Report outlines Nebraska’s livestock growth potential

Nebraska has great potential to expand its livestock industry, but obstacles remain.  That’s the conclusion of a report on livestock expansion from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).

Dr. Ronnie Green, vice president for agriculture and natural resources at UNL, says Nebraska has several advantages to offer livestock producers, including extensive water resources and the synergy created by the production of corn, ethanol and cattle. But while Nebraska’s beef cattle industry is recognized as a national leader, Green says the state’s pork, dairy and egg industries have failed to keep pace with the growth taking place in surrounding states.

“There’s a lot of discussion (in the report) abut legislative policy in the state and how that looks in Nebraska compared to neighboring states,” Green says, “and Iowa, in particular, where there’s been a huge expansion of the swine industry over the last couple of decades, while our swine industry has continued to retract, to a degree, over that same time period.”

A 1998 law banned packer ownership of hogs in Nebraska, which means large pork processors like Smithfield can’t contract with farmers to feed hogs.  An attempt to overturn that law has failed to advance out of the Nebraska legislature’s agriculture committee.

Another obstacle to growth, Green says, has been Nebraska’s system of local zoning, which can make it more difficult for livestock expansion projects to gain approval.  However, Green says he is encouraged by the number of counties that have qualified for the state’s “Livestock Friendly” designation, which indicates they are open to livestock expansion.

The UNL report outlines several scenarios for livestock growth, including a 25 percent increase in the swine finishing sector, a doubling of dairy cows in the state (from 60,000 to 120,000 head), a tripling of egg-layer production, and a ten percent increase in feed cattle numbers.

“As the state’s land-grant university, we are hoping to use this report as a way to start a statewide conversation about this potential, understanding that all Nebraska citizens have a stake in this matter,” says Green.

AUDIO: Ronnie Green (10:32 MP3)

Link to news release on UNL web site

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