Worthwhile program

County commissioners sent a strong message last week with a unanimous vote in favor of designating Hamilton County as a “livestock friendly” home for agribusiness.
The promotional tag makes sense for Hamilton County, and much of rural Nebraska for that matter. Agriculture is king in the Husker state, after all, driving our economy with what has become more and more of a highly sophisticated, technical, diversified, multi-billion dollar industry. Anything we can do to distinguish ourselves as ag-friendly, both as a county and as a state, is well worth the time and effort.
The public hearing and local discussion on this specific program was in and of itself a healthy learning process. There were some legitimate concerns initially with some of the broad language involved with the livestock friendly program, but the hearing helped ease those fears with an awareness that the legislation offers examples of what can be done, not mandates for what must be done. That’s a significant point that needed clarification.
With that new understanding, a question was raised that hit the nail square on the head. Why wouldn’t Hamilton County want to designate itself as livestock friendly?
Indeed, this is a region rich in natural resources, as well as availability of locally produced by-products for livestock use. Rural land is already zoned agriculture, making it clear to any and all that growing crops and raising livestock are priority land uses.
Hopefully this new designation will send a clear message, both to ag-based developers and existing local producers. Hamilton County wants ag-based producers, business and industry to be successful here and we’re proud of our ag-based heritage.
There are stringent Department of Environmental Quality regulations that must be met regarding livestock operations, as well as sizable investments to be made. The risks are sizable, thus anyone looking to go down that road needs and deserves to know there is local community support for ag-based ventures.
How much of an impact this Nebraska Department of Agriculture program will have won’t be known for years, in all reality. What applying for a livestock friendly designation does today, however, is state clearly and proudly that Hamilton County supports agriculture.
Kurt Johnson

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