Monday, July 27, 2015

STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSES MOUTH

Duane A. Lienemann
Nebraska Extension Educator
  
     I am finally sitting in air-conditioned comfort in my easy chair and reflecting on the past couple of weeks. After months of planning, tons of paperwork and organization, a big part of the summer experience is over. It is hard to believe that our County Fair is over and we will soon be getting ready for the Nebraska State Fair and Ak-Sar-Ben!  In that rumination, it came to me how gratifying it was to see so many people pull together to make their respective county fairs happen. It is what makes the rural areas what they are.  It is indeed a piece of Americana and a validation of the Midwest work ethic. In all of the fairs that I have been involved with over the years, this year’s edition is memorable. Not because of the numbers of exhibits or exhibitors, not necessarily because of the quality of the exhibits, but mostly because of the intangibles. 
     When you spend so much time planning, organizing or even choreographing something like a county fair. it is the little things that speak the loudest. It is how smoothly it runs, the work of the judges and ring stewards. It is how the youth and adults interact and most importantly the feel of the fair! I have to tell you that this fair just plain felt good. There wasn’t the drama that sometimes persists, or the things that just seem to go wrong. It was good seeing people working together, helping each other and the fun that adults and youth were having. There was the pleasant feel of family and community that should come with events like this! It doesn’t matter what county you are in or what time of summer it is, county fairs are special!  
     I know I am not alone appreciating all those that come together to pull off what has become the largest social event of rural America. If you didn’t get a chance to attend your local fair, let me paint a little picture for you. The old adage says “If you can't smell the livestock, you are not at an authentic county fair.” Anyone that walked through the sheep, swine and beef barn knows that aroma and knows it is what makes the fair tick. There was the incessant sound of always hungry beef, sheep, goats, hogs and the cackling of nervous hens, roosters, ducks and geese. It is so nice to see those bright, smiling and sunburned faces of those young kids in their 4-H and FFA T-shirts, excited for the day and for another adventure at the Fair.
     This really is a slice of America that persists here amid the uncertainty of weather during the typical Nebraska summer. “Rockwellion” it may be, but it's something we dare not let go of because it's so real. It becomes a big family reunion, with a sense of camaraderie among people who perhaps haven't seen one another all year. And beneath it all, there lurks the spirit of competition, whether it's for the best sewn dress, best dressed goat, or the Grand Champion Market Steer. You would have seen young people, leaders, parents and even grandparents all helping the exhibitors as they washed, blew out, clipped, combed, and applied various dressing and prepare their respective animal to parade - with hopeful others-  in front of the judge who determines the ribbon placing and perhaps their chance at a championship run.  
     You would have seen appreciative audiences “oohing and ahhing” at the show animals or the laughter as the show pigs race across the show arena – free from their confining pens. You would have had seen giggling kids running through the grounds and petting the plethora of animals that just love the attention. One of my favorite fair events is the Rainbow Classic with our future “showmen” interacting with the judge to the pride of parents- especially when they ask “When can I show animals like the big kids?” which always brings a smile to my face. You would have seen future 4-Hers being rolled around in strollers by mothers and fathers who talk about their days at the fair and the memories that is brings back.
     You would have had seen giggling kids running through the grounds and petting the plethora of animals that just love the attention or itching for the annual water fight. You would have seen future 4-Hers being rolled around in strollers by mothers and fathers who talk about their days at the fair and the memories that is brings back. It’s a mixture of old and the new! 4-H and FFA exhibitor t-shirts, cowboy hats, seed corn caps, and sunburned faces.  It is a site that only people who frequent livestock shows and fairs understand. It's not all livestock, of course. There was the open class entries, static exhibits of photographs, clothing, foods, and all kinds of things in the buildings outside of the livestock area. The music by the band that blasted from the open air auditorium as the sun went down. You would have seen people sitting in the now-empty show arena, just relaxing and talking over the day or taking protection from a fast moving storm. Those things are what make the fair a special thing to people in rural America. That is what it is all about. That is what makes it real. This is rural America. But it is more than that. I encourage everyone to read http://forfarmandranchwomen.com/2015/07/21/4-h-is-not-about-fair/  
     I want to take the opportunity to congratulate all of our exhibitors, for not only their accomplishments, but also for their demeanor and conduct.  It is nice to hear the admiration from the judges about our kids! I want to personally thank everyone who is involved with the local county fair. Not just those at Webster County, but all the county fairs across the country. There are so many volunteers all across our state who work hard to keep this tradition alive and well. Thank those folks and the local ag society, Extension staff or fair board for all they do. Don’t forget the 4-H and FFA leaders who help guide our youth. I for one am proud to be a part of that tradition and am determined to help insure that the Rockwell picture continues.  I cannot even think of summer without the County Fair! I still approach the fair as the wide-eyed kid that saw the championship animals and that big Ferris-wheel at the Franklin County Fair so many years ago!  It is so good to see people pull together to prepare, put on and clean up after another great county fair. That is what it is all about. The county fair is community. It is as the motto of the Webster County Fair contends: “Family owned, farm raised and county proud!”



The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or ay not reflect the views of UNL or Nebraska Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, Nebraska Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: dlienemann2@unl.edu or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Country Music Jam is still going in Blue Hill



We are still having our Country Music Jams. It is good clean family entertainment once a month in Blue Hill at Westgate. It is LIVE Country Music. It is FREE and open to everyone, of all ages. We do have a free will donation, that helps pay our room rent for the Jam. In return you get live music, lots of fun, cookies and a drink.

Our Entertainers come from Minden, Hastings, Carleton, Sutton, Kearney and other places. Sometimes we have some very special Entertainers drop by for a song or two, like the “Mellow D’s” from McCool Junction, NE, Robert Dauwly of Belvidere, NE and Ken Yarbrough of Mtn. View, AR and others.

These people come here every month to play and sing their hearts out to entertain you, but sad to say we only have 8 people in the audience and only three were from Blue Hill. That sure does not speak well of Blue Hill. I’m sure if it were a sporting event it would be well attended.

The music and fun starts at 1:30 and goes to 4:30 pm on the second Sunday of every month at the Westgate community room.

These Entertainers also perform in Hastings and Sutton. The Hastings Jam is the first Sunday of the month at Good Samaritan Village, 2 to 4 pm and the Sutton Jam is the second Thursday of the month at the Sutton American Legion Hall, 10:30 am to 2:30 pm. These Jams are all free entertainment.

The Late Orville Meyers started this event here in Blue Hill. His last wish was to keep it going. You can come and go as you please. Stay for an hour or all afternoon but please come and check us out, we need an audience and Entertainers. More Info contact Lois Frahm 402 461-6650.
Our next Jam is Aug. 9, 2015.

Smith’s Modern Agriculture Caucus Hosts Briefing on Irrigation Technology

Congressman Adrian Smith’s (R-NE) House Modern Agriculture Caucus hosted a briefing today in conjunction with the Irrigation Association to educate lawmakers and staff on the importance of irrigation to productivity and conservation in agriculture.

“As the leading irrigated state, Nebraska’s 8.5 million irrigated acres have played a crucial role in propelling the Third District to the top agriculture district in the country,” Smith said. “Our state is not known for its rainfall, but we are located over one of the largest aquifers in the world. Through the ingenuity of our producers, we are able to tap into this vital resource and transform an arid landscape into fertile farm land.  Irrigation advancements, along with continued advances in biotechnology research, will allow the U.S. to lead the world in sustainably growing crops for food, fiber, and fuel.”
Speakers included:
Derrel L. Martin, Ph.D.
Professor of Biological Systems Engineering, Extension Specialist in Irrigation and Water Resources Engineering
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Kaomine Vang
Project Manager
California State University, Fresno
John Farner
Government and Public Affairs Director
Irrigation Association
Smith is the founder and co-chairman of the House Modern Agriculture Caucus. Smith hosted the hearing with caucus co-chairman Jim Costa (D-CA).

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

UPCOMING EVENTS

EVENTS: 
 
July 18-23: Fillmore County Fair, Fillmore County Fairgrounds, 5th & K Street, Geneva, NE
July 19-23: Kearney County Fair, Kearney County Fairgrounds, North of Minden, NE on Hwy 10
July 18-25: Webster County Fair, Webster County Fairgrounds, Bladen, NE www.webstercountyfair.org
July 22-27: Buffalo County Fair, Buffalo County Fairgrounds, 3807 Ave N - the SE Corner of 39th Street &Ave N, Kearney, NE
July 24: UNL Red Letter Day, Lincoln, NE http://admissions.unl.edu/visit/on-campus/red-letter-days.aspx
July 25: South Central Cattlemen Steak Feed, Webster County Fair, Bladen, NE Hans Burken (402)-469-1966
July 25-30: Phelps County Fair, Phelps County Fairgrounds, Southeast Corner of Holdrege, NE
July 31: UNL Red Letter Day, Lincoln, NE http://admissions.unl.edu/visit/on-campus/red-letter-days.aspx
Aug. 2-6: Harlan County Fair, Harlan County Fair Grounds, Orleans, NE
Aug. 5-8: Thayer County Fair, Thayer County Fairgrounds, Deshler, NE
Aug. 7: UNL Red Letter Day, Lincoln, NE  http://admissions.unl.edu/visit/on-campus/red-letter-days.aspx
Aug. 7-8: Hot Air Balloon Festival & Nebraska Wine Showcase, Century Link Center, Omaha, NE  www.showofficeonline.com 
Aug. 11-14:  Soybean Management Field Days (locations TBA)
Aug. 14: South Central Cattlemen Golf Tournament, 4 Person Scramble, Red Cloud Golf Club, Hans Burken (402)-469-1966
Aug. 14-15: Stargazing at the Willa Cather Prairie, Red Cloud, NE Tracy Tucker, ttucker@willacather.org
Aug. 19:  UNL South Central Ag Lab Field Day, South Central Ag Lab, Clay Center RSVP to (402) 762-3536
Aug. 20: Companion Animal & Equine Afterschool Program Training, 10:00 am, Hall Co. Ext., College Park, Grand Island, NE
Aug. 26:  Crop Management Diagnostic Clinic (Soil & Water), ARDC near Mead, http://ardc.unl.edu/crop.shtml 
Aug. 27:  Crop Management Diagnostic Clinic, ARDC near Mead, http://ardc.unl.edu/crop.shtml
Aug. 28- Sept.7: Nebraska State Fair, NE State Fairgrounds, Fonner Park, Grand Island, NE
Sept. 10: Area 4-H & FFA Range Judging Contest, Adams County Fairgrounds, Hastings, NE mfaimon@littlebluenrd.org
Sept. 19: Paw Event, 9 am-1 pm, Hastings Tractor Supply, Hastings, NE
Sept. 20: Earl Bates "Will Rogers in the 21st Century", 7:30 pm, Willa Cather Opera House, Red Cloud, NE  www.willacather.org
Sept. 22-23: Youth Science Field Day, Lincoln Co. Fairgrounds, North Platte, NE
Sept. 22-23: Water Jamboree Liberty Cove, Lawrence, NE
Sept. 23: Silver Lake Farm Safety Days, Webster County Fairgrounds, Bladen, NE
Sept. 24-27: Aksarben Livestock Show, CenturyLink Convention Center, Omaha, NE
Sept. 29: Youth Science Field Day, Phelps Co. Fairgrounds, Ag Hall, Holdrege, NE
Sept. 29-30: State Range Judging Contest, Scottsbluff, NE dwolf@npnrd.org
Sept. 30: Youth Science Field Day, Dawson County Fairgrounds, Lexington, NE
Oct. 7: District 4-H & FFA Land Judging Contests, Locations TBA
Oct. 14-15: Youth Science Field Day, Buffalo County Fairgrounds, Kearney, NE
Oct. 16-18: Fall Home & Garden Exposition, Century Link Center, Omaha, NE  www.showofficeonline.com
Oct. 21: State 4-H/FFA Land Judging Contest, Location TBA
Oct. 21- Nov. 1: American Royal Livestock Show, Kansas City, MO www.americanroyal.com
Oct. 29 -Nov. 1: Nebraska Extension Ag Educators Fall Ag Tour to Purdue University, Indiana
Nov. 4-5: 8th Annual Nebraska Wind & Solar Conference, Omaha Hilton, Omaha, NE http://nebraskawindandsolarconference.com/
Sept. 23: Silver Lake Farm Safety Days, Webster County Fairgrounds, Bladen, NE
Dec. 2-4: Nebraska Cattlemen Annual Convention, Younes Conference Center, Kearney, NE  www.nebraskacattlemen.org/
Dec. 3: Webster Co Christmas Greenery Workshop, Exhibit Hall, Webster Co Fairgrounds, Bladen, NE ckumke2@unl.edu
Dec. 5: Webster Co Christmas Greenery Workshop, Exhibit Hall, Webster Co Fairgrounds, Bladen, NE ckumke2@unl.edu
Dec. 6-8: Nebraska Farm Bureau Annual Convention, Embassy Suites, LaVista, NE
 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSES MOUTH

Duane A. Lienemann
Nebraska Extension Educator

     The Franklin, Clay, Nuckolls and Adams County Fairs are history and the Webster County fair has started as I write this column for this week. I have to admit that this time of the year always gets my juices going.  Someone asked me at clean-up day if I really enjoyed doing this every year.  In thinking over that question I realized that this is my 43rd Webster County Fair as a volunteer, FFA Advisor or Extension Educator. Can that really be? Gosh, those memories come back and I could write a book on all the activities and nuances, but I think a simple narration of some of my thoughts is in line for this week. I have communicated this before, but with us being smack dab in the middle of our fair I thought it good to bring it back.
     What’s So Good About the County Fair?  Forget Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds and cotton candy. At the County Fair, it's all about "just bein' country." The county fair, harkens back to the good old days when fun meant family, animals and spending time outdoors. The hustle and bustle of daily life is replaced by the cacophony of bleating animals. Men in blue jeans, sweat stained hats and boots gather in the hot sun to talk crops and the bids on cattle, hogs and sheep. Youngsters lounge in the shade of the animal pens, sit on their show boxes or hang on their clipping chutes, discussing how their steers, hogs or sheep fared in showmanship events. Even some bets are made in a good natured way on who is going to come away with the Grand Champion this year, or whose steer will have the best carcass. All part of the scene.
     Fairs are a unique summer and harvest celebrations that have been a part of the American scene since the early 1800's. I know there are a lot of people just like me. What is it about this time of year that makes this piece of Americana so alluring and so very special? They're the smells, fresh-cut wheat, kettle corn, barnyard manure, cream-can stew in the 4-H and FFA trailer lot, teenage perfume, and the sweat of laboring contestants - there's a distinct aroma that only fairs and festivals possess.  And where else can you find a rodeo, beef, hogs, sheep, rabbits, chickens, and blue-ribbon pickles in one place.  Fairs offer something for everyone.  Some come for the 4-H yum-yums (Sloppy Joes), others crave the funnel cakes or pie at the Methodist food stand.  Many come to watch the 4-H and FFA exhibitors prepare and show their projects which range from static exhibits to livestock, each as important to the exhibitor as it is to the next.  Still others come for their annual pilgrimage or family vacation or just for the social networking and visiting old friends and neighbors and attend the rodeo.
     Childhood memories lure us back to a fair each year where we admire exhibitor’s livestock, bright red tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers and youth artwork and pictures. We can get on a daring carnival ride; or eat cotton candy even if it sticks to our face. We can sit at the 4-H snack shack and reminisce. We can even witness the water fight between 4-H and FFA exhibitors, and even 4-H leaders and volunteers that seems to put punctuation on the final day of the fair. 
     Fairs celebrate rural America, vegetables, farm animals, sewing and home cooking, heritage, photography and hundreds of other wonderful craft or animal husbandry projects. There is something to be said about the smell, the lights and the sounds of a fair. We all like fairs. They are an important part of America and Nebraska and our agricultural culture. The County fair in any part of Nebraska is hardly atypical. These ventures always revolve around agriculture and family bonding. People involved with the 4-H and FFA work really hard to maintain the old-fashioned county fair and atmosphere.  There is an effort to do things that people can relate to, but we try to maintain the basics of what life was 25, 50, 75 or even 100 years ago. The Webster County fair, now in its 109th year in Bladen, relies mostly on livestock shows, open and static exhibits, rodeo and even demolition derbies or mud drags for entertainment not unlike many other counties across the nation.
     Fair Time Has Arrived, and We're All Loving It.  As an old time 4-Her and FFA member, fair time is far more work than I remember as a kid. The 100° days seem hotter, and the snow cones and funnel cakes seem more expensive.  The bleacher seats seem harder, the days and the distance between barns seem longer. Nonetheless, I've yet to attend any activity that boasts as much community support, creates so many hours of quality family time, and has a higher percentage of kids who understand the value of competition, sportsmanship, hard work and having fun. I have always said that we have the best livestock and the best kids of anywhere in the country and I still believe that. Yes, things, families, names all change, but we still have the basic core of good hard-working, honest and caring families across the board I have been proud to work with.
     Fair time gives dads a chance to really connect with their kids – their efforts focused on helping them achieve their goals. I fondly remember this with my daughter. Meanwhile, the moms just continue what they do all the time -- keep the family together, and sacrifice mightily for their kids.  Both sets of grandparents, if able, will be attending to make it all the more enjoyable for the kids, and probably to watch their children experience what they lived through. I bet grandma and grandpa will arrive with the hope of feeling the same sense of pride they felt with their children. Can’t you just feel it?
     It doesn't really matter what your goals are, or the activity you choose watch or to compete in. There's just something special about melding community, kids, animals, agriculture and fun into an annual event. I consider spending several days at a county fair or even the Nebraska State Fair as a “Right of Passage”, a reinforcement of what makes America unique and special.  Everywhere you look at the fair you'll see proud dads, super moms, great kids, and the support network of family and community that enables those kids to have an experience of a lifetime. And the neatest thing of all is that it's all in our own backyard. As we enter the lion’s share of our fair, I am happy to say - See you at the Webster Count Fair! Enjoy!



The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or ay not reflect the views of UNL or Nebraska Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, Nebraska Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: dlienemann2@unl.edu or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fischer Lauds Passage of Every Child Achieves Act


Bill Returns Control of Education to States, Includes Fischer’s Local Governance Amendment

WASHINGTON – This afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed a bill with significant reforms to education, known as S. 1177 – The Every Child Achieves Act. U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) offered an amendment, which was included in final passage of the bill. Senator Fischer released the following statement after the bill’s passage:
“Today, the Senate is passing important legislation that will put education decisions back in the hands of Nebraska families and local communities. It will end the Common Core mandate by letting states determine their academic standards without any interference from Washington.
“With the Every Child Achieves Act, we are replacing the ‘one-size-fits-all’ bureaucracy with real reforms. We are returning control to parents and our communities so that they can determine the best policies to ensure future generations will have the skills they need to succeed.”
This afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to provide greater control over education policies to states. For years, policies resulting from the No Child Left Behind law have caused over-testing and forced educators to “teach to the test” rather than provide students with the knowledge and tools they need. By ending the federal test-based accountability system, the Every Child Achieves Act would give states the ability to determine how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes.
Included in the Every Child Achieves Act is Senator Fischer’s local governance amendment, which passed the Senate last week. This bipartisan amendment, which was supported by Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), ensures that local school districts are not coerced into adopting misguided education requirements and prevents federal intrusion into how local schools are governed. It also ensures that local stakeholders have a stronger voice in both the regulatory and guidance processes.
The Every Child Achieves Act has been endorsed by The Nebraska Association of School Boards, the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association, the Nebraska Association of School Administrators, the Nebraska Department of Education, the Nebraska State Education Association, and the Greater Nebraska Schools Association.
The following Nebraska organizations released quotes supporting Senator Fischer and her vote to pass the Every Child Achieves Act:
Jon Habben, Executive Director, Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association:
“The Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association (NRCSA) supports the efforts to reauthorize ESEA through the Every Child Achieves Act.  The willingness to address the many areas of significant concern, particularly those regarding rural school districts and their students, is appreciated.  We trust that as the process continues forward, the efforts to reduce federal oversight in lieu of greater state authority and local decision-making will be center stage.  Thanks to every senator that asked for and considered input from rural associations and districts, both state and national.  We particularly applaud Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer's Office for doing so.”
Michael Apple, President of the Nebraska Association of School Administrators:
“As President of the Nebraska Association of School Administrators I would like to express my gratitude to your office for your tireless work in seeking the passage of ESEA reauthorization, The Every Child Achieves Act in the Senate.  I sincerely hope the entire Nebraska Congressional Delegation will work for final passage of ESEA reauthorization to replace the broken No Child Left Behind Law that we are currently held hostage to as public educators.  When every single state needs to apply for a waiver from the US Department of Education to avoid punishment under No Child Left Behind then the law is broken, please make this session the session that updates ESEA. We appreciate everything that you do to support public education in Nebraska and the U.S., keep up the good work!”
Rachel Wise, President of the Nebraska State Board of Education: 
“The State Board of Education recognizes the important need to reauthorize ESEA and to provide states with greater flexibility than previously provided under No Child Left Behind. We are appreciative of the leadership provided by Senator Fischer in supporting S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act.”
Matthew Blomstedt, Nebraska Commissioner of Education: 
“I am pleased to see that the United States Senate has taken action to enact S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, so that Nebraska can use a more sophisticated accountability system and tailor interventions to address unique local needs of our Nebraska schools so that we can serve every student, every day. I am appreciative of the work by Senator Fischer in making this happen.”
Molly H. O'Holleran, Nebraska State Board of Education, District 7:
“The Every Child Achieves Act will empower our nation’s students by maintaining the Elementary and Secondary Education Act's core commitment to accountability while also supporting state and local leadership and innovation. The bipartisan work of the Senate has strengthened this important law by focusing on expanding high-quality developmentally appropriate early learning opportunities, investing in our educators and school leaders, and continuing sensible accountability protections to ensure schools are closing achievement gaps and increasing student achievement at all levels.
“The No Child Left Behind Act is seriously outdated. We Nebraskans and leaders across the nation encourage the Senate-House conference committee to work in a similar bipartisan way to complete needed action on the bill by the end of 2015.  We are hopeful this critical reauthorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act will build on our nation’s educational strengths and address areas of needed improvement.”
Roger Breed, Executive Director, Greater Nebraska Schools Association:
“The Greater Nebraska Schools Association comprised of twenty-four school districts enrolling two-thirds of Nebraska public school students applauds passage of the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. The Every Child Achieves Act replaces the No Child Left Behind Act and at the same time reduces the federal role in education by asserting local control over schools and districts, requiring common sense state-based accountability, and allowing support rather than sanctions for underperforming schools and districts.”
Jon Anderjaska, Wauneta-Palisade Public Schools Board of Education:
“As a school board member from a rural district in western Nebraska, I am very pleased that the bill passed by the Senate and the amendment introduced by Senator Fischer pulls back on federal control and supports local control of schools. Senator Fischer’s experience as a school board member and state legislator has served her well in representing the educational interests of Nebraska children. Her leadership on this issue will allow us to work with local and state officials in developing systems that work best for the students of our district.” 
Lanny Boswell, Lincoln Public Schools Board of Education:
“This gives Nebraska the flexibility to create an accountability system that works for Nebraska students. I deeply appreciate Senator Fischer's leadership in this bipartisan effort and her continued support of local governance of our public schools.”
John Spatz, Executive Director, Nebraska Association of School Boards:
“The bill passed by the Senate will allow schools to get out from under some of the unworkable criteria set up by No Child Left Behind.  We no longer will need to spend time asking the federal government for permission to get waivers to do what is in the best interests of our children. We will now be able to set up accountability systems that meet the needs of students and communities in 2015 and beyond.” 
John Witzel, Nebraska State Board of Education, District 4:
“Very grateful for the leadership Senator Fischer has provided in moving ESEA Reauthorization forward--extremely important for Nebraska and the nation.  Also the current bipartisan measure, the Every Child Achieves Act, allows Nebraska much greater autonomy and independence in implementing critical state accountability systems for our 245 school districts.”

Robbers strike Blue Hill Again

 Authorities are investigating an armed robbery that occurred around 11 p.m.Wednesday night at the Ampride convenience store on Highway 281 in Blue Hill. According to Lt. Dennis Leonard of the Nebraska State Patron Troop C headquartered in Grand Island a shotgun was involved in the robbery.
The robbery occurred just at the stores scheduled closing time. 
The Webster County Sheriff's office said that the Nebraska State Patrol would be handling any releases of information concerning the robbery and the investigation. 

Few details have been release at this point but sources had reported that a great deal of information has been gathered including witness descriptions of the perpetrators, video images, etc.  Lt. Leonard.   indicated that he believed multiple robbers were involved and that the robbers had been identified.  As of Thursday noon they had not been apprehended.
Reportable details were sparse at midmorning Thursday, but officers had gathered a great deal of information about the incident including witness descriptions of the suspects, video images, and data collected from some vehicles that had been recovered, Leonard said.
"We have identified the likely suspects, and the investigation is ongoing," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Webster County Sheriff's Office said officers were out on the robbery call all night and did not return to the office in Red Cloud until 8 a.m. Thursday.

December 19, 2010 , Nebraska Law enforcement was called to Blue Hill to investigate a break in at the Country Store on highway 281.  Between the hours of closing near midnight, and 5:30 a.m. when employees came to open the business the front window in the door was broken out for the thief or theives to gain entry. The cash drawer from the register was taken. No cash was reported to have been in the register at the time of the break in.
 Thieves also entered C&D Service Center in Red Cloud around the same time . The glass was also broken in the front door and the register drawer was taken.
A survelleillance camera  produced some evidence . 

Update:  The Nebraska State Patrol has confirmed that they recovered vehicles of suspects that were used to rob a Blue Hill convenience.   The suspects still remain on the loose .
Around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night, multiple suspects entered the Ampride Country Store and Cenex  gas station on highway 281.
The Nebraska State Patrol is handling the investigation and is not releasing  any further details at this time. They have confirmed it was an armed robbery as the suspects did have weapons.


Update 7/20/2015  — Four 17-year-old Males from Hastings were arrested in connection with the vicious armed robbery of the Ampride convenience store Wednesday.

Three of the juveniles were arrested on charges of robbery and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.

The other one is charged with aiding and abetting a Class 2 felony and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. All the charges against all of the suspects are Class 2 felonies punishable by up to 50 years in prison.

. The Webster County Sheriff's Office said that because all four are juveniles, it can release no information about their incarceration status.

One of the suspects was interviewed by a Nebraska State Patrol investigator at the Hastings Police Department on Thursday and subsequently was charged.

The other three were arrested on warrants Saturday at various locations in Hastings.

Update  7/21/2015

Four individuals are listed on the Webster County Court Calendar for July 22, 2015 for Robbery;  Use deadly weapon to commit Robbery  charges.

Update 7/22/2015

The Four teenage boys who were arrested  in connection with an armed robbery at the Ampride convenience store in Blue Hill  on July 15th will be charged as adults  according to Sara Bockstadter.   The four were arraigned in Webster County court Wednesday.   The charges they are facing for robbing the Ampride Country Store and Cenex Gas Station could put them in jail for up to 50 years.
Jonathan J. Bourg, Nathan D. Gartner, Dylan R. Stuart,  and Daniel J. Zubrod III, all four juveniles, were being held on  a $250,000 bond Wednesday.
According to Bockstadter, , three of the armed robbery suspects are residents of Hastings and the fourth was from out of town. They were arrested  Saturday on various warrants.
Two  are charged with robbery and use of a weapon to commit a felony. The two others are charged with aiding and abetting, a Class 2 felony, and use of a weapon to commit a felony. 




Dale E. Hartman January 2, 1945 to July 13, 2015

Hastings resident, Dale Eugene Hartman, 70, passed away, Monday, July 13, 2015 at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, due to ongoing complications after a liver transplant.

Memorial services will be 10:30 am, Friday, July 17, 2015 at the Peace Lutheran Church, Hastings with Rev.Marcus Mackay and Rev. Benjamin Siebert officiating. Inurnment will follow at 1:30 pm at the Blue Hill Cemetery, Blue Hill. There will be no visitation; Dale’s wishes were to be cremated. Condolences may be sent to the family from www.apfelfuneralhome.com . Apfel Funeral Home, Hastings, is in charge of the arrangements.

Memorials may be given to the Peace Lutheran Church in Hastings or the donor’s choice.

Dale was born January 2, 1945 to Raymond Louis and Donelda Caroline (Bangert) Hartman on a farm south of Rosemont. Dale was baptized on January 28, 1995 and confirmed on May 22, 1959. He graduated from Blue Hill High School in 1963. He graduated from vocational drafting school in Denver, CO. He then worked for Bonnevilla Modular Homes Company, in Grand Island. In 1966 he was employed as an assistant engineer/draftsman for Farmland Industries for 38 years and then working for Equalizer Midwest for 7 years retiring June of 2012.

Dale married the love of his life Susan Johnson on July 23, 2005 by the pond at their home place. They moved to Hastings in April of this year. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and camping at the Harlan County Dam. He also enjoyed being a private pilot, traveling, scuba diving, snow skiing, softball and taking something old and worn out and making it new again.

He is survived by his wife Susan of Hastings, a brother Gerald (Margy) Hartman of Holstein, 2 sisters, Carolee (Jerry) Schriner of Loup City, Linda (Ken) Hudson of San Diego, CA, 2 sisters-in-law, Gale Ann Fuqua of Kearney and Irene Hartman of Blue Hill, step- daughter-in-law, Molly Johnson of Lincoln, 4 grandchildren, Patience Johnson (Terry Sayler) of Sutton, Bailey Bristol of York, Madison and Matthew Johnson of Lincoln and a great granddaughter, Maicy Sayler and many nieces and nephews.

Dale was preceded in death by his parents, one brother Ray Dean and 2 step sons, Jeremy and Mark. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Celebration of Life for James and Barbara Cronin

Barbara Jean CroninBarbara Jean Cronin, 77, of Bladen, Nebraska, died Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings, Nebraska. A celebration of Life will be Saturday, July 18, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Merten-Butler Mortuary in Blue Hill, Nebraska. Graveside services will be Saturday, July 18 at 2 p.m. at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Hastings. Merten-Butler Mortuary in Blue Hill is in charge of arrange
James Leroy Cronin Sr.
James Leroy Cronin Sr., 72, of Bladen, Nebraska, died Aug. 29, 2009, at his home. A celebration of Life will be Saturday, July 18, 2015, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Merten-Butler Mortuary in Blue Hill, Nebraska. Graveside services will be Saturday, July 18, at 2 p.m. at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Hastings, Nebraska. Merten-Butler Mortuary of Blue Hill, Nebraska, is in charge of arrangements.



James Leroy Cronin Sr. 1936 -2009
Rural Bladen resident James Leroy Cronin Sr. 72, died Wednesday, August 26, 2009, at his home. There will be no services or visitation. The remains were cremated. 
 James was born September 5, 1936, to LeRoy and Eunice (Ebert) Cronin at Sutton, NE. He married Barbara Jean Ransom on August 20, 1955, at Hastings, Ne.
He farmed and worked at Central Community College at Hastings, NE, in maintaince  for over 30 years. Jim began his employment at CCC on July 1, 1966 - beginning as stockman storekeeper, being promoted to supervisor of shipping, receiving and grounds, and retiring as physical plant supervisor in 1999.
Jim was the recipient of the Hastings Campus Outstanding service Award in 1986. During his years at CCC he touched the lives of numerous students who worked under him in the maintance department.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara of Bladen, Ne; one son, James LeRoy Cronin Jr. of St. Louis, Mo; two daughters, Deborah Lynn Palanza of Las Vegas, NV and Crystal Claire Strasburg of Oakville, Il; three sisters, Colleen Gorden of Red Wing, MN, Mary Ann Noel of Cozad, Ne and Patricia Pavelka of Lincoln, NE; and three grandchildren, Christopher Palanza and Holly and Heather Strasburg. He was preceded in death by his parents. Bobbi's address is 1061 Road T, Bladen, NE 68928

Governor Rickets responds to Planned Parenthood investigation.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts today posted this on his facebook page   "Nebraska is a ‪#‎prolife‬ state, and it’s critical that we do everything we can to protect the unborn and to ensure the health and safety of all Nebraskans. This video investigation of Planned Parenthood is a solemn reminder that abortion kills thousands of unborn babies in our state every year.":
More here: http://tinyurl.com/prolifenebraska

Getting Back to Work

Gov. Pete Ricketts
Growing Nebraska will not happen by accident – it takes careful planning. Connecting Nebraskans to good jobs is one way we can ensure that our state continues to grow, and it is something that I have directed members of my team to work on in their agencies across all of state government. For job creators, this is particularly important in light of our state’s lowest-in-the-nation unemployment rate of 2.6 percent. At the Department of Labor, growing job opportunities means looking for new ways to help unemployed Nebraskans expeditiously reenter the workforce by finding good jobs that fit their skills and experience.
This week, my administration announced the launch of Nebraska’s new reemployment system aimed at helping unemployment claimants reenter the workforce and making it easier to find a good job. Our state’s program developed by the Nebraska Department of Labor is the first of its kind of any state in the nation, and has won approval from the U.S. Department of Labor. The goal of the program is to utilize personal one-on-one assistance to connect the approximately 10,000 Nebraskans looking for work and applying for unemployment benefits with some of the over 50,000 jobs in the state’s job opening database.
Our state’s reemployment program is unique to other states for a couple reasons. First, nearly all jobseekers who receive unemployment benefits will be required to enroll in an individualized reemployment plan to remain eligible for benefits. Department of Labor staff will meet with each worker to develop their individualized reemployment plan shortly after an application is submitted for unemployment benefits. Second, the reemployment program leverages cutting edge software that requires jobseekers to create a resume searchable by potential employers who can make queries for skill inventory, find resumes with the right experience, and proactively reach out to potential applicants. Previously, the department successfully utilized a limited version of this program for jobseekers with a high probability of exhausting their benefits.
Nebraska’s new reemployment program has several components that will ensure that jobseekers in our state have the best resources on hand as they look for their next job. For example, not only will jobseekers work with agency staff to develop individual employment plans, but they will also help them to identify goals and objectives and determine the appropriate combination of services for the participant to meet their employment goals. These plans are designed to help engage the individuals and provide them with a clear understanding of where they are going.
Additionally, all participants will be required to create an account on the state’s employment website, NEworks. This account will allow individuals access to employment tools and resources, such as a resume builder, a messaging center to communicate with employers and workforce staff, free online learning resources, job search options including a virtual recruiter to identify personalized employment opportunities, and access to their individual employment plan.
Finally, this reemployment program will use assessments to provide data-driven opportunities to jobseekers. The assessments will cover career interests, skills confidence, and work values. The results will be reviewed with the jobseeker to ensure they represent an accurate picture of the individual and to identify areas of knowledge, skill, and ability that they can leverage as productive members of the workforce. The assessments will then be used in conjunction with labor market information and previous work experience to determine options and opportunities that exist in the current job market.
The formal launch of this program in October represents a paradigm shift for our unemployment system. By focusing on reemployment, we can help Nebraskans reenter the workforce more quickly and ensure that they are meeting their career goals, while connecting our state’s job creators with talent across our state. If you have any feedback or questions about the program or anything on your mind, please send me your thoughts at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call my office at 402-471-2244.

 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fischer Responds to Iran Nuclear Deal

        
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, released the following statement regarding the announced nuclear agreement with Iran:
“I have closely followed the reports on U.S. negotiations and am concerned that the Obama administration has given up too much in order to get a deal, which will now be sent to Congress for review. 
“While the president argued that we ‘give nothing up’ by ‘testing’ whether this agreement will constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, I disagree. The international sanctions regime took years to assemble and remains the most effective method of imposing costs on Tehran for their destabilizing behavior. 
“We cannot undo sanctions for an agreement that is built on the hope that the Iranian government changes its behavior. To recklessly gamble our only source of leverage would be far worse than signing no deal at all.”
Once the final documents of the agreement have been delivered to Congress, the House and Senate will have 60 days to review the deal.
Click here to watch video of Senator Fischer’s floor speech on the Iran nuclear agreement from April.
 

Smith Responds to Iran Deal

 

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) issued the following statement today after the Obama administration announced its new nuclear agreement with Iran. 
“With the Obama administration unveiling its nuclear agreement with Iran, it is crucial for Congress to fulfill its oversight role to ensure any deal is in the best interests of the U.S. and our allies,” Smith said. “I plan on fully and carefully reviewing this agreement, but I am already skeptical and concerned about reports of certain concessions we are giving to Iran, such as no inspections at military sites and not securing the release of the Americans imprisoned there. Lifting sanctions without major concessions from Iran would be a terrible mistake.”

Monday, July 13, 2015

Local Solution, Brighter Futures


       
This summer, parents across the country are preparing their children for the coming school year. Whether unwinding on a family break, purchasing school supplies, returning summer reading books to the library, or finishing summer camp, it’s almost time to go back to school. We owe so much to our nation’s hardworking educators. They are the role models for our children, providing invaluable life lessons that go well beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. 
Before my time in the Nebraska Legislature, I served on my local school board, the Nebraska School Finance Review Committee, and as president of the Nebraska Association of School Boards. These experiences helped shape my views on education, both as a state lawmaker and in the U.S. Senate. Nebraska is truly fortunate to have excellent schools.
In early 2002, an education bill known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was signed into law. This was the most comprehensive education reform since the 1960s. But since the law’s enactment, it has become more and more evident that NCLB is a failed policy. In Nebraska, we have seen this firsthand, especially with regard to the law’s impact on student testing.
Before NCLB, Nebraska measured student progress with the “School-based Tech-led Assessment and Reporting System,” referred to as STARS. In many Nebraska communities, tests were designed locally by teachers with the support of administrators, school boards, and local communities. The results were reported to the state to ensure the highest quality. By engaging classroom educators in the process, the quality of the tests remained high and teachers were able to use them to improve student learning. But with the advent of NCLB, our state was forced to make a tough choice: either adopt a statewide test or lose federal funding to implement the NCLB mandates.
Federal policies should enhance the classroom experience, provide essential resources, and help place our students on the path to bright futures. For these reasons, the Senate began debate this month on an education reform bill that would end the broken NCLB policy. The bipartisan bill, known as the Every Child Achieves Act, would restore local control of our children’s education to the people who are closest to our students – parents, teachers, school boards, and communities. 
NCLB policy caused over-testing and forced teachers to “teach to the test” rather than provide students with the knowledge and tools they need. By ending the federal test-based accountability system, the Every Child Achieves Act can give states the ability to determine how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. It would end the Common Core mandate by affirming that states can determine what academic standards they will adopt without interference from Washington. In addition, it would prevent the federal government from forcing states to implement any particular set of education standards.
While this bill is an effective tool in reforming our education standards, I’m going further to target misguided requirements. In 2011, the Department of Education announced a waiver program to provide states with more flexibility. But these waivers require states to comply with even more federal mandates. Washington is unilaterally deciding how our states and communities should improve their students’ education. To stop this, I worked with Senators Angus King of Maine and Jon Tester of Montana to introduce and pass an amendment that will ensure our local stakeholders have a stronger voice in both the regulatory and guidance processes. By doing so, we can restore authority back to our communities.
These changes are long overdue. I will continue my efforts to ensure that education decisions are made at home, not in Washington. 
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSES MOUTH


            
Duane A. Lienemann
Nebraska Extension Educator
              
     It has been a while since I commented on a subject that I think all of us in agriculture need to be very cognizant and active on. For you that are unaware this past June 29, the Environmental Protection Agency formally published its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule in the Federal Register. The EPA took comments from the public before making their final rule, but I cannot see that they changed anything. I still feel that this rule could have devastating effects on our farmers and ranchers. Even though the EPA says that this is its final ruling. We still have the opportunity to try to bring some common sense to this ruling through our US Senators and Representatives. Unfortunately the clock is now ticking to stop the adoption of this detrimental rule which could greatly increase regulation under the Clean Water Act if it goes into effect.  
     There are only about 45 days that we can still have a voice, but you must take action if you are concerned about this overreach of the EPA into your farm or ranch. Get the facts on this controversial rule and then contact your US Senator or Representative, work with and utilize your chosen farm group that is fighting this rule like the Nebraska and National Cattlemen, Nebraska and American Farm Bureau plus many other groups. I am particularly pleased with a group called “Common Sense Nebraska, which is a Nebraska-based coalition consisting of organizations and entities that have come together in response to EPA’s “Waters of the United States” proposal. The coalition’s purpose is to build awareness and understanding of the EPA proposal and the impacts it would have on Nebraskans. The list of Nebraska organizations that belong to this group can be found on their Facebook page at “Common Sense Nebraska.”  I also encourage people to utilize the information on the “Ditch the Rule” effort. This can be found on the internet at: http://ditchtherule.fb.org/ 
     I have actually looked at the EPA documentation. The lengthy WOTUS rule spans almost 300 printed pages and I find it downright scary. Even with all those words, I firmly believe that the rule fails to clarify the EPA’s jurisdiction, but instead relies on ambiguous language that actually in my mind “muddies the waters.” While riddled with problems, the greatest issues with the rule lie in the added definitions of “tributaries” and “nearby waters” as protected areas. The definitions are complex and unclear. Failure to precisely define these terms means the EPA could regulate dry ditches or ephemeral streams, which only hold water after a heavy rain. I think many of us could find those areas very easily!
     What worries me is that the ambiguity included in this rule could very well prevent farmers from working their land due to EPA regulations, and result in unnecessary rules that farmers must get a permit from the EPA to do simple but timely things. We know how fast they work. The EPA, in my opinion, has made numerous misstatements about the content and impact of this rule. I don’t think any of us should trust them. I know that is not “politically correct” but it is what it is. Why color it any other way? We have too much at stake with this ridiculous rule. This should not be worrisome to just Nebraskans or farmers, this should be of great concern for U.S. homeowners who spray to kill weeds in their lawns or gardens. It should concern construction companies and workers that move dirt to build houses or businesses.
     One thing that I have determined over the years is that many of our federal agencies, and in particular the EPA, are lacking in common sense or any cognizance of what is entailed in the operation of the farms and ranchers across this great country. Good common sense dictates that this should not be allowed under the Clean Water Act, an act implemented to protect water, not dictate land use. The EPA claims it addressed farmers’ concerns by saying it does not plan to regulate ditches or ephemeral streams. But when dealing with federal regulations, a spoken assurance carries no weight. The words used in the rule do, and those words are vague. One thing I know and take exception to these bureaucrats - farmers and ranchers care for the environment. We want clean water for our crops and animals but most importantly, we want clean water for our families.
However, we also want to provide for our family members and meet the challenge of providing food, clothing and shelter for the world. That means we must be allowed to work in our fields, to raise our crops and livestock in the most environmentally friendly way possible. I think these groups forget that the very first environmentalists were and are farmers!
     Governor Rickets has also spoken out on this issue. “In spite of concerns from numerous Nebraskans about its impact, the EPA has issued the new Waters of the U.S. regulation that will be harmful to Nebraskans. Federal regulations that needlessly place a new burden on Nebraska farms and businesses, while increasing costs for counties and other local governments, create new hurdles to growing Nebraska’s economy.” Nebraska US Senator Deb Fischer said the rule is “an attack” on the people of our state, calling it a “reckless and unwarranted” regulation that “implies that Washington bureaucrats know better than the people of (Nebraska). Through this unprecedented overreach, the federal government will now extend their control over our state's water resources and burden our families with costly permit requirements.” Thank you to Senator Fischer!
     I feel it is imperative that we encourage all U.S. Senators and our Congressmen to make it their priority to stop the WOTUS rule. Because of the importance of this issue, our representative, Adrian Smith has introduced H.J.Res 59, which would provide Congressional disapproval for the overreaching regulatory rule stated by the EPA and the USACE, under the Congressional Review Act. I am glad to see this and I hope you will support Congressman Smith’s and Senator Fischer’s efforts, but we need many more voices and it cannot be put on the back burner. Luckily, there is still time to prevent the EPA from adopting the WOTUS rule, but that action must come from Congress or the courts. Don’t wait – Act!!



The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or ay not reflect the views of UNL or Nebraska Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, Nebraska Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: dlienemann2@unl.edu or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home 

Deadline for Webster County Fair BBQ Cook-Off Contest Extended

Deadline for Webster County Fair BBQ Cook-Off Contest Extended

     The “Webster County Agricultural Association BBQ Cook-Off” is in its second year. This event will be used to help kick off the 2015 Webster County Fair on Sunday, July 19! The deadline for entry into this contest has been extended to July 17 and must be hand delivered to either Vicky Alber in Blue Hill, NE at 402-469-1847 or the Webster County UNL Extension Office in Red Cloud. Entry forms for the cook-off may be obtained by contacting the Webster Co. Extension Office @ 402-746-3417 or also may download the entry forms and flyer on the internet at http://webstercountyfair.org/bbq-cook-off/ 
     There will be an entry fee for each individual or team which includes either: 1) Space with NO electricity (quiet generators only)  OR  2) Space WITH electricity provided for a higher entry fee.  Each entry fee paid will receive one assigned cooking space and one pork butt, which will be provided by the Webster County Agricultural Association. Only the pork provided will be allowed for the contest. All spaces are first come first served. Each cook-off team is responsible for providing side dishes of their choice to be served to the public. A food source sheet must be turned in at check-in. Only food purchased from a store will be allowed.
     The contest will begin at 8:00 p.m. Saturday, July 18th with registration, explanation and distribution of the pork butt at which time preparation and cooking may begin. The finished products will be judged at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 19th. The Webster Co. Ag Association will be offering prizes for the Pork BBQ Cook-off Contest. The prizes will be determined by the number of entries and sponsors secured, but the winner will receive a new Cub Cadet Self Propelled Push Lawn Mower and will receive their name on a plaque to be displayed on the wall in the 4H/FFA Exhibit Hall. Cash awards will be distributed in accordance to jackpot type rules.
     The public is invited to participate in the entire day’s activities, including watching and even interacting with the chefs as they prepare their BBQ entry not to mention soaking in the aroma of cooked pork, BBQ and spices. There is a lot more going on that day including: a cooperative venture between all the different denominations of Churches in and around Webster County to hold an All-Faith Church Service starting at 10:30 a.m.; followed at 11:30 a.m. by a Community Potluck (Carry-in) Dinner that is open to anyone who brings food and their own table service (drinks will be provided); At 12:30 there is a Gospel Concert in the open-air auditorium featuring quartets with uplifting music;  then at 3:00 p.m. the 4-Hers will in involved with their Annual 4-H Ice Cream Roll. This is a fun and educational competitive event and there is a good possibility you might get a sample of ice cream of many different flavors. If nothing else you can watch and encourage the 4-H youth as they use a unique method in making their popular dessert delights.  
     The judging of the BBQ entries will start 6:00 p.m. that same early evening. Everyone is welcome to cheer on their team, or favorite “Chef”, as the judges determines which team has the tastiest BBQ entry.  The best part is that there will be a BBQ picnic after the judging featuring the meat that was cooked and judged for the Pork BBQ Cook-Off Contest - plus the side dishes. Tickets will be sold for the public to purchase a meal for the picnic! Come and enjoy the activities that the whole day will bring! Join in this fun event to kick off the 2015 Webster County Fair with friends, food, fellowship and fun!

Friday, July 10, 2015

From Spending to Savings

Rep. Adrian Smith
Over the past few months, the House has been working through the appropriations process to determine how budgeted dollars will be spent in the next fiscal year. We have now successfully shifted the conversation in Washington from how much to spend to how much to cut. These decisions certainly are not easy, but there is an immense amount of work to do to bring our country'’s deficit under control. It is crucial we seize the unique opportunities before us to cut spending and implement lasting fiscal reforms.
This year, the House and Senate passed the first joint 10-year balanced budget resolution since 2001. The budget cuts more than $5 trillion in spending and balances the books in less than 10 years without raising taxes. It also includes a provision to find even more savings through a legislative process called reconciliation.
Created by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the reconciliation process requires designated committees to find a certain amount of savings within their jurisdictions by a specified date. Once the committees submit their recommended spending cuts, the Budget Committee produces one reconciliation bill for a vote. This bill cannot be filibustered in the Senate and only needs 51 votes to pass rather than the usual 60. Overall, reconciliation is designed to force both parties to come to the table and make meaningful fiscal reforms.
The House Ways and Means Committee, on which I serve, is one of the three committees tasked with finding a total of $3 billion in savings –– $1 billion per committee. We will be working throughout this month to find spending cuts as directed by the budget resolution.
Reconciliation is an important legislative tool, but we must also pursue entitlement reform to ensure our budgeting is sustainable long-term. Without reform, the Social Security Trust Fund will continue toward insolvency. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which pays out funds to those who have been disabled and can no longer work, is in dire straits and without major reforms will go bankrupt in 2016. If the SSDI fund runs out of money, nearly 11 million Americans will see a 20 percent reduction in benefits.
This week, we held a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on restoring solvency to SSDI and making sure beneficiaries who want to or are able to return to work can do so. In the hearing, I shared concerns I have heard from constituents who find the program'’s work incentives difficult to understand and who have unexpectedly had their benefits turned off because they crossed an earnings threshold without realizing it. We must heed the coming cliff for SSDI as our call to bring real reform which ensures current and near-future beneficiaries are impacted as little as possible and makes the programs solvent and available for those who need them for years to come.
While we continue to pursue legislative solutions, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are also calling on individuals, businesses, and organizations to share their perspective about how best to fix the SSDI fund. Comments and suggestions can be sent as a PDF attachment to ImproveDI@mail.house.gov .
Despite the many fiscal challenges we face, I am optimistic about Congress’'s commitment to strengthening our country through fiscal reforms. I will continue working to cut spending, balance the budget, and restore solvency to Social Security to protect hardworking Nebraskans

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Senate Passes Fischer-Nelson E-Warranty Act


 

Washington, D.C. – This evening, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S. 1359 – The E-Warranty Act of 2015. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) would modernize warranty requirements and allow manufacturers to save paper and printing costs by posting warranties online. The bill was passed unanimously out of the Commerce Committee in May. Senator Fischer released the following statement:
“This bipartisan bill would provide manufacturers with the option of posting their warranty information online and encourages greater flexibility for job creators while offering better tools for consumers.
“The world is changing, and our technology is getting smaller, faster, and more efficient. Our laws must follow suit.”
Senator Nelson released the following statement:
“We’re one step closer to giving consumers and businesses the ability to take advantage of new and improving online technologies to help with their commerce.”
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules are unclear as to whether manufacturers are permitted to meet their warranty notice requirements online. The E-Warranty Act streamlines warranty notice rules and provides explicit direction to manufacturers, making it clear that they have the option to meet their warranty requirements on their company’s website. The online option:

ü  Provides relief to manufacturers and sellers to improve efficiency.
ü  Boosts consumer access to warranty information.
ü  Advances common-sense environmental benefits by reducing waste.
ü  Promotes U.S. global competitiveness in the Internet of Things and domestic economy.
ü  Modernizes government rules to better reflect the digital age we live in.
ü  Preserves robust consumer protections for warranty access.
The principles of the E-Warranty Act – to modernize manufacturing requirements – mirror those in Senator Fischer’s E-LABEL Act, which was signed into law last Congress. In the age of the Internet of Things, consumers expect to get information online in an easy and efficient manner.
 Click here to view text of S. 1359 – The E-Warranty Act.
 

Gov. Ricketts Announces Application Process for the Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative

 

Lincoln – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) will accept applications for the Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI), a program that will connect young Nebraskans to the manufacturing and technology sectors. DYTI was proposed by the Governor as a part of his budget in January and approved by the Legislature earlier this year.
The Governor originally proposed this initiative in response to rapid innovations in the manufacturing and information technology sectors. Next generation workers in these industries will require advanced skill sets and knowledge to help companies compete in the global economy. Meeting workforce demands will require innovative approaches to develop a youth talent pipeline, and this initiative is a step toward laying the groundwork for that pipeline.
“The Developing Youth Talent Initiative is a great way for our state to connect young people with potential career options,” said Governor Pete Ricketts. “Expanding educational opportunities and creating more and better paying jobs are two of my administration’s top priorities. This initiative will open new horizons for young Nebraskans looking for a career track with good-paying jobs.”
“The Developing Youth Talent Initiative will cultivate an industry-led partnership with schools to assist in specific career learning opportunities in the manufacturing and technology sectors,” said Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, Director of the Department of Economic Development. “It is critical that the state work collaboratively with the private sector to build a workforce with the skills our businesses need in a 21st-century economy.”
Through this initiative, DED will provide financial assistance of up to $125,000 each to two eligible businesses per year in the 2015-16 school year and the 2016-17 school year. Businesses that qualify for DYTI are those in the manufacturing sector or businesses in need of high-skill information technology (IT) professionals. At least one business selected for a grant must be in a county with a population less than 100,000. Grants through DYTI will be provided to private sector for-profit entities. Businesses will be selected by an internal committee within the Department of Economic Development with recommendations shared with the Governor for final approval.
DYTI grant recipients will partner with schools to engage students to participate in hands-on career exploration and relevant workplace learning opportunities. The programs will reach students beginning in the seventh and eighth grades and will demonstrate sustainability and measurable impact. Interest and participation in the program by students may be initial metrics, but measures may also include tracking of course-taking patterns through high school, possible work experiences provided by businesses after initial exposure, and tracking of post-secondary plans.
To apply for the grant, businesses should visit: http://www.neded.org/business/talent-a-innovation-initiative/nebraska-developing-youth-talent-initiative.
Applications are due by 5:00pm, August 7, 2015 to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, 301 Centennial Mall South, P.O. Box 94666, Lincoln, NE 68509-4666.
Businesses with questions should contact Linda Black at linda.black@nebraska.gov or 308-991-2986.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Smith Introduces Resolution to Block Waters of the U.S. Rule

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) issued the following statement after introducing H.J. Res. 59 to block implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Waters of the U.S. rule by congressional disapproval under the Congressional Review Act. 
“The EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule, now finalized by the Obama administration, poses a significant threat to our agriculture economy and remains one of the top concerns for Nebraska producers,” Smith said. “This unilateral rule is nothing more than a power grab from a federal agency with a lengthy track record of expanding its regulatory authority without regard for the impacts on American families and businesses. While the administration continues to defy Congress and the American people by pushing forward with this damaging regulation, we must use every tool available to combat this overreach.”
The Congressional Review Act provides for an expedited process for Congress to overturn executive rulemaking, including expedited Senate consideration of legislation to block newly finalized rules.

Gov. Ricketts, First Lady Unveil Brand for Nebraska’s 150th Anniversary Celebration

 

Lincoln – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts and First Lady Susanne Shore unveiled the logo and brand that will be used by a coalition of individuals planning events for Nebraska’s sesquicentennial anniversary, which will be celebrated in 2017.
Creative inspiration for the design comes from the Nebraska State Capitol and other iconic Nebraska images such as the state flower, flag, and even nature. You will find a digital copy of the logo attached to this release. Key themes in the logo include:
  •       The use of maize recognizes our state’s past and our reputation as the Cornhusker State
  •       The kernels symbolize the seeds of prosperity and agriculture, the backbone of our state
  •       The corn icon resembles an office building as a nod to the business community
  •       The logo is based on decorative elements used throughout the State Capitol
  •       The color is derived from the state flower, the goldenrod
“In less than two years, Nebraska will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our statehood,” said Governor Pete Ricketts “This will be a great opportunity to highlight how much Nebraska has grown over the last one and one-half centuries. From the early days of our state when Native Americans roamed the plains and the pioneers broke the prairie sod to the farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs who continue to make our state the best place in the world to live, work, and raise a family, we have a rich heritage to celebrate.”
“It is a privilege to be a part of planning for our state’s 150th anniversary, and to create a way for Nebraskans to come together and celebrate,” said First Lady Susanne Shore. “As we talked about how to brand the sesquicentennial celebration, the design team looked to key elements of our state’s culture and heritage. The final logo truly encapsulates our state’s spirit with its traditional look as well as its recognition of our agricultural legacy and our strong business culture.”
The logo and brand were developed with the assistance of Bailey Lauerman, a Nebraska-based marketing and advertising agency.
The Governor and First Lady also said that additional announcements about celebration activities will be made in the future.


 

Walter J. (Jack) Menke

Walter J. (Jack) Menke
Walter J. (Jack) Menke, 87, of Blue Hill, Nebraska, died Friday, July 3, 2015, at the Blue Hill Care Center in Blue Hill.
Rosary was Monday, July 6, and Mass was  10:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 7, both at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lawrence, Nebraska, with Father Thomas Bush officiating.
Burial with military rites by Kent Kailey Post No. 45 of Lawrence will be in Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery at Lawrence.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Agriculture Nebraska's number one Industry

 
Gov. Pete Ricketts
Agriculture is Nebraska’s number one industry, and that is why growing agriculture is so critical to growing our state. Ethanol is one of the key growth industries in Nebraska agriculture that has added billions in revenue and thousands of jobs to our economy over the past decade. Thanks to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), passed in 2005, Nebraska’s ethanol production has tripled from 566 million gallons to about 2 billion gallons in just 10 years.
Before the advent of the RFS, ethanol slowly took root in Nebraska in spite of critics who made their case against it. In 1985, Chief Ethanol Fuels built Nebraska’s first ethanol plant in Hastings. Over the next 20 years, ten more plants were built.
In our state, ethanol has become one side of what some call the “Golden Triangle” along with corn and cattle. Nebraska earned its reputation as “the Beef State” in part because of our abundant corn supply, which serves as the primary feed for cattle and results in high-quality beef. As more ethanol plants were built, cattle feeders began to use distillers grain, a high-quality feed that is a co-product of the ethanol production process. Distillers grain has become the preferred feedstock of many cattle feeders because of its feed value and performance advantages, helping put Nebraska at the top of all cattle feeding states in 2013 and 2014.
Since the passage of the RFS, Nebraska has built over a dozen additional ethanol plants and expanded production at several others. Today, Nebraska’s 24 ethanol plants add jobs, property tax base, and economic growth to communities from Bridgeport to Blair. The Nebraska ethanol industry has invested over $5 billion in capital investments in our state and supports 4,400 jobs including 1,300 direct jobs. All this has added up to Nebraska ranking as the second-largest ethanol producer nationally.
Early critics of ethanol warned that producing fuel from corn or similar feedstocks would compete with putting food on the table – a belief that proven untrue. While this criticism and others have been discredited as the ethanol industry has grown and consumers have become familiar with the fuel, the ethanol industry is under a new assault by President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has a proposal on the table that would slash billions of gallons from the RFS, effectively reducing demand for corn ethanol. This proposal represents a step away from policies previously set at the federal level to utilize cleaner-burning fuels and diversify our country’s energy portfolio as our nation seeks new and innovative ways to achieve energy independence.
The proposal also effectively pulls the rug from underneath ethanol producers and the industry who rely on the RFS. On my administration’s recent trade mission to Europe, a biotech company based in Denmark with a major presence in Nebraska indicated to me that the EPA’s proposal to reduce the RFS was a barrier to expanding in the United States.
My administration has taken action. On June 25, the EPA held a hearing on the proposed reductions to the RFS in Kansas City, Kansas. Nebraska Energy Office Director David Bracht testified at the hearing about the value of ethanol to Nebraska and the negative impact that the EPA’s proposal would have on our state. Nebraskans who care about the future of agriculture and ethanol in our state are welcome to submit their own comments to the EPA. More information on how you can submit a comment of your own can be found by visiting www.tinyurl.com/epaethanol.
The proposed changes to the RFS are just another example of baseless policies issued by the EPA and Washington bureaucrats that will hurt our state. As Governor, I will continue to push back on Washington and fight for Nebraska. Together, we can overcome this challenge for the future of ethanol and agriculture, and continue to grow our state for the next generation.

 


 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mosquitoes test positive for West Nile Virus in Webster County

 

The South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) reports that mosquitoes collected in Webster County have tested positive for West Nile Virus.    These are the first south central Nebraska mosquitoes to test positive for West Nile virus in 2015. 
Health Director Michele Bever reminds people that infected mosquitoes can pass the West Nile virus to humans and other animals including birds and horses.
SHDHD submits mosquitoes for testing from 10-12 sites in Adams and Webster Counties.  “Mosquitoes become infected with West Nile virus by biting infected birds,” said Bever.  “In addition to monitoring West Nile virus in mosquitoes, the health department tracks the number of human cases confirmed with West Nile infection and submits dead birds for testing.” 
Symptoms of West Nile Virus infection can range from mild to severe.  While 80% of people who are infected with West Nile Virus don’t show any symptoms at all, there is no way to know in advance whether you will develop mild symptoms or a more serious, life altering, or even fatal case of the illness.
About 20% of people who become infected experience mild illness with symptoms such as fever, headache, and rash.  Approximately 1 in every 150 people infected with West Nile Virus will experience more serious symptoms such as high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, muscle weakness, coma, numbness or paralysis.  West Nile infection can be fatal.

Desiree Rinne, Health Educator for South Heartland, reminds people to practice the Four “D”s for protection against West Nile infection:
  • Dusk to Dawn – stay inside when mosquitoes are most active
  • Dress to protect – by wearing long sleeves and pants when mosquitoes are active.
  • DEET – Use an approved mosquito-repellent, such as one containing DEET
  • Drain standing water around your property to discourage mosquitoes from breeding.
For more information, or to request materials or a presentation about West Nile Virus and West Nile Virus surveillance activities, go to www.southheartlandhealth.org or contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or toll-free at 877-238-7595.