SCOTTSBLUFF, NEB. – Agriculture connects people. Farms and ranches are everywhere in our state. Agricultural businesses are in towns, cities, and communities across the state. Agriculture provides thousands of jobs. This fuels the economy. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation celebrated agriculture and the contributions it provides at a news conference during National Agriculture Week, March 24 in Scottsbluff.
“The relationship between agriculture and a thriving economy touches every one of us in the state,” said Mark McHargue, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau and its Foundation. “Nebraska’s economy heavily relies on agriculture to do well. Without agriculture we wouldn’t be able to feed, clothe, and fuel the world. The bottom line: agriculture is an important industry for all of us,” McHargue said.
Whether you live in a big city, small town, or farm or ranch, agriculture is a part of your everyday life. In Nebraska, one out of four jobs are related to agriculture. Agriculture begins with farming and ranching.
Kevin Hall, a sugar beet grower and a rancher who raises cattle near Scottsbluff, is one of the many farmers and ranchers in the state of Nebraska dedicated to agriculture. “I believe it is important to take care of the land and its resources so that it can be handed down to the next generation,” Hall said. “I purchase all of the necessary supplies to raise my crops from local businesses. These investments bring much value to the state and the local communities we live in. For example, on average it costs around $1,100 to $1,200 an acre to raise a sugar beet crop from planting to harvest and delivery to Western Sugar. With roughly 42 thousand acres of sugar beets grown in Nebraska, this equates to $42 million dollars that is spent in Nebraska’s panhandle communities.”
Farmers, like Hall, deliver sugar beets to Western Sugar who create packaged sugar for distribution at the grocery store. No part of the sugar beet plant gets thrown away. The molasses byproduct, which is extracted from the plant, is then sold to ranchers to feed their cattle. This creates value for farmers and ranchers and adds economic value to their communities. Western Sugar is a grower owned cooperative and is made up of 850 growers and shareholders of which 300 reside in Nebraska. They embrace growing Nebraska’s economy by distributing their products statewide and across the United States.
“We sell all of our sugar to consumers across the United States. We use that revenue to pay our 354 full-time employees $19 million dollars in payroll. We also pay property taxes of $921 thousand annually in Nebraska, which helps our local school districts. Western Sugar is one of the largest employers in Scottsbluff and we spend $46 million dollars on energy and supplies from mostly local businesses to produce sugar for consumers” said Jerry Darnell, vice president of agriculture at Western Sugar.
Agriculture contributes more than $21.4 billion to Nebraska’s economy. This contribution is an investment in the environment, local infrastructure, public schools, and is made possible through improved access to markets.
“Think about everything you have done today. The food you eat, clothes you wear, and the fuel that transports you are all a part of your life because of agriculture. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation strives to help people understand agriculture by providing information and empowering them to make informed decisions for their families and their communities,” McHargue said.
The mission of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation is to engage youth, educators, and the general public to promote an understanding of the vital importance of agriculture in the lives of all Nebraskans. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. For more information about the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation, visit www.nefbfoundation.org.