Friday, June 27, 2014

IRS Investigation Requires a Special Prosecutor


Rep. Adrian Smith
The investigation into allegations the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted conservative groups for political purposes recently took a surprising turn.  The agency now claims it lost two years of e-mails from former IRS official Lois Lerner because her computer hard drive malfunctioned and was recycled.  The agency’s failure to immediately report these alleged technical problems to congressional investigators does not lend the IRS any credibility with the American people.
These suspicious claims have rightfully received much attention.  The potential destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice must be investigated because it adds to a serious crime the Ways and Means Committee has already referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution.  The seriousness of these allegations, the evidence uncovered so far, and now the appearance of misconduct require a special prosecutor to further the investigation.
Abuse of the tax code for political purposes by the IRS, the most feared and powerful agency in the federal government, is simply unacceptable.  It goes against everything we expect from a government of, for, and by the people.  The IRS has an important mission, and it must do its job fairly and without bias.  Even the suggestion of impartiality at the IRS could undermine the agency’s ability to operate.
Through the investigation by the Committee on Ways and Means we now know the targeting was directed primarily at conservative groups.  Of the 298 applications for tax-exempt status held up by the IRS, 83 percent were conservative-leaning, and 10 percent were liberal-leaning.  We also know Ms. Lerner helped coordinate the targeting as head of the Exempt Organizations Division.  We don’t know who, if anyone, told Ms. Lerner to act but this practice was not the work of low-level employees in the Cincinnati, Ohio office as originally reported by the IRS.
When the IRS first admitted to improperly scrutinizing political groups more than a year ago, there was bipartisan outrage and broad agreement the situation must be fully investigated and never allowed to happen again.  President Obama even said “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives.”
Recently, some of my Democratic colleagues have been more interested in seeing this investigation go away, and have criticized our efforts as political theatre.  If they truly believe this to be the case, these individuals should support our calls for an independent prosecutor in this case.  Many Democrats joined with Republicans in voting for a resolution calling on the Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor; however, the Department has so far refused to do so.
Regardless of the party in power, no one deserves to be singled out by the IRS for their First Amendment rights to free speech and expression.  It is critical we find out what happened so the responsible parties can be held accountable, the credibility of the IRS can be restored, and we can implement reforms to make sure this never happens again.  


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator

     What a difference a year can make; and what a difference some rain will make!  I have to admit while driving to my office this morning I did some windshield touring of our fields and pastures. I cannot believe how things look so much different from even 6 weeks ago, let alone a year ago.  How long has it been since we have seen water in the terraces or even the road ditches?  How long has it been since we have actually seen some grass showing itself in our pastures and hay fields?  The quick answer is – “a heck of a long time” in the agriculture world!
     It was not that long ago when we were talking a third year of drought, short grazing season and wheat that would be lucky to make 20 bushels.  That has changed considerably and I would say that even though we are early in the production year, things are definitely looking up.  I would say our wheat yield potential has doubled over the past 4-6 weeks and the cows are as content as I have seen them in a very long time. I think we all need to tip back our hats and offer up a prayer of thanksgiving to ‘the good man upstairs’ for giving us this reprieve and hope for a good cropping and grazing year.
     I do know that some of our friends and neighbors paid the price with wind and hail and your heart has to ache for them, but I know they are happy for those that avoided those acts of nature.  They know that we live and work in a climate that can change at as fast as a jackrabbit can shift directions when chased. It is part of what we do and where we live. We are a resilient people who are generous – especially when it comes to pulling together and helping those in need. That was evident when you hear stories from Hildreth, Franklin, Wilcox, Red Cloud, Beaver Crossing or Pilger to name just a few.  
     When thinking of just that, it occurred to me how lucky we really are to be from this part of the world, even with the headaches and heartaches we occasionally experience. In my daily reading I came across something that really resonated with me.  I am not sure who the author is, but found several renditions as I looked for credits. This particular piece has 20 ways that you can tell you grew up on a farm. I know some of you have probably seen this but it took my fancy and quite honestly, I can relate to most of these. It is entitled appropriately: “You know you grew up on a farm when!”
      1) You give directions not by streets, but by fields, farmsteads and land marks. Paved roads and road signs – what are those? 2) You know how to drive on gravel and minimum maintenance roads. Ice, snow or mud – no problem! 3) You were driving Tractors before your feet could hit the pedals. That’s where you learned to drive. 4) Your homepage on your computer is the weather channel and everyone knows to be quiet when the weather comes on the evening news. Your radio is permanently tuned to KRVN and you wait for the markets or auction reports! 5) Forget ladders; you would rather use a tractor and loader to clean those gutters, trim trees and hang decorations. 6) You plan events around planting, county fair and harvesting. A wedding during any of those times – forget about it! 7) Automatic transmission, no thanks! You were driving stick-shift by the 3rd grade! 8) You can fix anything with some elbow grease, bailing wire and a holstered pliers. 10) Most of your wardrobe came from your family’s seed or feed dealer; and if not from that source -- the area Farm/Ranch Supply Store. 11) You learned quickly where your loyalty would be – Green or Red? And that is not a sports team! 12) You know the difference between bales – big rounds and small squares. 13) You can drive down the road and tell what crops and what stage they are in with a sideways glance. 14) A neighbor is in need; so you, and everyone you knew, was there to lend a hand! 15) You learned to support your Church, school and community – come hell or high water! 16) You learned not to measure distance in miles, but in minutes or hours. 17) You knew the pedigrees of your animals better than you did your own. 18) You still wave at everyone you meet in your vehicle. You can’t seem to resist. 19) You still use the terms “Howdy” and “You Bet”! 20) You know where your food comes from, after all, you raised it and grew it!
     I hope you noticed the 14th and 15th lines.  They are what made me think of why we are so lucky to be living where we do. To have the friends and neighbors we do. It is why I am so proud of my rural roots and the people that have the same passion that I do for this way of life, even with the little bumps in the road that all of us experience. I think it would be fun if all of you who read this would respond to my email address at and give me your take or simply give me a call. Maybe we can add to that list with ones that this writer or writers missed, never experienced or never thought about. What about growing up on a farm made you what you are today? I am already thinking of a couple of things, I hope you will too. I think this would be fun and educational, as well as a chance to think about our upbringing and how it has contributed to making us what we are today.
     I believe that the experiences we have growing up has a huge impact on what we do and who we are later in life. I think of my experiences in the old Ash Grove District 22 one room school house that my siblings and I and all our young neighbor friends attended, or the uplifting messages and spirit I received in the old country Pleasant View Christian Church that our family attended along with other families who carried the same beliefs that we did.  Both are gone now, but the memory and impact lives on in my daily life. I am proud of being born and raised on a farm. I cannot think of a better legacy from which to spring! God has blessed our farms, our farmers and the people who grew up on farms!      

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fischer Supports Legislation to Help Americans Get Back to Work

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) today voted in favor of bipartisan legislation, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, to provide men and women with the skills they need to find good-paying jobs. Fischer cosponsored the legislation and released the following statement:

“I’m pleased the Senate came together to pass legislation that will help equip unemployed Americans with necessary training to pursue more job opportunities so they can provide for their families. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act improves the efficiency of job training and workforce development programs by enhancing the role of states, reducing burdensome federal requirements, and cutting waste and duplication. With nearly 10 million Americans still looking for work, these are exactly the type of constructive, bipartisan proposals the Senate should be focused on.”
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:
  • Eliminates 15 duplicative and ineffective programs;
  • Bolsters state and local decision-making by reducing federal mandates, specifically 21 rules for state and local workforce board composition;
  • Provides greater flexibility to governors to set aside funds for new state and local job training initiatives;
  • Strengthens program accountability by reducing federal funding for state and local boards that fail to meet performance standards;
  • Requires all workforce programs to undergo independent, third-party evaluations every four years and focuses reporting requirements on employment outcomes; 
  • Empowers governors to reorganize or consolidate local areas that are low-performing in order to better meet regional economic needs.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rebuilding and Recovery

Sen. Deb Smith

Like so many Nebraskans, I have been deeply moved by images of destruction from the recent tornadoes, which tore through communities in northeast Nebraska. The loss of life, serious injuries, and almost complete devastation in Pilger has broken hearts across Nebraska, mine included. I am grateful for the efforts of Governor Heineman and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) officials in the aftermath of the storms. Governor Heineman has issued a state disaster declaration for all areas impacted by the tornadoes and severe weather. Nebraska’s congressional delegation has always worked together to obtain needed disaster relief, and we will step up once again to do whatever we can to help these communities rebuild. My staff and I remain in close contact with state and local officials to see what sort of federal assistance might be necessary.
I appreciate NEMA’s ongoing work to survey the damage in the area and respond with swift emergency assistance. The American Red Cross has also served as a dedicated partner in providing aid to the Pilger community, setting up a shelter within 10 miles of the community and delivering relief and support to victims. I thank all the workers and volunteers who remain on the ground to assist with the area’s recovery.
Pilger will survive and it will rebuild. Nebraskans are strong – and our neighbors from Pilger are among the strongest. I will be traveling to Pilger to assess the damage for myself and to meet with members of the community and local leaders on Saturday, June 21.
As a member of the Small Business Committee, I have spent a great deal of time exploring ways to encourage more Americans to start their own businesses, which will create jobs and help turn around our economy. Many aspiring entrepreneurs have a hard time obtaining modest loans to get a business off the ground. These challenges are due, in part, to large loan requirements from the vast majority of primary lenders.
A man or woman aspiring to open a small café or book store doesn’t necessarily need a $500,000 loan; however, a $100,000 loan could make a big difference in turning a dream of a business into a paycheck-producing reality. Programs that offer access to these financial services and provide capital, typically for lower income earners, are called microfinance programs.
Microloans have helped thousands of people around the world climb out of poverty. The United States has invested heavily in microfinance programs through foreign aid, including in Afghanistan. Studies have shown that the availability of microfinance services has increased household incomes and strengthened families and communities. These programs have proven successful, not only around the world, but also here at home. 
The Small Business Administration currently oversees a microfinance program to provide similar small loans in the United States, but the amount of these loans is often not large enough to cover things like inventory or overhead costs – necessary expenses for a new business.
The legislation I introduced, the Access to Capital, Access to Opportunity Act, would increase access to needed capital so ambitious men and women with good ideas and limited resources can start their own businesses here in the United States. My bill would strengthen the existing SBA program by increasing the loan limit to $100,000. It would enact reporting requirements among loan recipients, intermediary loan providers, and the SBA to increase accountability.
The bill also promotes entrepreneurship by requiring the SBA to increase its efforts to educate men and women, especially those with limited financial resources, about the availability of these loans to start their own businesses.
New businesses strengthen our economy, strengthen our communities, and strengthen our families. I believe this proposal that can make a real difference in the lives of our neighbors in Nebraska and across the country. 
Thank you for taking part in our democratic process, and I’ll visit with you again next week.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator

     Break out your swimsuits, fire up the barbeque, and put on the sunglasses, because summer is here. I just took a look at today’s date and realized that as I write this edition it is the first day of summer. Where did spring go? One thing is for certain, our entry into the summer of 2014 is a lot better from the standpoint of rain than the last couple of years that is a big positive. The down side is that it has also brought some rough weather which has affected a lot of people – including our friends and neighbors. This week I think we need to touch on the damaging results of the storms that brought us the much needed rain and a new web site that UNL Extension is providing to help deal with these disasters and aftermath.     
     Unfortunately this year the bigger chances for moisture has also brought us bigger chances for storms that not only include thunder and lightning, but also brought us high winds, hail, hard rains, as well as dangerous and damaging straight winds as we experienced in Red Cloud, Blue Hill, Ayr and in the Hastings area. Even more damaging were the tornados that have hit several South Central Nebraska communities like Hildreth, Wilcox, Franklin, Keene and elsewhere. 
     We cannot forget the unbelievable damage done by the double tornado that passed through Pilger and surrounding areas.  My heartfelt concern and prayers go out to those who lived through that and now are faced with the daunting task of cleaning up and dealing with the devastation to homes, farms, businesses and livestock.  I know that several other rural and small towns were hit, but this one was extraordinary. The positive side of these storms is that it makes us all stronger and united. Nebraskans are known for being tough and resilient and even more so for work ethic and stepping up to help each other in disasters and times of need.  You can see this in every community that have experienced the wrath of nature. 
     It makes me proud to be from this state and to be associated with people who don’t just sit around waiting for help, but roll up their sleeves, say “get out of the way” and gets things done. I know that we have a lot of people who have been affected by these disasters. If any of you need or know someone who needs help I would point you to a new website that UNL Extension now has on line. Please go to:   and stay strong!
     Now let’s take a scientific look at this first day of summer. Yes, Saturday, June 21, marks the first official day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun reaches its northernmost point in the sky. But did you know that the summer solstice, as it's called, is also the longest day of the year? Though the hours of sunlight depend on location, many areas will see 14-16 hours’ worth of light. So if you have something that needs to be done….today is the day!
     Officially, the first day of summer is actually referred to as the summer solstice, Now comes the science lesson…..The word solstice is from the Latin “solstitium” from sol (sun) and “stitium” (to stop), because it appears the sun stops at the solstice. The solstice happens twice annually due to the Earth’s axis of rotation. Depending on the calendar year, the summer solstice happens annually in December for the Southern Hemisphere and on either June 20 or 21 in the northern half of the world. The summer solstice occurs precisely when the Earth's axial tilt is most inclined toward the sun, at the degree of 23° 26' – its’ most extreme. In June, the tilt is toward the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, while the second yearly solstice, the winter solstice, in December, the tilt is away from the sun in the Southern Hemisphere.
     A common misconception is that the earth is further from the sun in winter than in summer. Believe it or not, the Earth is closest to the sun in December which is winter in the Northern hemisphere and thus further away in the summer. It has to do with angles and tilt as described in the last paragraph. As the Earth travels around the Sun in its orbit, the north-south position of the Sun changes over the course of the year because of the changing orientation of the Earth's tilted rotation axes. These changes has to do with the Earth's yearly trip around the sun. For part of the year the Earth's North Pole points away from the sun and part of the time towards it. This is what causes our seasons. When the North Pole points toward the sun, the sun's rays hit the northern half of the world more directly. That means it is warmer and we have summer. 
    I, for one, love the seasons and welcome the changes that come with it – including the longer hours of daylight. I mentioned in the opening paragraph that the first day of summer also brings us the longest day as well, and the first day of the summer solstice really is the longest day of the year. Thus, it will bring the most sunlight we will see during the course of the year. The length of time elapsed between sunrise and sunset on this day is a maximum for the year. In the United States, there are about 14½ hours of daylight on this day on the average. Plenty of time to get your work done, right?   
     Now comes the big question. Why is it the longest day? I can tell you there are some days that seem a lot longer to me. Is it really the longest day of the year, or is that a misconception? Well, yes the summer solstice does bring us the longest hours of daylight for the Northern Hemisphere, The sun, which usually rises directly in the east, rises north of east and sets north of west. This means the sun is in the sky for a longer period of time, yielding more daylight and yes the longest day. 
     Now the more logical of us would then wonder why do the warmest days of summer generally come long after the solstice?  OK if that is true, shouldn’t that be the hottest day too -- since it is the longest? Well, if you think about it, we have just come out of the cool part of the year and it reasonably takes a month or two for some geographic areas to see their warmest days simply because it takes the Earth time to warm up. ----Believe me, the hottest days are yet to come! 

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Smith: Time for IRS to Fully Cooperate

Agency claims to have lost e-mails from individuals being investigated for targeting political groups

           Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) today called on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to fully cooperate with congressional investigators.  Earlier today, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before a Committee on Ways and Means hearing.  The committee is investigating the IRS for targeting conservative groups for political purposes.  Last week, the agency informed the committee it had lost e-mails requested through the investigation from former IRS official Lois Lerner and six other individuals.
“More than a year into the investigation of political targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, it is clear the agency needs to fully cooperate,” said Smith.  “The Obama Administration also needs to appoint a special prosecutor in this case.  Until then, the American people cannot have confidence the IRS is carrying out its responsibilities fairly and without political bias.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Johanns: Storm Damage Unbelievably Heartbreaking

. Sen. Mike Johanns (R- Neb.) today made the following statement after spending the afternoon visiting with victims of this week’s tornadoes in northeast Nebraska:   
“Nothing could have prepared me for the devastation I saw in Pilger and Coleridge today,” Johanns said. “The scene was truly unbelievable. My heart goes out to those who lost a love one, those recovering from injuries and those whose homes and livelihoods have been completely torn apart.
“I thank the many volunteers I met today, the community leaders who led me through the rubble and all those who took time out to share their stories of survival. Though it will be a long road to recovery, the work being done by emergency crews to clean up power lines and dangerous debris is already evident throughout the region.
“I also want to thank all Nebraskans who have rallied around these communities hit hard by recent severe weather. Our state’s unbreakable resiliency and dedication to helping neighbors in need will help these communities heal.”
Johanns’ visit included meetings with local officials, residents of Pilger and Coleridge, and producers from the surrounding area who lost livestock during the tornadoes. Photos of Sen. Johanns’ visit are available HERE.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Governor Heineman, Speaker Adams and Chief Justice Heavican Launch Effort to Examine Criminal Justice System


Justice Reinvestment Effort Aimed at Effective Use of Prisons and Increasing Public Safety

(Lincoln, Neb.)  Today, Gov. Dave Heineman, Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams and Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Heavican announced the launch of Nebraska’s comprehensive study of the state’s criminal justice system to develop a long-term prison strategy and to increase public safety.
“We are looking for innovative and sensible solutions to our prison challenges,” said Gov. Heineman. “I’m pleased that we are beginning the work of this important project. I am hopeful that we can develop cost effective policies that will create a responsible long-term prison strategy and increase public safety.”
The Justice Reinvestment Working Group is a 19-member group established by LB 907. It consists of members from all three branches of state government and local government representatives. They will work in collaboration with the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. The CSG Justice Center, in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), will provide on-the-ground technical assistance. Input will be solicited from stakeholder groups at the state and county level, including district judges, county attorneys, public defenders, probation, parole board members, law enforcement officials, victim advocates, and community treatment providers.
As of May 31, 2014, state prisons housed 5,175 people and were operating at 158 percent of capacity. The prison population is projected to grow an additional 12 percent by 2023, according to the most recent forecast.
“Together, we are committed to maintaining public safety for all Nebraskans,” said Speaker Adams, co-chair of the working group. “The policy solutions that we hope will come out of this project will require actions from all three branches of government in order to make improvements across the system. State policymakers from across the country, including Texas, Kansas, and South Dakota, have used this approach to contain correction costs while reinvesting a portion of the savings to help make communities safer.”
The working group will also convene for its first meeting later today. The group’s policy recommendations are expected to be delivered by the end of this year.
“This project will not only look at what’s going on in our prisons, but also will examine alternatives to incarceration and effective community-based programs,” said Chief Justice Michael Heavican, co-chair of the working group. “The Supreme Court is committed to sharing data on sentencing and probation to help identify challenges our system may face.”
“We applaud the leadership Nebraska officials are demonstrating to advance the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in their state,” said Bureau of Justice Assistance Director Denise E. O’Donnell.” By launching this project and establishing an inter-branch task force, Nebraska becomes the 22nd state to take important steps through the JRI toward creating new justice reform policies grounded in research and state-specific data that will improve community safety.”
“States across the nation are debunking the myth that if you want to reduce crime you have to build more prisons,” said Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project. “By looking at the state's data and devising new strategies rooted in research, Nebraska leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to reduce crime and incarceration at the same time.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

Restoring the VA

Our nation made a very important promise to our men and women in uniform who bravely protected our way of life; we will always support you in your endeavors to keep us safe, and we will always care for you when you return from duty.  This includes ensuring access to health services.  The Department of Veterans affairs was established to provide our veterans wth the services they earned while defending our nation and securing an American legacy for generations to come
In April, we learned of disturbing practices at the VA facility in Phoenix, Ariz., where VA officials whitewashed VA records to cover up lengthy wait times for medical appointments. Allegations that at least 40 veterans died while waiting to see a doctor in Phoenix sparked more claims of wrongdoing at other VA medical centers across the country. Ultimately, an interim report by the VA Inspector General determined that VA’s scheduling problems are systemic and that at least 1,700 veterans were left off medical care appointment waitlists in Phoenix. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned following the report.
As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I take these claims very seriously. It is outrageous to think that our veterans, who sacrificed so much for our nation, would be denied access to care by the very entity created for their care, and that this failure would be covered up. So last week, in a rare display of bipartisanship, the Senate swiftly passed a bill that I cosponsored to improve VA access, accountability and transparency for our veterans. The legislation allows veterans to seek care from non-VA doctors if they live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility, or if the wait for a VA appointment exceeds two weeks—an idea I suggested at a Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing in May. The legislation also allows VA officials to fire senior VA employees for substandard performance, and provides a green light for a number of new leases for VA clinics, including one in Lincoln.
The VA has a long way to go to restore its reputation. I’ve said multiple times that it’s going to take much more to fix the VA than just the dismissal of those responsible for manipulating the VA’s waitlists. This legislation is only one step to address concerns at the VA. The FBI is now investigating criminal wrongdoing, and I joined several of my colleagues in calling on the Department of Justice to prosecute any illegal behavior.
I take very seriously claims by our veterans of misconduct at the VA. Rest assured that I will continue to monitor the VA’s progress to address these glaring and inexcusable practices. I’m committed to ensuring the VA is properly equipped to provide the best quality of service and support for our veterans in a timely fashion. Our veterans deserve the highest level of support and I will do all I can to make sure they receive it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator

     Last week I started in on my thoughts on Chipotles’s newest attack on American beef. I promised I would continue the discussion on this, and my blood pressure hasn’t come back down, so I will give some more thoughts on the matter. For you that missed last week’s edition, I reported on the push for this restaurant change in procedure to bring in Australian “grass-fed beef” to its restaurant because they cannot find enough “responsibly raised” beef here in the good ole USA. If I were playing a popular card game, I would declare “bovine excrement” on this statement. 
      I talked last week about the care that all farmers and ranchers that I know give their beef herds and how ridiculous it sounds to me when people or companies bash them or call them factory farms. I touched on the past attempts by the management of Chipotle’s Mexican Grill to vilify American raised and especially corn fed beef through a myth-laden mini-series. To be blunt, Chipotle's advertising is just plain deceitful. They've touted "Food With Integrity" for years, all while implying the beef, pork and crops that we raise on our family farms are somehow poison and unfit for human consumption. This week I think we need to make some points about beef and American farmers and ranchers. 
     Getting right to the point – I’m not very impressed with the tactics Chipotle has shown not only in the last few months, but past few years. They build a marketing plan based on “integrity” and “responsibility” while preaching about being environmentally friendly and supporting the local family farmer – then turn around and pull this stunt. I will tell you that I'm glad Mr. Ells, CEO of the restaurant in question, is at least committed to keeping beef on the menu at Chipotle. I will give them that. But that is where my appreciation ends. We have enough problems with misinformation and myths.
     I submit that consumers need to know that beef is a fantastic source of protein, iron, zinc and other essential nutrients. We need to work together to keep the public informed that beef is a critical part of a healthy diet, and should not be avoided like recently disproved research suggested. I disagree strongly with his broad statement or designation of "Responsibly Raised" being limited to grass-fed ranchers. I can say with confidence that all types of beef producers are committed to producing beef that is safe and healthy. Only FDA approved products are used on their cattle and they are used sparingly.
     I think it important that people know or at least realize that all beef, whether it has been grass or grain finished, contains the same essential vitamins and nutrients that we need in a healthy diet. You won't be able to look at two beef animals standing in a pasture and say, "That one will give me more iron because it ate the most grass," or, "This one will have more zinc because it was fed grain."  Or the famous “Organic beef is far superior and is much healthier for you.” Farmers and ranchers differentiate the way they raise their beef animals solely because we, as the consumers, all have different preferences and taste buds. The choice of which one you prefer is all up to each of us. We have a choice – our choice!
     We all should be thankful for all farmers, whether they produce conventional, organic or natural products, because they are giving use the chance to choose what fits our lifestyle and budget. Personally, I prefer the taste of corn-fed beef because that is what I was raised on, and I simply could not see a taste benefit from the grass-fed beef that I have experienced. That is my preference and I know a lot of people who agree with me. If you travel beyond the confines of Nebraska you will find that our state’s corn-fed beef is unique and I would not trade it for any steak from any other place. I celebrate the choices that the American consumer has available to them: grass-fed, organic and conventionally raised beef included. No matter what method of production our ranchers choose, beef is still a leading source of protein to our diets. I'm curious if Ells or many consumers realize that beef provides ten essential nutrients, including zinc, iron and protein? These nutrients aren't judgmental and show up in all types of beef not just grass fed or natural, but grain finished and conventional beef too! 
     All ranchers and farmers care for their cattle and land in the best possible way. It does not make sense to do it in any other way. Their livelihood depends on it as does feeding their own family. This is a community of people who continually strive to live their lives with passion and are always working hard to continue to improve all aspects of raising cattle. Bottom line, I believe that, grass-fed or conventional, we should be supporting American farmers & ranchers and do our part to source products grown and raised in the USA prior to sourcing elsewhere. To a lot of my cattlemen friends, their cattle are their life. If they were not responsible they would not be in business. I wish that Mr. Ells and Chipotle’s would take the time to listen to the folks that have their boots on the ground day in and day out to provide a responsible, healthy product for our consumers instead of smearing them with untrue videos and now this publicity stunt of bringing in “Down-Under” beef. I guarantee to you that all producers want what is best for consumers, as their livelihood depends on it!
     I do understand that this is America – land of the free. A wonderful place where we have the right, amongst other things, to choose what dining establishment we frequent and if our meat comes corn-fed, grass-fed, hormone free, fried, grilled, well done, rare, or with steak sauce. And if a company wants to import products from another country, then by all means they can do it ‘til the cows come home”, or until “pigs fly”, but personally I prefer supporting a company that doesn’t contradict its own values and promotes actual responsibly raised beef. Support those restaurants that do just that, especially if they advertise that it is good Nebraska beef!! All of a sudden I have a craving for a “responsibly raised” Nebraska steak!

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Area students on 2014 Spring Dean’s List announced at Hastings College

(Hastings, Neb.) – Hastings College has announced the Dean’s List for its spring 2014 semester. To be eligible for the Dean’s List, students must achieve a grade point average of 3.7 to 4.0, on a 4.0 scale, and be registered for full-time course work.
Bladen                                     Mark Lutkemeier                   
Lawrence                                Courtney Hubl

Friday, June 6, 2014

Washington Report: An Unacceptable Pattern of Overreach


The Constitution of the United States established three separate but equal branches of government.  However, for some time the Executive Branch, under administrations of both parties, has been growing beyond its constitutional authority.  While this pattern is nothing new, the Obama Administration has taken overreach to a new level.
In the past week alone we have witnessed at least two serious instances of the administration acting outside of its authority by establishing new policies without the consent of Congress.
The first was the release of five high-ranking terrorists in exchange for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl who had been held prisoner by the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2009.  Many questions remain about Sgt. Bergdahl’s actions leading to his capture, and whether the trade was appropriate.  However, it is clear the administration broke federal law which requires Congress be informed 30 days before any prisoner is transferred from Guantanamo Bay. 
By not informing Congress, the House and Senate were not able to weigh in on a significant national security issue.  The transfer also represented a major shift in America’s long-held policy to not negotiate with terrorists.  The President needs flexibility to act in our national interests as commander-in-chief, but there is no reason Congress could not have been informed and consulted in this case.
In another instance of bypassing Congress, the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants – even though Congress has never passed legislation to regulate carbon emissions.  These new rules are opposed on a bipartisan basis because they will have little environmental value, the reduction rates are unrealistic, and they would be disastrous for our economy.
Power providers in Nebraska have already made investments in renewable energy, such as hydropower, as well as clean coal technology, natural gas, and nuclear without mandates from the federal government.  The EPA’s one-size-fits-all approach will be devastating for manufacturing, agriculture, and consumers by arbitrarily increasing the costs of electricity.  Low- and middle-income Americans who can least afford huge increases in their electric bills will be especially hard hit.  I am committed to preventing these rules from taking effect, and to rein in the EPA.
To stop this and other damaging regulations, I am working on several reform initiatives including the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, to limit the administration’s ability to act outside its authority.  I also invite all Third District residents to participate in my Regulation Rewind program to help identify and overturn the burdensome overreaches of the federal government into your life and livelihood.  Learn more about Regulation Rewind on my website at: .
Congress was given the power to make policy because its Members are elected to represent the people, and can be held accountable through elections.  Reasonable people can disagree on ideas and specific plans, but by working around Congress, the President undermines the principles of separation of powers, and representative government as described in the Constitution.  We must work to restore the balance of power established by our founders.
As always, feel free to forward my e-newsletter to family and friends, or let them know they can sign up to receive updates from my office on my website at:


Nebraska's Congressional Delegation urges Obama to send relief.



WASHINGTON – Nebraska’s Congressional delegation today wrote to President Obama urging him to take swift action to approve Governor Heineman’s request for a federal disaster declaration from the May 11, 2014, storms in East-Central Nebraska. The request includes the counties of Clay, Fillmore, Saline, Saunders, Seward, and York, and would allow communities who suffered losses to be eligible for public assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
A copy of the letter can be found below:
 June 6, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write in support of Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s request for a major disaster declaration related to severe storms in Clay, Fillmore, Saline, Seward, Saunders, and York counties in Nebraska.  Strong storms on May 11, 2014 caused significant damage to public infrastructure, homes, and businesses in many communities in southeastern Nebraska.
The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency estimates that expenses and damage from these storms total at least $21.5 million.  Tornadoes and straight line winds took down power structures and left an extensive amount of debris in their path.  Roadways were adversely impacted by the downed power structures, as well as by damaged trees, irrigation systems, and water.  Three communities most affected by the storm are villages with limited resources.  The Small Business Administration (SBA) has already issued an SBA Disaster Declaration for some of the counties that experienced storm damage.
We applaud local and state leaders, as well as non-profit groups, who moved swiftly to deliver aid and clear debris.  When affected by natural disasters, Nebraskans have demonstrated time and again their resilience and ability to work together on recovery efforts and this was no exception.  As the recovery continues, the Federal Government has an opportunity to partner with the state in aiding recovery efforts.  We support Governor Heineman’s disaster request and appreciate your sincere and prompt consideration.

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Straight from the Horses Mouth

Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator
       As we end this week and start a new one, I would like to pay tribute to the “Greatest Generation” in the remembrance of something that occurred 70 years ago from the day that I wrote this article – “D-Day!”
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops, took the big step to win WWII and of course helped insure our freedom. The rest is history! 
     I am proud to say that my father was part of that operation at one of the staging areas at the 8th Air Force Base in England where he served as a mechanic keeping bombers in the air. One of the stories that dad talked about was the food, or actually the type of food they had, and it had a lot to do with what we ate as kids. Their main staple was mutton from Australia, shiploads of mutton, so the first thing he wanted when coming back was a good Nebraska corn-fed steak. So beef was a constant for our table plus some pork and chicken. This actually ties into my discussion for this week as it involves Australia, but in this case instead of mutton it involves grass-fed beef from that country and a decision by one of my least favorite food places, Chipotle’s Mexican Grill, to forego good American beef in favor of this beef from another country. 
     It seem that Chipotle’s wants to source their beef from Australia because “it is natural and grass fed”. Chipotle Mexican Grill claims it can't find enough "responsibly raised" beef from American ranchers to fill its burritos, so CEO Steve Ells says the company will buy Australian beef to make up the shortfall and says so in an article he published in the Huffington Post. You can read Ells’ article at: . I read this article earlier this week and of course it got my attention and achieved  getting my blood pressure up – again! 
      You may remember that earlier this year Chipotle funded the mini-series inappropriately called "Farmed and Dangerous" that characterizes the American farmer/rancher as Dr. Doom. The series shows the “Factory Farm” using antibiotics and feeding the cattle corn instead of grass. Horrors of horrors! These videos also played as a classic tale of good vs. evil. The villains, without surprise, are “big food” corporate bullies stopping at nothing to make a buck, aka Chipotle’s view of modern agriculture. If you have a strong heart and stomach you can see it at:   
     This company-owned restaurant chain has expanded to more than 1,600 stores across the U.S. and Canada, and is headquartered out of Denver, Colorado – which should tell you something. Ironically they promote their “Food With Integrity” (FWI) program, which according to them includes naturally raised beef and pork from animals on a vegetarian diet. They go on to say that these hormone and antibiotic free animals are only raised in “humane” ways. As if our farmers and ranchers do not!!!  Good Lord – give me a break!! Where is the integrity in that?
     Ells make the statement in his diatribe – “The transition toward grass-fed beef won't happen overnight. But we need to start somewhere, and years of research by our purchasing team suggests that Australia is the best place to start sourcing grass-fed beef at the scale. We're optimistic that our decision to serve grass-fed beef from Australia is one small step in the larger journey of restoring the practice of raising great American beef entirely on grass.” On their website they brag - “We’ve put a lot of work into poking, prodding, convincing, and occasionally applying guilt to ranchers in order to get more and more suppliers to meet our naturally raised standards. Because so many ranchers don’t raise their animals right and sometimes need a little guilt to get them to change their destructive ways.”  Is the blood squirting out of my eyes?
     I think that Ells and Chipotle has got it wrong -or are using some smoke and mirrors. Let’s explore a few things that maybe we should consider. First, I fear Chipotle has outgrown their ability to stay true to their roots. Australia- really??
That's not a local, sustainable food supply model. The real reason I would bet is dollars. Big corporations in Australia peddling industrialized grass fed beef perhaps? Low price points to big margins, especially considering the cost of beef right now in America. Fact is most of the restaurants want to market the farm to fork, wholesome food story- but they want the product supplied to them - cheap. They will not pay a small premium for better product, so they need an excuse! Voilà!! I don't fault Chipotle for making all the dollars they can, but why disparage the American farmer and rancher?
     Most all beef is grass-fed beef - fact! The only difference is how the cattle are finished for the last few months. Either they continue to eat grass as their finishing diet, or they will slowly transition over to a high energy, grain based diet. While grass-finished beef is shown to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and CLA's compared with corn-finished beef, it's not significant in the human diet. We are fortunate in the USA to have a wide variety of farmers and ranchers raising cattle for beef. The variety of production practices depends on the land/forage resources available to them and the market of consumers they have to support their product at a price that allows them to remain in business. I know farmers who finish their cattle on grass and many who finish their cattle on grain, and both do so in a responsible and respectful manner! I have a lot more to say on this topic – so I will have to finish next week --and I guarantee you it won’t be with a Chipotle burrito!!

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fischer Cosponsors Bills to Expand Care Options for Veterans, Boost VA Accountability and Transparency

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) today announced she has cosponsored two pieces of legislation to improve access to quality health care services for our nation’s veterans and boost accountability within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Veterans Choice Act of 2014 would give veterans facing unacceptably long wait times and limited care options more flexibility when choosing medical care and promote greater transparency within the agency. The VA Management Accountability Act of 2014 would provide the Secretary of the VA the authority to fire employees who fail to perform their duties. Fischer issued the following statement:
“Secretary Shinseki’s resignation last week was an important step toward achieving reform at the VA, but it was only a first step. Congress must now step up and offer guidance to fix the bureaucratic failures at the VA and ensure our nation’s veterans receive the medical treatment they have earned and deserve. While investigations into the systemic problems at the VA continue, the Veterans Choice Act of 2014 would allow our veterans access to the high quality, efficiently delivered care they have already waited far too long to receive. It’s also time for the VA to clean house, which is why I am supporting legislation to make it easier to fire those responsible.”
The Veterans Choice Act of 2014 was introduced by Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and John McCain, (R-Ariz.). The legislation provides more flexibility for veterans awaiting medical care, while keeping the VA health system intact. It would allow veterans to exercise their choice to receive care from the doctor or medical provider of their choice if the VA cannot schedule an appointment for a veteran within a reasonable wait time or the veteran resides more than 40 miles from any VA medical center (VAMC) or Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). All veterans enrolled for care at the VA will receive a “choice card” to allow them to receive care from a non-VA provider. The bill includes reporting requirements to the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure parity in the quality of care between VA and non-VA services.
The Veterans Choice Act would enhance transparency by requiring the VA to post on each VAMC website the current wait time for an appointment and to improve their “Our Providers” link to include where a provider completed their residency and whether the provider is in residency. It requires VHA to provide veterans with the credentials of a provider prior to surgery and directs VA to establish disciplinary procedures should an employee knowingly falsify data pertaining to wait times and quality measures.
Finally, the legislation would also reform the VA’s bureaucratic culture. Specifically, it ends the connection between scheduling practices and bonuses – one of the roots of the current problem. The bill also directs VA to consider a review from top to bottom of its practices and procedures by outside advisory boards and experts to make the agency more efficient.
Full text of the Veterans Choice Act is available HERE.
The VA Management Accountability Act of 2014, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), boosts accountability among senior VA officials. Currently, significant amounts of red tape can prolong the process for disciplining and firing these employees for failure to perform job duties. This legislation explicitly provides the Secretary of the VA the authority to remove any individual from a Senior Executive Service (SES) position based on performance.
Full text of the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014 is available HERE.
Note: The Veterans Choice Act also includes the House-passed version of the VA Management Accountability Act, H.R. 4031/S.2013.
On May 20, Senator Fischer also introduced legislation with Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to prohibit the payment of bonuses to employees at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) through Fiscal Year 2015. More information about Fischer and Burr’s bill is available HERE.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Charles L. Hewitt Jr.

Charles L. Hewitt Jr., 59, of Blue Hill, Nebraska, died Friday, May 30, 2014.
Services are 10 a.m. Thursday, June 5, 2014, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Blue Hill, Nebraska, with Ken Zimmerman officiating.
Burial will be at the Blue Hill Cemetery in Blue Hill, Nebraska.
Visitation will be Wednesday, June 4, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Merten-Butler Mortuary and one hour prior to services at the church.
Memorials can be directed to the family to be designated at a later date.
 Charles L. Hewitt, Jr. was the son of Charles Hewitt, Sr. and Ardus Lantz Hewitt.   He lived with his family in South Dakota, later the family, Charles, his mother and father moved to Blue Hill from Colorado in 2000.
Charles shared his musical talent by playing the piano at the nursing home frequently. He was a pleasant person often seen smiling and seldom heard complaining.
His mother preceded him in death in January 2010.
Charles L. Hewitt, Jr. is survived by his father Charles Hewitt of Blue Hill, and a brother Raymond of Phildelphia, Pa. Nieces and nephews. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Smith Reaction to Proposed EPA Power Plant Rules


Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) made the following statement in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rules to reduce emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent:
“As a candidate for President in 2008, then-Senator Obama predicted his plan to cap carbon emissions would make energy prices ‘skyrocket’ for consumers.  Today, the President’s EPA, without the consent of Congress, is imposing new rules which would make this prediction a reality. 
“The costs of retrofitting power plants and the increased costs of producing electricity will be disastrous for manufacturing, agriculture, and especially for low- and middle-income Americans who can least afford huge increases in their electric bills.
“These arbitrary and unrealistic rules are not only bad policy, the way they are being enacted is inconsistent with our principles of divided, representative government as described in the Constitution.  As we work to stop these rules from burdening the American people, we must also restore the balance of power intended by our founders.”

Gov. Heineman to Apply for Presidency of the University of Nebraska


 Gov. Dave Heineman announced his intention to apply for the position of President of the University of Nebraska by sending a letter to the Board of Regents.
“Yesterday, I notified the University of Nebraska Board of Regents of my intention to pursue the position of President,” said Gov. Heineman. “One of Nebraska’s greatest assets is the University of Nebraska. The next President will have an opportunity to build upon President Milliken’s successes and to lead the University of Nebraska to an even more successful future.”
In his letter, Gov. Heineman stated, “Nebraskans know the value and the importance of access to a high quality, affordable higher education.”
Gov. Heineman outlined his priorities for the University of Nebraska if he were President. “First we should continue to offer affordable tuition rates for students. I worked with President Milliken and the Legislature to fund a two-year tuition freeze for Nebraska students. Reaching student enrollment goals is critical to the University’s financial stability.”
“I worked closely with President Milliken and the Legislature to increase state funding for the University of Nebraska when most states were cutting funding to their higher education institutions. We secured $25 million for Innovation Campus in Lincoln, $50 million for the Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, $15 million for an allied health professions college at UNK and $6 million for a veterinary diagnostic lab at UNL.”
“I would like to expand the University of Nebraska’s research activity, capabilities and opportunities. The potential for funding educational research is enormous. I am prepared to work with our federal partners and our donor community to increase research funding.”
Gov. Heineman praised the faculty at the University of Nebraska campuses. “It is essential to the success of the University of Nebraska to recruit and maintain outstanding faculty, and to encourage increased faculty development opportunities. Faculty are one of the most important assets of the University and the key to academic excellence. I look forward to partnering with them to enhance the University’s academic reputation.”
“Nebraska can be a national leader in several targeted areas of research through its investments in the Buffett Early Childhood Center, the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, the Rural Futures Institute, the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, Innovation Campus, and the National Strategic Research Institute. These initiatives create excellent partnering opportunities with the private sector and they are important to job creation, growth and retaining our young graduates.”
Gov. Heineman expressed his support of the University of Nebraska Foundation and pledged to work with them to achieve greater results. “Nebraskans want to invest in the University of Nebraska because we know that an outstanding higher education is the key to our sons’ and daughters’ future.”
Finally, the Governor stressed the importance of the University’s involvement in Nebraska’s P-16 Initiative. He outlined its success. “Our team effort in partnership with schools, colleges, and educators has resulted in increased high school graduation requirements, the second highest high school graduation rate in America and a top 10 college-going rate. We are also focused on increasing the graduation rates of Nebraska’s colleges and universities.”
Letter to Board of Regents (pdf)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June Birthdays!

June 1 Ryan Hesman, Jamie Kossie, Brent Premer
June 2 Ron Meyer, Tina Mohlman , Dale Tenhoff, Keith Gilbert, Lana James
 June 3 Bill Armstrong
June 5 Ruby Krueger, Paige Hansen
June 9 Robert Wademan, Cody Heinrich
 June 10 Luella Wilhelms
June 10 Jill Beavers
June 11 Roger Alber, Keith Waterbury, Colben Detaksone
June 12 Barb Strasburg, Wilma Willems
 June 14 Iva Beach, Mark Strasburg
June 16 Rollie Grandstaff, Cammeron Premer Howard
 June 17 Amber Stoner, Phyllis Hartman
June 18 Robert Long
June 20 Clifford Beach
 June 21 Neil Johnson
June 22 Margaret Zimmerman , Sara Pavelka
June 23 Zigrida Meyer, Jodi Bunner
 June 24 Steve Hesman
June 25 Shirley Allen
 June 26 Eileen Moser
 June 27 Ruth Koepke, Rolland Post, David Dunn
June 28 Lori Goodrich Meents , Cassandra Himmelberg
 June 30 Carol Matthews