equipment and agricultural services. Straight from the Good Life gives us more ways to effectively market and promote Nebraska agricultural and food companies to consumers worldwide. 

Another way to grow Nebraska agriculture is to focus on adding value to the crops and livestock we raise. Value-added agriculture means taking the traditional crops and livestock we grow and transforming them into products with greater economic value.

By feeding Nebraska raised grains, ethanol distillers grains and forage, our beef, pork, dairy and poultry growers produce value-added products for domestic and international consumers. Additional economic value is added by processing the meat products here. Nebraska is the nation’s leading beef processor with facilities around the state exporting billions of dollars of beef products to other countries annually. Nebraska is well positioned to continue increasing our processing capacity through new facilities such as Sustainable Beef, expansion of existing commercial processors and growth in our custom exempt capacity.

We’re also promoting biofuels to grow Nebraska through value-added agriculture. Ethanol saves drivers money at the pump, reduces toxic emissions, and creates opportunities for farm families right here in Nebraska. More than 31% of the corn grown in our state goes to our ethanol industry. 

What happens in agriculture affects all of Nebraska and connects all of us, too. That’s why it’s important to share information about agriculture, like I’m doing here. Information helps people understand that agriculture is more than farming. It takes a whole industry of people to grow your food and get it to your table. 

Thank you for letting me use National Ag Week as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Nebraska agriculture. During this week and always, remember to thank the farmers, ranchers and ag industry for providing us with the food, feed and fuel that we use every day.