Commentary

Wed
23
Sep

Driver beware

We recognize National Farm Safety and Health Week this exciting time of year, kicking off a busy and potentially dangerous harvest season.
Bringing in the bounty from area fields is a rewarding yet stressful phase of ag production, ripe with opportunity for injuries if we’re not paying close attention. A little reminder, no matter how many times we’ve been through this annual fall ritual, can be helpful.
The rate of fatalities in agriculture continues to decline, but still remains the highest of any industry sector, according to preliminary data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These figures are especially relevant during harvest season, as farmers put in long hours under the stress of weather delays, equipment breakdowns, and high operating costs. Indeed, there is an added stress factor this year knowing that commodity prices aren’t where they need to be.

Wed
23
Sep

Calfornia wildfires char memories

The rolling hills looked vaguely familiar in the news last week, though they were covered with flames and clouded in a smoky haze.
Fire is raging through Northern California these days, fueled by high winds, drought conditions and mile after mile of unprotected brush and timber. That part of the world is known as fire country, but this year it’s going up in smoke like never before. At last report, five people have been found dead.
The gut-wrenching video of flames roaring through the rural communities around Clear Lake took me back in time about 27 years when I once called that area home. It seems like a lifetime ago that I listed California as my home address, first in the town of Clearlake and later in a hillside home overlooking the lake in Kelseyville. Those were good times, especially for a young, Midwest lad ready to explore the coastal region and City by the Bay every chance I got.

Wed
23
Sep

Winters in Nebraska a hard sell to snowbirds

The betterhalf and I were among retirees in Minnesota this past week and most of the Minnesotans were preparing to head for winter homes in Arizona or Florida. As they expounded on heading south for the winter one of the couples inquired, “Where do you winter?” We quickly replied, “Nebraska.”
It was worth the expression we saw on several faces as we described our winters in Nebraska and what they were missing if they didn’t winter with us. Surprisingly they turned down our offer.

Wed
16
Sep

Close to home

Fun in the sun is now, officially, just a short cast away from Aurora.
After years of planning and more than $1.3 million in improvements, the Pioneer Trails Recreation Area is open for business, offering a wonderful, local outlet for area residents who love the great outdoors. Who among us doesn’t count themselves in that category?
Which means the new lake, located less than two miles northeast of town, could and should get lots of traffic in the years ahead. Finding time to break away and get to the nearest lake will no longer be a reason not to go off the grid and enjoy some peace and quiet.

Wed
16
Sep

Seat, perspective, change for home Big Red games

When Nebraska football games come around I begin to feel like the guy in the movie “Driving Miss Daisy.” The betterhalf is a strong Husker fan. She is a stronger fan than me and a week ago proved my point.
The opening season game was predicted to be played on the hottest day of the week and I am not a hot weather fan (pardon the pun). No matter what the weather, the betterhalf had no intention of missing a Husker game, even after I told her to find someone who wanted to sit in that hot stadium with her and I would relinquish my ticket to a him or a her.
My offer brought her immediate reaction which I see has no reason to be repeated other than to say, “I went to the ballgame under limited protest.”

Wed
09
Sep

Unsustainable

What to do about rising Nebraska property taxes?
Regardless of current commodity prices, the trend in recent years has been for property valuations to go up significantly, levies to drop slightly, and property tax bills to rise, particularly for area farmers. It’s a dilemma that’s been talked about for years, and should be high on the agenda again when Nebraska lawmakers convene in January for the 2016 session.
Here in Hamilton County, for example, the funding formula for too many taxing entities banks heavily on what has become an annual, expected rise in property valuations. There has been substantial new growth in recent years, which is a blessing many regions of the state and nation do not enjoy, though a majority of the increase can be attributed to rising ag land values.

Wed
09
Sep

Law enforcement jobs may soon be hard to fill

I wonder in a few years if the biggest threat to law enforcement will be finding individuals who will want to have a career in law enforcement. According to national reports, large metro area police forces are finding it difficult to meet new recruit quotas.
Cases are increasing where law officers are being sued by arrested criminals and law breakers who claim discrimination or unfair treatment. Forgotten is the fact that the arrested party was endangering citizens by violating laws; threatening (and at times succeeding to kill) law officers with a deadly weapon; or refusing to obey an officer’s command. In all fairness there has been evidence in some cases where excessive force has been used and it should be legally brought to light and eradicated. However, we must also remember if law and order is going to prevail, officers should not be browbeaten or intimidated when doing their duty.

Wed
02
Sep

‘We are ag’

“We want you. We value you. We understand what you bring to our economy. We are ag.”
County commissioner Gregg Kremer sent a clear message this week regarding his feelings about the need to promote, invite, and encourage animal agriculture development in Hamilton County. With his help, and many others, that message is being sent on a broader scale.
Hamilton County is now, officially, livestock friendly, as designated by Gov. Pete Ricketts and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. Signs will be going up soon along our local highways, touting the fact that we are in fact open to agri-business and all that comes with it.
What that means, in legal terms, is that county zoning regulations have been reviewed and are consistent with setbacks and other statewide regulations regarding livestock operations. That’s a very big deal for prospective agri-business developers, large and small, knowing that the county’s permitting process is fair and consistent.

Wed
02
Sep

‘Just say no’ to alcohol sales at Pinnacle Arena

We’ve always told our kids, “Just because everyone else is doing it, that doesn’t mean you need to do it.”
That’s the same advice I would give to the UNL Board of Regents, who could be asked to consider in the future alcohol sales during Nebraska basketball games in the private suites and club seating at the Pinnacle Arena. The proposal is now being mulled over by Lincoln city and Haymarket officials as a possible additional revenue stream to both Lincoln and the university.
It has been cited 37 of the 65 institutions in the “power five conferences” allow sales in private suites and club seating. Beer sales at two Nebraska institutions already allow beer at their arenas.
It appears to me as a regular attendee at Nebraska football games, some fans have had little trouble finding plenty of beer before and after a game. I don’t think it’s necessary to “wet their whistles” during the game, too.

Wed
26
Aug

No longer a newbie

The last, sure-fire sign that summer is turning into fall is set to begin Friday with the kick off of the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island.
This is year six for the event since its much publicized move from Lincoln. The newness factor has worn off, which means this ag-based celebration should have created its own identity by now and be standing on its own as a legitimate, self-sustaining enterprise. From our vantage point 20 miles away, organizers have accomplished that goal.
Statistics indicate that more than 85 percent of State Fair attendees have been there before. That’s a healthy report, indicating that people who take the time and effort to find their way to the State Fair enjoy themselves enough to want to come back again and again. Attendance at the Grand Island venue is expected to get close to 2 million this year (more than 325,000 per year), which surpasses the crowds Lincoln was attracting in an average year.

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