LINCOLN, Neb. — Agriculture is more than the state’s number one industry. Agriculture is the heart and soul of Nebraska and worth celebrating every day, especially during National Ag Week, March 19-25.
I started working for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) in January and consider it a privilege to serve Nebraska’s ag industry as Director of NDA. I was born and raised in Nebraska and have been a part of Nebraska’s ag industry for many years. My family and I ranch south of Whitman in the Sandhills, so I know firsthand how important agriculture is for Nebraska and to the future of this great state. I’m proud to be part of Nebraska’s network of 45,000 farmers and ranchers who consistently deliver high quality ag products year after year.
Nebraska’s booming agricultural industry helps make this state’s economy strong. One in four jobs in Nebraska are connected to agriculture, and our state ranks number one in the nation in cash receipts per capita (2021, USDA).
Nebraska’s agricultural industry is in good shape because Nebraska farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses work hard, face challenges and come back stronger. We build on our past successes and look to the future in all that we do. With Nebraska agriculture, we have a lot to be grateful for and a lot to celebrate. Here are a few of Nebraska’s top national agriculture rankings compared with other states.
For beef, Nebraska is:
• #1 in commercial cattle slaughter (2021);
• #1 on all cattle on feed (tied with Texas) (Jan. 1, 2023); and
• #2 in all cattle and calves (Jan. 1, 2023), beef exports (2022), and commercial red meat production (2021).
Nebraska’s top national rankings feature beef, but at 3.5 million head and a number six ranking of all hogs and pigs on farms, the Nebraska swine industry is making its own mark (Dec. 1, 2022).
Our thriving livestock industry is only made better by our abundant and reliable supply of crops. In 2022, Nebraska ranked:
• #4 in the nation for corn production;
• #5 in grain sorghum production; and
• #6 in soybean production.
Nebraska’s abundant supply of crops is used for renewable fuels, too. In 2022, Nebraska ranked number two in ethanol production for a clean, reliable and renewable fuel source.
Boosted by strong crop production and top rankings in livestock production, Nebraska exported more than $9.3 billion in agricultural goods in 2021. That alone is a remarkable achievement. Remarkable and fitting, too, considering that Nebraska is the best place to grow agriculture.
Nebraska has an abundance of natural resources including a unique landscape that supports all kinds of agriculture and a rich supply of water. Rangeland and seeded pastureland account for half of the land in our state. The High Plains Aquifer, also known as the Ogallala Aquifer, stretches through parts of eight states, but its most abundant water resource is in nearly two-thirds of Nebraska.
While Nebraska has everything needed to support all types of agriculture, our most important asset is our people. Nebraska is a land of pioneers. Determined, hardworking and inventive. Families still serve as the hub of the ag industry in Nebraska as Nebraska’s rich history of family farming has deep roots.
Many of Nebraska’s family farms have been in operation for generations. More than 9,000 Nebraska families have received the Aksarben Foundation’s Pioneer Award, which recognizes families who have held continuous ownership of their farm for at least 100 years, and more than 100 families have received the Heritage Farm Award, which honors those with a family-owned farm for at least 150 years (Nebraska Corn Board).
Ninety-five percent of farms in Nebraska are family owned (2017, USDA Census of Agriculture). Known for a hard-work ethic and a strong set of values, these families continue to produce the highest quality food products that help feed the world.
Nebraska farmers and ranchers are innovators, using precision agriculture, genetic advances in crops and livestock and modern equipment and methods to produce more using less resources.
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. 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.
From the food on our tables to the fuel in our cars, agriculture is everywhere, and it’s 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.
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, fuel and fiber that we depend on every day.
— Sherry Vinton, Director, Nebraska Department of Agriculture