In the shadow of the economic recession, the fiscal situation for
livestock producers was the top issue for Nebraska agriculture in 2009,
Keith Olsen, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau, said yesterday.

"There is no big surprise at what is No. 1 -- the struggles in the livestock industry," Olsen said.

producers across the state have lost money 24 out of the last 28 months,
and mislabeling H1N1 as the 'swine flu' definitely hurt the industry.
Bovine tuberculosis (TB) was found in a cattle herd in Nebraska, and
dairy producers struggled with prices. 2009 was a year most livestock
farmers would like to forget," he said.

No. 2 on the
list; the late harvest. Federal forecasters have said that this year's
harvest is at the slowest pace since 1972.

"Despite relatively
good harvesting weather in November and much bigger harvesting
equipment than was available in 1972, this year's crop is high in
moisture and it is hard for the grain elevators to keep up with drying
down the crop," Olsen said.

Third on the list is water issues,
including Republican River Compact compliance issues with Kansas; the
Lower Platte Basin being fully appropriated and then having that status
reversed; development of integrated management plans; and
implementation of the program on the Platte River to address threatened
or endangered species issues.

"Agriculture has a lot of issues
related to water that are being dealt with. Nebraska Farm Bureau is
working with state and local officials to try to make the best
decisions for irrigators, local communities and citizens in the state,"
Olsen said.

The fourth issue is the increasing number of attacks
on agriculture, including efforts to ban certain animal management
practices, use of production tools and even the existence of animal
agriculture itself. Animal rights groups have been successful in
getting accepted animal husbandry practices banned in other states
through legislation or constitutional amendments, Olsen said, and
Nebraska farmers and ranchers are keeping on top of the issue: "Many
farm and livestock groups are now working together to protect the
livestock industry in our state."

With the state budget in the
red,  number five on the list was the suggestion to use commodity
check-off funds to help balance the state's budget deficit.

organizations and commodity groups unified during the legislature's
special session to protect the use of checkoff funds as intended. 
Checkoffs are Nebraska farmers' investments in their own commodities. 
Use of checkoff funds to balance the state's budget would have set a
bad precedent," Olsen said. Ultimately the legislature agreed and
removed any checkoff transfers from the budget package.

"Farm Bureau Picks" of the top agriculture issues for 2009:

1. Livestock Producers Struggle (pork, cattle and dairy)
2. Late Harvest
3. Water Issue (Republican Compact, Lower Platte Basin and Platte River)
4. Increasing Attacks on Agriculture
5. Check-Off Dollars Targeted To Help Balance the State Budget

SOURCE: Nebraska Farm Bureau.