Editorial Roundup:

Editorial Roundup:

Omaha World-Herald. Aug. 18, 2020.

It’ll take time, planning and cooperation to turn hemp into cash crop in Nebraska

In the 1940s, Nebraska soil supported hemp production impressively. During World War II, the state was a national leader, in fact, in producing industrial hemp to make uniforms, canvas and other items. In the present day, the state has the potential to ultimately resume that leading role, adding a welcome dimension to the state’s agricultural economy.

But it’s going to take time and careful, cooperative planning to make a cash crop out of the neutered cousin of marijuana.

The Nebraska Legislature this session approved a set of practical improvements. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings, the Agriculture Committee chairman, provided clarity on issues relating to state licenses. It specified the acceptable level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that led to the outlawing of hemp in decades past). It set requirements for laboratory testing of hemp samples and clarified various other points.

Such action helps move along a process that initially was stymied by confusion over state and federal regulation and marked by producer frustration over the small number of production licenses issued last year by the state.

The number of licenses for Nebraska growers is increasing to 270, up from the 10 issued last year as the state took its initial steps following hemp legalization in the 2018 farm bill.

Industrial hemp offers major long-term opportunities for Nebraska, not only for growing the crop but also for converting it into a wide range of materials. Hemp can produce four times the profit of corn, one expert has told The World-Herald’s Paul Hammel.

That said, Nebraska producers must tackle a wide array of complications before the state can begin to produce industrial hemp on a significant scale with needed efficiency.

At this early stage, there’s too little reliable cultivation data on hemp. It will take time for Nebraska producers to gain that practical understanding in regard to seeds and herbicides. “Access to adequate quantities of viable seed was a challenge for many pilot programs” nationwide, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition, producers also must build business relations and pursue specializations where possible. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a key role to play in providing technical expertise and research support.

The state government must be mindful not to set fees for licensing and testing so high that they stymie hemp production. “For major crops such as corn and soybeans,” the USDA report says, “a profit difference of as little as a few dollars an acre can cause significant yearly shifts between crops, so even a relatively small fee could discourage hemp production if competing crops have no fee.”

Nebraska will face robust competition. Canada has a 20-year head start in hemp production, and states that have legalized recreational marijuana have a leg up in hemp-processing infrastructure.

Hemp offers Nebraska great potential for cultivation and manufacturing. But progress will depend on patience, sound production practices and university support. Nebraska must be prepared for the long haul.

(span style=”font-size: small;”)(span style=”font-size: 10pt;”)Coincidentally, we heard from her just about a half-hour ago. She texted her dad and me some pics from today and yesterday of her outdoor adventures. Plus, Mark texted me one pic of the outside of her residence hall at Willamette. He basically helped her unload her stuff, then left. She hasn’t even had a chance to unpack it yet. She and her roommate were almost immediately whisked off to start Jump Start.

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Kearney Hub. Aug. 19, 2020.

New farm income via clean energy

Northeast Nebraska farmer Martin Kleinschmit is like most farmers when he worries about making a living. Volatile commodities prices make it rough for all crop and livestock producers, and it’s doubly rough now that the coronavirus pandemic has settled in. Unlike other farmers, however, Kleinschmit has been working the past 17 years to shield his operation from volatility. His place is certified organic, a status that netted him commodities prices about 25 percent higher than average in the early 1990s.

Today, the market for organically produced food has matured, and now Kleinschmit’s organic crops fetch him two to three times what conventional farmers are paid.

The organic certification — gained with guidance and assistance from the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons — is just part of Kleinschmit’s philosophy. He’s not only an advocate for organic farming, he also pushes for sustainability and affordable clean energy. A large solar installation produces electricity for his farm near Hartington, and he’s an advocate for wind energy.

This week — which is American Wind Week — Kleinschmit talked about the environmental advantages of harnessing the power of Nebraska’s seemingly endless wind to turn turbines and generate clean, renewable electricity. Those large white propellers sprouting up in some Nebraska locations are making electricity without burning fossil fuels, and, as Kleinschmit sees it, they’re throwing farmers much-needed supplemental income.

“It’s precisely in this time of uncertainty that wind energy lease payments can help make a farm operation go. The opportunity for and accessibility of these payments is widening,” Kleinschmit said.

With new wind farm projects steadily coming online throughout the state, lease payments made by wind developers to farmers grew to nearly $15 million in 2019, he said. “In good times, these lease payments can mean the ability to invest in your farm, make improvements and purchase new equipment. In challenging times, these payments can provide a sort of lifeline. Having a single turbine on your property is like having the income from a part-time job.”

American Wind Week reminds us of the big picture reasons to advance wind energy. It’s good for the environment, it forestalls the necessity of building new generation plants that burn fossil fuels, and as we’re learning from Kleinschmit, wind energy can pump a little cash into farmers’ bank accounts and rural economies.

Kleinschmit sums it up well. “Making electricity from wind not only meets the demands of today’s marketplace, it provides new options to farmers to become energy producers of the future, enabling them to support their farms and stabilize regional economies during unsettled times.”

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Lincoln Journal Star. Aug. 20, 2020.

Like it or not, a mail-in election could become necessary

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The U.S. Postal Service is an organization we can’t afford to be without even if the numbers indicate we might no longer be able to afford it.

Nebraska’s rural communities, many of them off the beaten path blazed by Amazon and the brown fleet belonging to UPS, depend on the postal service for their deliveries, which include medical prescriptions.

In a pandemic, it’s a necessity. And in an election year, it figures to play an even more vital role.

As states prepare for a national election where tens of millions of ballots will be cast, finding safe alternatives to the traditional Election Day is paramount.

Mail-in ballots offer the safety and convenience to those at risk but also have raised questions of ballot security and integrity. They also put additional pressure on the postal service, an organization that, while enjoying constitutional protection, is not without its share of warts.

The postal service’s inefficiencies have been well-documented in recent weeks to the tune of a $78 billion budget deficit over the last 12 years, out-of-control overtime payments and tardiness in deliveries that have earned new postmaster Louis DeJoy the nickname of “Louie Delay.”

DeJoy’s recent attempts at correction were met with accusations that President Donald Trump is trying to meddle in the election. It comes off as political bluster by Trump’s opponents, but the president does himself no favors by bemoaning the ills of mail-in balloting, while at the same time bemoaning the postal service’s inadequacies.

DeJoy stood down on Tuesday by promising that no more changes in procedure at the postal service would be take place before Election Day, but Congress has called emergency sessions this week, ensuring the postal service will continue to be used as a political pawn.

The postal service has never been perfect, but it’s been reliable. The president bears the brunt of the responsibility for not acknowledging these unusual circumstances, while admitting concessions are needed to allow as many citizens as possible the ability — and their right — to vote.

That includes voting by mail, which is already done in a number of states, Nebraska included.

The postal service’s network of more than 31,000 post offices, stretching from Alaska to Florida, processes some 500 million pieces of mail daily, and much more during the holiday season.

We trust that if pushed into action come November, a half million postal workers would find a way to deliver completed ballots to election officials in a timely and orderly fashion, provided each state takes painstaking care in distributing them to those that apply for mail-in ballots.

There is a reason for optimism in Nebraska. Gov. Pete Ricketts has seen mail-in voting work here and expects there to be no problem working again — albeit with much higher volume — in November.

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