Saturday, February 28, 2015


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator
     This has been a busy, eventful - but also a sad week. The sad part was the loss of a good friend who was a huge part of the Webster County Fair and Rodeo, but even more importantly to me – an even bigger supporter of the 4-H and FFA and the kids within. Terry Plambeck lost his valiant battle with cancer this week and was laid to rest. One cannot hardly begin to list what this good-hearted man meant to those of us who knew him and worked with him and to all of the people who benefitted without even knowing the work behind the scenes. Terry never looked for recognition and in fact was embarrassed for being singled out. He did everything for the community, but especially the kids! He always saw the big picture, and that picture was his community, agriculture, the beef industry and of course his family and friends. 
     He was well known for the work he did on the Ag Association and particularly with the rodeo for the past 18 years, but what a lot of people didn’t know is that he put a tremendous amount of support towards the youth program. That was one of his many loves. You could not miss him, leaning on the panel of the show arena, not only watching his own kids, but all the others. If he wasn’t there, he was out back helping take care of the critters, giving advice and seeing to the needs of the shows. He delighted in that part of his life and his bigger than life humor, smile and laugh confirmed that. He also was a visionary, being on the front line in conceiving and funding the Webster County Beef Carcass Contest and more recently the Webster County Home Bred and Raised Heifer program. Those programs will continue in his remembrance.
     You could always count on Terry! He was always on call it seemed. He was the first one there to help clean out the beef barn, deftly running his skid-steer or grabbing a shovel - moving chips with a purpose. He was the first one there to help set up the show arena or to help put things away after the fair had run its course. Our kids knew him as a gentle giant. They all respected him and better yet, trusted him. You cannot replace someone like Terry, but you can bet your bottom dollar that everyone will miss him. On behalf of the 4-H and FFA youth of Webster County we salute him. Rest in Peace good friend!
     Farm Bill Decisions Deadline Extended: This past week exhibited a flurry of farmers trying to figure out if they wanted to update their yield, which to me is a no-brainer; and more importantly if they should reallocate their base acres, which in many cases is not such an easy decision. The deadline was supposed to be February 27. This is not really a great surprise, but USDA has extended the deadline for the base and yield update decisions from today to March 31, consistent with the ARC vs. PLC election decision deadline. I never could understand why there were two deadlines as all three decisions are inherently linked with each other, so making the deadlines the same and extending the base and yield deadline is logical and should have been done long ago before people were so squeezed in making these important decisions.        
     Adding to the benefit of this extension is that some of the program details relating to yields were not available until very recently, such as yield histories for hybrid seed corn and also popcorn production. And, the county yields for 2014 that factor into the ARC-CO revenue guarantees and payments were just released last week as well. Technically, NASS released yields per harvested acre while FSA still has to calculate yields per planted acre for purposes of the program, so the yield data is still not exact but approximate. Those yields can affect the performance of ARC-CO relative to PLC and potentially affect the ARC/PLC decision and the base acreage decision as well. All of that means pushing the base and yield update decision back to March 31, in line with the ARC/PLC election, will give producers time to digest this latest information. So if you made a hurried decision or have second thoughts about reallocation or even your election decision you now can re-evaluate those decisions and have this one time opportunity to change or alter them. I suggest you take advantage!
     HHS & USDA 2015 Dietary Guidelines: Last week I wrote about the new Dietary Guidelines that was put out, and promised that I would revisit it this week to add some thoughts that I did not have room for last week, so here goes. I did a little study on what led to this final conclusion by the committee and it left me scratching my head. For you that did not read last week’s edition the short take on this new guideline is that the committee has excluded or at the very least diminished red meat from their considerations of what makes up a healthy dietary pattern. Many people like me feel that the recommendation to cut red meat is based on misinformation about the healthfulness and sustainability of meat production and has an agenda based on ideology and views on global climate change rather than concentrating on human health.
     They have failed to offer new ideas for losing weight and reversing diabetes. And they have ignored sound science and based their advice on personal ideals and inaccurate observational data.  Proof of that is in the minutes of one of their meetings. The sole presenter on sustainability wasted no time in pushing the vegetarian and organic agenda, and overlooked all of the benefits that science and technology in agriculture are bringing to reduce water and pesticide use and address volatile weather conditions. The presenter barely mentioned future food security, and conveniently ignored the inconvenient truth that the world faces an immense food security challenge: feeding an additional two billion people by 2050. Fortunately, we still have time to voice our concerns. Public comments will be accepted through midnight on April 8. Written comments can be submitted to: . If you believe, like I do, that red meat is an important part of a healthy diet, I encourage you to share your experiences and personal testimonies.  
     Last but not least I want to give a shout out to all our FFA members and chapters for National FFA Week! Go get em!!

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: 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Advancing U.S. Agriculture Trade in Asia

Rep. Adrian Smith
With 95 percent of consumers living outside the U.S. border and standards of living increasing in much of the developing world, global demand for Nebraska’s agriculture products is growing. Unfortunately, current trade barriers prevent our producers from fully capitalizing on this opportunity.  
Last week, I joined an eight-member congressional delegation led by Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan to promote trade in three Asian nations participating in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. In Singapore, Malaysia and Japan, we met with senior government officials and American and local business leaders in an effort to advance the U.S. trade agenda and strengthen ties with these countries.
At each stop, our delegation stressed how increased agriculture trade can be a win-win for both countries. Japan is one of the United States’ top trading partners, and our discussions on agriculture with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were particularly productive.
However, for all 12 TPP parties to reach agreement on a final deal, Japan will have to make progress on agriculture market-access issues. This was a recurring theme in our meetings, and the Japanese acknowledged they still have work to do. This includes lowering tariffs, such as the 38.5 percent tariff on both fresh and frozen beef, and reducing other trade barriers.
The Japanese also made it clear they do not want to make final offers until Congress passes Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), adding to the need for us to act quickly on this effort. For America to get the best possible deal in trade negotiations, passing TPA is the essential first step.
The President already has the authority to negotiate trade deals with any country at any time. By passing TPA, we would empower Congress to set the objectives for negotiations and provide clear instructions to the administration. TPA requires the administration to consult with members of Congress throughout the process and provide them access to negotiation texts at any time. It also gives Congress the final say on approving any trade agreements. In exchange, the administration can assure our trading partners when they bring their best offer to the negotiating table, the agreement reached will receive a straight up or down vote in Congress.
As we ask other nations to bring these best offers to us, we must uphold our end of the bargain. Issues such as the recent workforce disputes at our West Coast ports, which disrupted trade with Asia for months, not only make it more difficult for our trading partners to take us seriously but also cause great hardship for our producers and exporters.
At a Ways and Means Committee hearing earlier this year, I raised concerns about these disputes to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Many perishable goods such as pork and beef were spoiling before they could be shipped, leading to large losses for U.S. exporters. Agriculture producers feared overseas customers would look to foreign competitors to supply products if we could not regain reliable service.
As the disputes continued, I also joined 83 of my colleagues in writing to the International Longshore and Workers Union and Pacific Maritime Association urging a swift resolution. Thankfully, an agreement has been reached, and as of this week our ports are once again operating at full speed and beginning to work through the backlog of ships waiting offshore. Moving forward, we must avoid conflicts like this to ensure U.S. producers, manufacturers and consumers can take full advantage of expanded market opportunities.
To keep America competitive in the global economy, Congress will continue prioritizing initiatives to expand U.S. trade. I am optimistic we will soon pass TPA and move forward on negotiations to open new trade opportunities for Nebraskans.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fischer Urges Improvements to Veterans Choice Program

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) joined a bipartisan group of senators in a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) where they called for improvements to the Veterans Choice Program. The senators conveyed their concerns regarding reduced funding for the program, as well as the VA’s implementation of the “40-mile rule,” which is inconveniencing veterans across Nebraska. Senator Fischer released the following statement this afternoon:
“Why is the Obama administration trying to reduce funding for the Veterans Choice Program before it has even had a chance to work? I have heard from several Nebraskans, including members of the Nebraska American Legion who were in Washington this week and are concerned about having to travel long distances to access the care they need. The VA must quickly address these issues and make any necessary changes to ensure the efficiency of this critical program.”
Last summer, legislation creating the VA Choice Program was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. This bipartisan compromise contained a number of critical reforms to expand care for our veterans and increase accountability at the VA. These improvements included $5 billion in supplemental funding that would be used to hire additional physicians and medical staff, as well as improve the VA’s infrastructure. It also included a provision to help address the VA’s immediate care crisis by temporarily allowing veterans to be treated by private doctors if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility.
Click here to view the text of the senators’ letter to Secretary McDonald.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Terry J Plambeck November 18,1965 to February 22, 2015

Bladen resident, Terry J. Plambeck, 49, passed away Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Mary Lanning Healthcare, Hastings, Nebraska.  

Services will be Thursday, February 26, 2015; 10:30 A.M. at First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Hastings with Pastor Lon Landsmann officiating.  Burial will be in St. Paul Lutheran Church Cemetery, Holstein.  Memorials may be given to the family for a memorial to be established at a later date.  Visitation will be Wednesday, February 25, 2015; 9:00 A.M. – 8:30 P.M. with family present 6:30 P.M. - 8:30 P.M. at the funeral home, and one hour prior to service at the church.  

Terry was born November 18, 1965 in Hastings, Nebraska to Dennis & Sandra (Shaw) Plambeck.  He graduated from Adams Central High School in 1984 and attended Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas and Kearney State College in Kearney, Nebraska.  Terry married Rochelle Ruhter on June 2, 1990 at Christ Lutheran Church, Juniata.  He was an area farmer and rancher for many years.  Terry was a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Holstein, Webster County Ag Association where he served as Rodeo Chairman for 17 years, Nebraska Cattleman’s Association and was a past member of the Holstein Volunteer Fire Department.  He was a member of the Kearney Choraliers and was a soloist for numerous weddings and other events.  Terry was also a past Sunday school teacher and 4-H leader.  Terry, along with his brother Brad, received the Kiwanis Farm Family of the year award in 2010. 

Terry’s pride and joy in life were his wife, children, and the rest of his family.  He was a stranger to no one, as he loved to talk to everyone.  One of his greatest passions in life was raising and taking care of his cattle.  He was always the happiest when he was with his “cows” and made it a point to pass that same passion on to his children.  Terry always said that the most important thing in life is what you do for your kids and what you pass on to them.  He lived that passion by many countless hours spent on the Webster County Ag Association as Rodeo Chairman.  He felt that keeping the 4-H program strong and continuing the rodeo were a vital tradition to be continued in Webster County.  He will always be remembered by his many family and friends for his big heart and big voice.

Terry was preceded in death by his father, Dennis Plambeck; sister, Crystal Plambeck; grandparents, Erwin Plambeck and John & Fern Shaw; father-in-law, Waldo Ruhter; and brother-in-law, Warren Ruhter.  

    Rochelle Plambeck – Bladen, NE
    Jessica Plambeck – Bladen, NE
    Erin Plambeck & fiancé Mitch Kobza – Bladen, NE
    Levi Plambeck – Bladen, NE
    Clay Plambeck – Bladen, NE
    Cody Plambeck – Bladen, NE
Mother & Step-Father:           
    Sandy (Plambeck) & Dean Hanson – Juniata, NE
    Robin Rutt – Minden, NE
Brothers & Spouse:                
    Brad & Tara Plambeck – Holstein, NE
    Chad Plambeck – Grand Island, NE
Nieces & Nephews:               
    Seth Plambeck
    Kelsey Rutt
    MaKayla Rutt
    Quin Rutt
    Marvel Ann Plambeck – Minden, NE
    Janice Ruhter – Juniata, NE
Sister-in-law & Spouse:        
    Renae & Brett Schwasinger – Gretna, NE
Nieces & Nephew:                 
    Brittany Schwasinger
    Bridger Schwasinger
    Kaylee Schwasinger
Step-Siblings & Spouses:      
    Janet & Charles Stark – Manhattan, KS
    David Hanson – Shawnee, KS
    Steve & Tina Hanson – Dallas, TX
    Barbara & William Langford – Scarsdale, NY
Numerous Other Family & Friends

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Duane A. Lienemann
UNLExtension Educator

     I have over the years tried to relay information, to anyone who will read my words or listen to me, on the continual attack on agriculture and particularly animal agriculture. I am now saddened to announce that it appears to me like our own government is on the verge of doing the very same thing I worry about. We are used to the EPA zeroing in on us, but not the USDA and Health and Human Services. Here is the crux of the matter. Every five years, USDA and HHS review the dietary guidelines for American food consumption. So Congress once again directed the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to publish dietary guidelines containing "nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public. That seems rather routine and innocent; however, they released this 571 page report this past Thursday, and I have to tell you that it caught my attention for several reasons that I will outline in this week’s edition. 
     The new report recommends, to the aforementioned secretaries, what should be included in the dietary guidelines that will be issued later this year. Unfortunately it looks to me that there is some ideology that is taking place in the manufacturing of this document and I think it needs to be pointed out, and why I think it is important to address it. The big red flag that comes up for me is that the report blatantly leaves lean red meat out of what it considers to be a healthy diet! Come on, give me a break. This should not only be very disconcerting to the entire livestock industry but also a great concern to dietitians who support consumption of lean red meat and to families who want to provide a balanced menu.
     It is hard for me to understand why the very agency tasked with promoting agriculture would encourage people not to eat meat. But then you don’t have to think back to far to remember that they also tried to instigate Meatless Mondays right at the USDA, as well as our school lunch programs. I won’t even delve into the fiasco that our school lunch program has become. I believe that these are misguided dietary guidelines, and our farmers and ranchers deserve more of an ally in the USDA, rather than an adversary. These misleading dietary guidelines will not only confuse consumers, but would also harm Nebraska’s livestock industry which is the engine that drives our state.  
     In my opinion we need to urge the HHS, USDA and our Congressmen to consider the impacts and then reconsider the recommendations in the report. As our farmers and ranchers continue to seek ways to feed a growing global population, our government should find ways to empower, not hinder, our producers. Dietary guidelines have historically been based on healthy eating and nutrition but it looks to me that they are more interested in an “environmental agenda” rather than a complete health concern. When you read through the document, you become concerned that the report’s obsession with “sustainability issues” goes well beyond both the group’s expertise, and its clearly defined mission. To me, this has an ideological slant and a not-so-veiled agenda that has permeated the political and even educational fields.
     This document repeats alarmist, unsubstantiated and deeply flawed assertions about land use that were first promulgated by a United Nations agency with scant agricultural understanding and that have been debunked since they first came out. These assertions contradicts decades of scientific consensus. The overall guidelines also ignore easier and more effective ways that we can reduce carbon footprints, if that is really their concern. Many others join my concern that this committee’s unrealistic view of sustainability and climate change perverts their views regarding meat in the American diet. Instead of supporting the health benefits of lean meat consumption, as previous advisory committees have consistently done, the committee seems to focus only on sustainability, climate concerns and a diet “higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); much lower in red and processed meat.”  This report could have been written by Vegans and/or vegetarians, animal rights groups, and certainly extreme environmentalists; all of who are coming out of the woodwork supporting it! That should tell you something!
     We in agriculture ask for science based and fairly reviewed information, but it looks to me that producers and animal scientists were not invited to be a part of this important committee, and that is troubling to me. We need a scientific and health based approach to nutrition, and that includes meat. Farmers, ranchers and consumers deserve better from the USDA.
. We all know that good protein, zinc and iron sources like lean meat should be part of a healthy diet. This group should not base their report on the buzzword of “sustainability”, ideological agendas, or concerns based on “global climate change” but instead should base their guidelines on what is good for the consumers and those who provide our meals!
     Previous attempts to provide government guidelines have given the public pervasively incorrect or harmful advice, forcing repeated retractions, causing public confusion and cynicism. Government advice on total carbohydrate and fat intake, specific advice on eggs / coffee / salt /caffeine / milk / cholesterol intake, have been proven damaging to public health and businesses or just incorrect. (Read NY Times “The Government’s Bad Diet Advice”). Given the poor track record of government and diet guidelines, I think this study and report needs a complete overhaul!! If you share my concern for this direction that is being taken, or even if you agree with it, the public is encouraged to view the independent advisory group’s report and provide written comments at . You have a period of about 45 days to express your thoughts and provide your comments. I will need to continue discussion on this topic next week as there is much more troubling “revelations” in this report.  In the meantime I suggest you read up on this latest saga and see for yourself!

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: 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Keeping the Social Security Promise

Rep. Adrian Smith
Nebraskans work hard each day to provide for their families. For generations, Americans have paid taxes into Social Security with the expectation the program will be there if they need it when they get older.
Without reform, the Social Security Trust Fund will continue toward insolvency. As our population has aged, the ratio of workers paying into Social Security has gone from 16-to-1 in 1950 to less than 3-to-1 today. Because of this change, Social Security is paying out more in benefits than it is taking in from workers. In fact, in the last six years the amount of benefit obligations Social Security would be unable to pay over the next 75 years has doubled to $10.6 trillion.
Two major accounts comprise Social Security: Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI), which pays out funds to those who have reached retirement age, and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which pays out funds to those who have been disabled and can no longer work. The SSDI fund in particular is in dire straits and without major reforms will go bankrupt in 2016. The OASI has problems of its own and is set to go insolvent sometime in the early 2030s.
If the SSDI fund runs out of money, nearly 11 million Americans will see a 20 percent reduction in benefits. This looming crisis needs long-term solutions, not another temporary bandage.
In order to address SSDI’s imminent insolvency, some in Washington want to kick the can down the road and move funds from the OASI fund to supplement the disability fund, without instituting any real reforms. Many Nebraskans facing difficulties obtaining their Social Security benefits are frustrated by the idea of taking from one fund to provide a temporary fix for another, and for good reason. Congress has shifted these funds 11 times since the 1950s, and yet we find ourselves facing the same problem in 2015.
It is time for us to address Social Security insolvency head-on. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives made a necessary change to House Rules to prohibit a transfer of funds from the retirement fund to the disability fund unless legislation is passed to improve the solvency of both funds. I fully support this effort to preserve Social Security for future generations rather than continuing to raid the retirement fund paid into by millions of Americans.
The House Ways and Means Committee is the committee of jurisdiction for Social Security reforms. My colleagues and I are holding hearings on this issue and are committed to finding lasting solutions. Recently, I was proud to again cosponsor Committee legislation to prohibit individuals from receiving both SSDI and unemployment benefits. SSDI benefits are intended for those who are physically unable to work, while unemployment benefits are intended for those who are able and are searching for employment – therefore, there should be no overlap in these two programs. Not only do we need to stop transferring money from one fund to another, but we also must find ways to combat waste, fraud and abuse.
Retirees and those nearing retirement in Nebraska should not have to worry about whether Social Security will be there when they need it most. In Congress, I will continue pursuing solutions to ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reward offered for return of rare Castilian Bible

(Hastings, Neb.) – An anonymous donor is offering a $1,000 reward for the return of a rare two-volume Jewish Bible printed for the Roxburghe Club in 1921 from a unique medieval manuscript in the possession of the Duke of Berwick and Alba.  No questions will be asked of the person returning it.
This illuminated Bible features an intricate cover design on brown Moorish leather and many color plates from the original manuscript.  Rabbi Moses Arrangel of Guadalfajara created the Castilian translation from the original Hebrew text in the late Middle Ages.
Donated to Hastings College in 2007, the Bible can be returned to Matt Fong, Hastings College Chief of Staff, at the Daugherty Conference Center (716 N. Turner Ave.) between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Monday-Friday. Questions may be directed to Fong at 402.461.7786.
Founded in 1882, Hastings College is a private, four-year liberal arts institution located in Hastings, Nebraska, that focuses on student academic and extracurricular achievement. With more than 60 majors in 32 areas of study and 13 pre-professional programs, Hastings College has been named among “America’s Best National Liberal Arts Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report, a “Best in the Midwest” by The Princeton Review and a “Best Buy in College Education” by Barron’s. Visit for more.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Della M Tate July 18, 1922 to February 13, 2015

Obituary for Della M Tate
Hastings resident Della M. Tate, 92, passed away Friday, February 13, 2015 at Mary Lanning HealthCare in Hastings.

A Private family service will be held at a later date. DeWitt Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Hastings are handling arrangements.

Memorials may be directed to the Alzheimer's Association.

Della M. Tate was born July 18, 1922 in Erlanger, Kentucky the daughter of Robert E. and Lillian (Meyer) Mayo. She graduated from Lloyd High School in Erlanger, Kentucky. Della married Floyd Tate on October 18, 1941. She lived in California, Florida and Kentucky before moving to Hastings in 1997. Della was a member of the Eastern Stars. She enjoyed golfing and caring for her children and grandchildren.

Della is survived by her daughter, Joyce Lovett of Hastings; three grandchildren, Angie Scheideler (John) of Ayr, NE, Jeffrey Lovett (Sandra) of Bladen, NE, and Courtney Lovett (Shelly Schwein) of Blue Hill, NE; nine grandchildren, Cody, Colton, Claire, Cheyann, Montana, Dakota, Bristol, Katie, and Abby; and numerous nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by his parents; husband; son-in-law, Terry Lovett; and two brothers, Pete Mayo and Bill Mayo.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Beginning Prison Reform


By Governor Pete Ricketts
February 16, 2015
Last week, Nebraska’s new Corrections Department Director made a key decision regarding our state’s prison system. Less than two weeks after taking office, Scott Frakes’ message is clear: Nebraska’s Corrections Department is headed in a new direction.
On Thursday, Frakes announced he is stopping all new admissions to the department’s Reentry Furlough Program. The program was intended to help inmates re-enter society, and also allowed some to leave prison before their sentences were up. Director Frakes made his decision over concerns about the potential early release of violent criminals.
I believe that new direction from a new leader is the first step in implementing a culture of change within our state’s Corrections System.
As many of you know, I hired Director Frakes following a national search for a Corrections Director. His 32 years within the Washington Department of Corrections combines his experience at six different prisons, where he served both in uniform and administratively.
I believe that Nebraska needs leaders who put Nebraskans first.  Decisions made in the best interest of our state’s law-abiding citizens are key priorities in my administration. In my State of the State Address last month, I pointed out the need for both long and short term goals in Corrections.  In my proposed budget, I have set aside money to help fund these needs. I’ve also proposed that the department have access to funding for essential day-to-day operations, such as security, inmate costs, medical and facility costs, and county jail agreements.   
On Thursday, Director Frakes addressed state lawmakers who serve on the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. He has already started meeting with leaders within the Corrections Department and he has also committed much of his time to studying to help unearth the department’s top necessities. Last week, Director Frakes and I both met with members of the Council of State Governments (CSG). In a recent report to our state, CSG pinpointed policy options which could improve corrections and reduce prison overcrowding.   
Working together within the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government will provide comprehensive reform in Corrections. That includes a close examination of sentencing, as well as Nebraska’s good time laws. It will also require more research on mental health. Director Frakes has extensive experience working with mental health professionals to ensure delivery of effective mental health services to offenders. 
I know you are relying on Nebraska’s government to provide both fiscal leadership and public safety in our great state, and I look forward to working with Director Frakes. I will rely on his thorough research, innovative thinking, and years of expertise to help get Nebraska’s Corrections System back on track. Frakes’ recent decision was the first and crucial step to the many years of work ahead.
Hearing from you is also an important part of helping my administration Grow Nebraska.  I look forward to input from people all across our state.  As always, you are welcome to contact my office at (402) 471-2244, or by email at

An Unworkable Law

Sen. Deb Fischer
ObamaCare continues to cause uncertainty across Nebraska and our nation. As time goes on, we see more and more evidence that this law has failed the majority of Nebraskans – the consequences are both painful and real.
Among the thousands of pages in this law was a provision that created a nonprofit insurer known as a consumer operated and oriented plan (co-op). A provision like this was intended to offer low interest loans in order to set up and maintain health care plans.
Thousands of Nebraskans enrolled in our state’s co-op for residents, which is known as CoOportunity Health. The Obama administration touted CoOportunity as a success story, citing its high enrollment rate. However, the co-op’s high enrollment ultimately led to its downfall.  More customers meant more insurance claims, and with enrollment far exceeding the original targets, the company outgrew its capital resources. Despite initial claims of CoOportunity’s success, the administration declined to provide any additional funding so the co-op could continue operating. By late last year, CoOportunity had collapsed and the Iowa Department of Health Insurance stepped in to take over.
So what does this mean for the many Nebraskans who enrolled in a health care plan through CoOportunity? Unfortunately, customers didn’t find out that the co-op was in trouble until it was too late. For example, I recently heard from a constituent who was enrolled in a plan through this co-op. Her husband suffered a heart attack just after the first of this year and they had to pay thousands of dollars toward their deductible. But, she and her husband were not notified of the CoOportunity collapse. Because of this error they were not able to get on a new insurance plan in time for these payments to count toward a new plan.
This family is only one of the many who are facing hardships in the wake of the co-op’s failure. I have heard from so many of our citizens who have been negatively affected by the failure of this program. These Nebraskans are now forced to decide whether to give up the health care that they chose, or lose the subsidies they were promised.
That is why last week, I joined Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst to send a letter to CMS, the agency charged with overseeing the operations of these co-ops. We are placing new pressure on CMS to address those impacted by the collapse of CoOportunity. I hope the Obama administration will provide a timely and suitable plan to help Nebraskans caught in this mess and announce how it intends to resolve these serious problems.
The failure of CoOportunity is yet another example of the hardships Nebraska families are facing due to ObamaCare. Nebraskans have lost the insurance they wanted, their premiums have increased, and some have even lost their doctors. I have been against this law from the very beginning and I will continue to fight for its repeal. All Americans should have access to patient-centered health care, rather than an ill-conceived program mandated by the federal government. Nebraskans suffering under ObamaCare deserve relief.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator
     It is Valentine’s Day as I send out this week’s edition. I would bet a lot of men are out trying to find that last minute card, flower, candy or whatever they hope will suffice to show their Valentine that they are thinking of them. While it seems natural for men to wait for that “adrenalin” rush or whatever invigorates them to rush to get the deed done, I think it is just normal for people to procrastinate. I know that I could be charter member of the procrastinator’s club, but they keep postponing the meeting. One thing that I hope our farmers don’t do is to procrastinate in dealing with the farm bill.
     If you rent your land from a retired farmer; or perhaps someone who lives in another state or somewhere not even close to the farm; or even more challenging, an individual who inherited a farm; you probably know the challenges that explaining ARC-CO, ARC-IND, or PLC brings. To top it off you need to explain that there are no Direct Payments this year; they have to decide which way they want to go with the election process; and before they do, they must decide if they want to update their yield and/or their base acres. Does that scenario sound familiar? What is worse it is in February, they are enjoying the southern sun and don’t want to worry about these things and February 27th is just around the corner.
    You might ask –“What has February 27 got to do with it?”  Most farmers are certainly aware that that date is the drop dead last day that a farm’s yields can be updated and/or base acres reallocate--or left alone. Do you rent your farmland? How responsive has your landlord been about meeting the Feb. 27 deadline? If you rent out your land, have you heard from your tenant about this paperwork? This is not the time to procrastinate. Make sure you dot all your i’s and cross your t’s!.
     Now let’s say that your research into the new farm bill commodity programs has convinced you that ARC-CO is the best deal for your operations-- and only PLC seems to require updating. So, do you really need to worry about nagging your landlord to update the yields and base acres on the property by Feb. 27 if you are not taking PLC?  Well, yes, say the experts. So you should make sure they decide!! Only landowners can complete the paperwork required to update yields and reallocate base acres on each FSA farm, so producers/renters want to make sure that their landlords get this done—or risk financial consequences for years to come. There is one simple reason that must be considered.  If you don’t update, you’ll be stuck with old yields! Why is that important? It is no secret that some of these yield records are decades old. 
     Every expert I talk to says you absolutely want to update yields, even if you don’t want to do PLC, because you never know what will happen with the next farm bill, so best update yields. Now the question is – “How can producers who rent their land make this happen?” After all, it's a common situation. A 2013 producer’s poll found that just 10% of producers owned all the land that they farmed. Slightly more than 40% said they rented more than 60% of their acreage. So there is a lot explaining that is going on and a lot of hoping that landlords are making these decisions. !! As for the allocation of acres, the general consensus is that farmers, or their landlords, should allocate as many acres to corn as possible to maximize the payouts under the new commodity programs. The prevailing wind out their whistles the tune “Corn is King”! That being said however, there is something to be said about keeping good grain sorghum and wheat base in dryland situations.
     The easy solution in dealing with these decisions, ironically, starts with even more paperwork. If you have a power of attorney from your landlord, you can complete the paperwork for each FSA farm and submit it on your landlord’s behalf. If you don’t have a power of attorney covering land decisions like this, you may want to ask your landlord or financial adviser about getting one. Power of attorney or not, you’ll still want to gather a few documents of your own, starting with the August 2014 FSA letter with the FSA’s office’s recorded yields and base acres for the land. Add to that your grain elevator statements and crop insurance records. Once you have that data, you can download an interactive tool from several sources like Illinois, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State/Iowa State or even a simple tool that is available from the FSA website itself. These tools are designed to will walk you through the options for updating yields and base acres. From that you will need to generate the FSA form (CCC-859) that needs to be signed and submitted to the FSA by Friday, Feb. 27. 
     Many people think that they must make all of their election decisions (PLC or ARC) when they go in to sign up for yield and base. While that would be nice getting this out of your hair, you do have more time in which to make your final decision on whether to select ARC (County or Individual), which is a revenue-based program, or opt for the price based PLC. You also have time to make your insurance decisions.  But don’t procrastinate on the election of program either as the due date for those decisions are not far behind at March 31, 2015. You do not want to end up with the government default!
     Last but certainly not least, I made note of something that brought back some very bad memories. If you didn’t catch it, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed this past Friday that a beef cow in Alberta tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease. The good news is that officials say no part of the animal’s carcass entered the human food or animal feed systems. Unlike the “Cow that Stole Christmas” on December 23, 2003, which caused the industry billions of dollars in lost exports of beef cuts and variety meats; tens of millions of dollars of new operating costs and capital expenditures for beef processors that continue to this day; not to mention costs of identification and the ongoing ramifications of COOL and trade barriers, this seems like no news this time!! Thank God!! We don’t need any more bad news in the livestock industry. It’s bad enough dealing with the Farm Bill!!

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: 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fischer, Grassley and Ernst Send Letter to CMS on CoOportunity Failures

Feb 09 2015


WASHINGTON – Sens. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Joni Ernst of Iowa today pressed the federal health care agency in charge of federally created health care co-ops for answers on helping the Nebraskans and Iowans who were impacted by CoOportunity’s collapse. CoOportunity is the co-op serving Nebraska and Iowa that ran out of money in December and collapsed in January. The senators released the following statements:
Senator Fischer:
“I have heard from many Nebraskans who have been negatively affected by the failure of CoOpportunity Health. These Nebraskans are now forced to decide whether to give up the health care that they chose or lose the subsidies they were promised. Some have already contributed hundreds, even thousands, of dollars toward their deductibles and out of pocket costs only to find their money will not count toward a new plan. I hope this administration will provide a suitable answer for how it plans to help these individuals and how they plan to address these serious problems.” 
Senator Grassley:
“These customers didn’t know CoOportunity was about to collapse. If they had, they might have been able to make other arrangements to avoid paying out of pocket costs for 2015 in CoOportunity.  Instead, the people who have already paid out thousands of dollars in their deductibles and co-payments for this year are left in the lurch.  CMS needs to explain how it will help these individuals.”
Senator Ernst:
“The failure of CoOportunity Health is very disappointing as thousands of Iowans now face uncertainty over their health care. We need answers from CMS regarding their knowledge of CoOportunity’s problems and we need a workable solution for every Iowan who has paid out of pocket costs towards their deductible. I will continue to push for solutions to achieve a sustainable health care system that provides quality, affordable benefits for Iowans – and all Americans.”
CoOportunity failed during the customer re-enrollment period for 2015 after the federal government said there would be no additional federal loan money available for the co-op.  It’s unclear whether the federal government communicated adequately with co-op and state officials about the lack of available funding.  With adequate information and notice, co-op and state officials might have been able to dissuade CoOportunity customers from re-enrolling and thereby avoid out of pocket costs for customers in 2015.  Now, these customers are faced with starting over with another plan and paying out of pocket costs for their new plan.
Click here to view the text of the senators’ letter to CMS Administrator Tavenner.

Barbara J. Goldenstein October 8, 1940 - February 7, 2015


Juniata resident, Barbara J. Goldenstein, 74, passed away Saturday, February 7, 2015 at her home.
 Services will be Wednesday, February 11, 2015; 10:30 A.M. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, west of Glenvil, with Pastor Renee Johnson officiating.  Burial will be in St. Paul’s Lutheran Churchyard Cemetery, west of Glenvil.  Memorials may be given to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, west of Glenvil. Visitation will be Tuesday, February 10, 2015; 1:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M., with family present 5:00 P.M – 7:00 P.M. at the funeral home; and one hour prior to service at the church on Wednesday. 
 Barbara was born October 8, 1940 in Rosemont, Nebraska to Henry and Ethel (Benker) Rose. She attended Rosemont Elementary and graduated from Blue Hill High School in 1957.
She married Alan Goldenstein February 2, 1959 at Calvary Lutheran Church in Rosemont, Nebraska. After living in Colorado and Lincoln, they moved to Hastings in 1960.
Barbara was a secretary for Kansas Nebraska Gas Company and a homemaker.  She enjoyed sewing, flowers, gardening and canning the produce. She was active in the church with bible study and women’s group. She volunteered for Open Table in Hastings.  She was a member of Get Up and Go Gals extension club.
Barbara enjoyed her grandchildren and following all of their activities.
 Barbara was preceded in death by her parents; infant daughter, Cindy; infant son, Craig.
 Survivors:   Husband:     Alan Goldenstein – Juniata, NE
     David (Susie) Goldenstein – Ayr, NE
     Eric (friend Karla) Goldenstein – Juniata, NE
 Grandchildren:      Kyle Goldenstein
      Luke Goldenstein
      Malena Goldenstein
      Deric Goldenstein
      Shelbi Goldenstein
 Brother:       Loren (Judy) Rose – Branson, MO
 Sister:      Virginia (friend Richard) Bottolfson – Golden, CO
  Sisters-in-law, Brother-in-law, Nieces, Nephews.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator
      Last week I read with interest the findings that really didn’t surprise me, but none-the-less made me feel pretty proud. All of the farmers in our part of the Nebraska should be as well! Drum roll please…… Nebraska's 3rd Congressional District is the top agricultural producing district in the nation!! The farmers and ranchers in Nebraska's 3rd, comprising about three-fourths of the western part of the state, sold some $17.7 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012, with sales almost equally split between crops and livestock. The district also was first in the total number of farms, with 35,850.
     That should not be a surprise to the people living in “God’s Country”. Agriculture is everywhere! Agriculture is important to the economy not only in the 3rd Congressional District, but to our state and to the nation. Today's farmers grow more food and do it with fewer resources than any other time in history. Our farmers do a wonderful job!!
     It is no secret that livestock is one of the largest contributors to that honor. The latest USDA statistics show that Nebraska is again for the second straight year, the leading state in the entire United States in cattle feeding. Records show that Nebraska had 2.55 million cattle on feed in feedlots on January 1, 2015. That was ahead of Texas' 2.51 million and Kansas' 2.18 million. Of course we also have to thank our crop producers for that honor. Nebraska has become the leader in cattle feeding because of the benefit of having corn and ethanol producers nearby to help make food for the animals. It may interest you that to help promote the industry, the state of Nebraska has put together an online directory of cattle feeders. You can find the list at: .
     Let’s take a further look at the crop production in Nebraska, the lion’s share of which of course is produced in the 3td Congressional District. According to the 2014 Crop Production Summary, the amount of principal cropland planted in Nebraska last year was 19.5 million acres, of which corn and soybeans comprised 14.7 million. Of that 19.5 million acres, 19.1 million was harvested. Last year, Nebraska corn farmers harvested 8.95 million acres for a total production of 1.6 billion bushels. Yields averaged 179 bushels per acre. Corn production was down last year compared to 2013, as farmers harvested 600,000 acres less, but a record yield helped close the production gap from 2013 by 11 million bushels.
     Nebraska was the nation’s third-largest corn producer behind Iowa and Illinois, which produced 2.37 billion bushels and 2.35 billion bushels respectively. It was also a good year for soybeans in Nebraska as farmers harvested 5.35 million acres, which produced an average yield of 54 bushels per acre for a record production of 288.9 million bushels. Nebraska was the nation’s fifth-largest soybean producer behind Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Minnesota. Hay production in Nebraska in 2014 was 6.03 million tons, which was up 1.19 million tons from 2013. State farmers harvested 2.58 million acres, which averaged 2.34 tons per acre, which was up from 1.97 tons per acre in 2013.
     Wheat production in Nebraska last year was 71 million bushels, which was up 36 million bushels from 2013. State farmers seeded 1.55 million acres in the fall of 2013 for harvest in 2014 with an average yield of 49 bushels per acre, which was up 14 bushels per acre from the previous year. During the fall of last year, the USDA reported that state farmers seeded 1.7 million acres for winter wheat, which was up 150,000 acres from the previous year. It was also a good year for hay, sorghum and wheat production in Nebraska, which were all up from the previous year, according to the USDA. Last year, state farmers planted 210,000 acres of sorghum and harvested 160,000 acres with an average yield of 82 bushels per acre, which was up 15 bushels from 2013. Total Nebraska sorghum production last year was 13.12 million bushels, which was an increase of 3.3 million bushels. That however is only the half of it. There is more…..all affecting the prices and more.
     The USDA also reported that Nebraska corn stocks in all positions at the end of 2014 totaled 1.29 billion bushels, up 3 percent from 2013. Of the total, 780 million bushels are stored on farms, up 3 percent from a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at a record high 510 million bushels, are up 4 percent from last year. Soybeans stored in all positions in Nebraska totaled 209 million bushels, up 27 percent from last year. On-farm stocks of 65 million bushels are up 67 percent from a year ago, and off-farm stocks, at 144 million bushels, are up 15 percent from 2013. 
     Nebraska wheat stored in all positions totaled 44.6 million bushels, up 23 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks of 3.6 million bushels are up 24 percent from 2013, and off-farm stocks of 41 million bushels are up 23 percent from last year. Sorghum stored in all positions totaled 9.45 million bushels, up 36 percent from 2013. On-farm stocks of 2.2 million are up 91 percent and off-farm holdings of 7.25 million are up 25 percent from last year. Hay stocks on Nebraska farms totaled 4.6 million tons on Dec. 1, up 21 percent from a year earlier. Grain storage capacity in Nebraska totaled 2.08 billion bushels, up 41.8 million bushels from Dec. 1, 2013. Total grain storage capacity comprised 1.18 billion bushels of on-farm storage, up 30 million bushels from last year, and 897 million bushels of off-farm storage, up 11.8 million bushels from 2013. 
     Is it no wonder that there is pressure on our crop prices and why selecting options for the Farm Bill is so hard? How can you possibly read the future for crops or prices for the next five years? In my opinion it is almost sadistic to put that kind of decision on the very people who are working so hard to supply what we need to feed the world. Agriculture is critical to we here in the Heartland, but even more so for the global community. I think all of this has taken the fun out of farming! 

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: 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Denise D. Kral May 16,1934 ro February 2, 2015

BLUE HILL — Denise D. “Dee Dee” Kral, 80, of Blue Hill died Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, at her home.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Anne Catholic Church in Campbell with the Very Rev. James Schrader and the Revs. William L’Heureux and Valerian Bartek officiating. Inurnment will be at St. Anne Catholic Cemetery in Campbell.
Rosary will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Merten-Butler Mortuary Chapel in Blue Hill. There will be no visitation.
She was born May 16, 1934, in Campbell to Milford “Bud” and Opal (Roy) Doyle.
On Aug. 25, 1956, she married Paul Kral.
Survivors include her husband; daughter, Michelle Altice of Colorado; sons, Tim, Terry and Tom, all of Colorado, Tony of Juniata and Todd of Campbell; and eight grandchildren.



Food Politics 2025: Beyound the Farm Bill Topic of Lecture at Hastings College

(Hastings, Neb.) – Acclaimed author and consumer activist Marion Nestle will present an address entitled “Food Politics 2015: Beyond the Farm Bill” on Thursday, February 19, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. in French Memorial Chapel (800 N. Turner Ave.) The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Artist Lecture Series (ALS) National Speakers Committee and made possible with funding from the College’s ALS Main Committee.
More than 10 years after its publication, Nestle’s award-winning Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health remains a respected analysis of the food industry as a business --  from production to consumption.
Photo by Lou MannaNestle’s lecture is part of a year-long exploration of food by Hastings College students, faculty and staff through academic assignments, a student-organized symposium and various guest lectures.
Biography for Marion Nestle (from
Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health (the department she chaired from 1988-2003) and Professor of Sociology at New York University. Her degrees include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, both from the University of California, Berkeley
Her first faculty position was in the Department of Biology at Brandeis University. From 1976-86 she was Associate Dean of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, where she taught nutrition to medical students, residents, and practicing physicians, and directed a nutrition education center sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
From 1986-88, she was senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and managing editor of the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health. She has been a member of the FDA Food Advisory Committee and Science Board, the USDA/DHHS Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and American Cancer Society committees that issue dietary guidelines for cancer prevention. Her research focuses on how science and society influence dietary advice and practice.
She is the author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (2002, paperback 2003) and Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003, paperback 2004), both from University of California Press. In 2003, Food Politics won awards from the Association for American Publishers (outstanding title in allied health), James Beard Foundation (literary), and World Hunger Year (Harry Chapin media). Safe Food won the Steinhardt School of Education’s Griffiths Research Award in 2004.
Her book, What to Eat, published by North Point Press/ Farrar, Straus & Giroux (2006, paperback 2007), was named as one of Amazon.Com’s top ten books of 2006 (Health, Mind, and Body), and a “Must Read” by Eating Well magazine; it won the Better Life Award (Wellness) from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the James Beard Foundation book award for best food reference in 2007. Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine was published by University of California Press in 2008 and in paperback in 2010. Feed Your Pet Right, co-authored with Malden Nesheim also came out in 2010 (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, May 2010). Her most recent book, published in 2012, is also with Malden Nesheim: Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics, also with University of California Press.
She writes a monthly Food Matters column for the San Francisco Chronicle, and blogs daily (almost) at and for The Atlantic. She also Tweets @marionnestle.
Founded in 1882, Hastings College is a private, four-year liberal arts institution located in Hastings, Nebraska, that focuses on student academic and extracurricular achievement. With more than 60 majors in 32 areas of study and 13 pre-professional programs, Hastings College has been named among “America’s Best National Liberal Arts Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report, a “Best in the Midwest” by The Princeton Review and a “Best Buy in College Education” by Barron’s. Visit for more.

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer intorduces Sportsmen's Act

Sportsmen's Act

Bipartisan Bill Would Enhance Opportunities for Hunters, Anglers, and Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) joined Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) to introduce the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2015.
Access to public lands is the number one issue for America's sportsmen and sportswomen. The Sportsmen's Act includes a broad array of bipartisan measures to enhance opportunities for hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts. The bill would also reauthorize key conservation programs, improve access to public lands, and help boost the outdoor recreation economy. Statements from the original cosponsors of the legislation are provided below. A full list of the measures in the package is available here.
Senator Fischer released the following statement:
“I am grateful for the opportunity to work with my colleagues on legislation to promote our country's hunting, fishing, and conservation heritage. I am especially encouraged by the fact that this bill includes provisions I've championed to increase transparency regarding the Judgment Fund. This bill will help our efforts to track taxpayer-funded litigation that impacts public-lands policies.”
Senator Murkowski released the following statement:
“Being from Alaska, I’m lucky. Our hunting and fishing is top-notch. We learn to love the ‘great outdoors’ very early on in the Last Frontier. We know how to enjoy it today, and we’re committed to making sure that future generations have the same great opportunities. The bipartisan legislation we introduced today will help ensure that our grandchildren have the same opportunities to hunt and fish as we did growing up.”
Senator Heinrich released the following statement:
“The number one issue for sportsmen and women across the country is access. This widely supported, bipartisan bill will open more areas to hunting and fishing and grow America's thriving outdoor recreation economy. Hunters and anglers alone spend more than $465 million per year in New Mexico, and outdoor recreation as a whole is directly responsible for 68,000 jobs in our state. As an avid hunter myself, I remain deeply committed to preserving our outdoor heritage and treasured public lands for future generations to enjoy.”
The leaders of the Senate Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus are original cosponsors of the bill, including Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).
Senator Risch released the following statement:
“Whether sportsmen and sportswomen go hunting or fishing to put food on the table, or for sport, or to pass down a tradition to their family, or for game management purposes, there is something in the Sportsmen's Act of 2015 for all of them. With more than a half-of-a-million sportsmen and sportswomen in the state of Idaho, this legislation will ensure they can continue to access their favorite hunting or fishing spot. Hunting and fishing give us a great reason to be in the great outdoors, a great reason to hand down traditions, and a great reason to support this legislation.”
Senator Manchin released the following statement:
“As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and as an avid sportsman, it makes me so proud that we can come together as Democrats and Republicans to preserve America's beloved outdoor traditions. I've worked hard on these priorities ever since being the inaugural Co-Chairman of the Governors Sportsmen's Caucus, and I am continuing that work here in the Senate. Outdoor recreation is vital to sustaining our economy, preserving our family traditions, and maintaining our way of life. This comprehensive package will boost opportunities for hunters, fishers, outdoor enthusiasts, and conservationists alike; improve access to Federal Lands; and strengthen the overall outdoor recreation industry. I truly believe that the American people should be able to enjoy the great outdoors, and this bill expands people's ability to do just that.”
Senator Heitkamp released the following statement:
“Enjoying the outdoors has always been a part of life in North Dakota, where a little ice doesn’t stop our anglers from making a big catch and opening day is circled on calendars like birthdays and anniversaries. It’s our responsibility to make sure these resources remain for future generations, and this bipartisan set of bills would play an important role in expanding opportunities for hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities on public lands throughout our state. As Vice-Chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, I will continue to work to make sure our prairies and lakes stay open and preserved for years to come as our sportsmen and women deserve the chance to experience the outdoors and do what they love.”
Click here to view the text of the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2015.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Following Reports of $21.8 Billion Shortfall in Obama's Student Loan Program, Fischer Introduces Bill to Require Honest Accounting of Federal Credit programs.

WASHINGTON –This afternoon, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) introduced S. 399 - The Budget and Accounting Transparency Act. The bill would promote increased oversight of government spending and bring honest accounting to federal programs. Senator Fischer released the following statement after introducing the bill:
“Our country cannot continue spending money we do not have. My bill would require the government to conduct fair and honest accounting of federal credit programs. It will also ensure that the risks to taxpayers are properly and accurately evaluated in order to prevent shortfalls. As recently as this morning, the need for this legislation became abundantly clear.
“The White House has revealed that there is a $21.8 billion shortfall stemming from their student loan program. This loss places further strains on our obligations and leaves the American taxpayer to cover the costs. My legislation will prevent wasteful mistakes like these from happening and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that it moves quickly through our chamber.”
 Fischer’s bill, S. 399 - The Budget Accountability and Transparency Act would:  
  • Require fair-value accounting for federal credit programs.
  • Require the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Budget Management to conduct a study on extending the fair-value methodology to federal insurance programs.
  • Require federal agencies to make public any budgetary justification materials prepared in support of their request for use of taxpayer dollars.
This morning, Politico reported that the Obama administration posted a $21.8 billion shortfall for its student loan program - the largest ever recorded for any government program:
In obscure data tables buried deep in its 2016 budget proposal, the Obama administration revealed this week that its student loan program had a $21.8 billion shortfall last year, apparently the largest ever recorded for any government credit program.
The main cause of the shortfall was President Barack Obama’s recent efforts to provide relief for borrowers drowning in student debt, reforms that have already begun to reduce loan payments to the government. For more than two decades, budget analysts have recalculated the projected costs of about 120 credit programs every year, but they have never lowered their expectations of repayments this dramatically. The $21.8 billion revision—larger than the annual budget for NASA, or the Interior Department and EPA combined—will be tacked onto the federal deficit.

Sasse and Johnson Ask If President’s Executive Action Includes Amnesty Bonuses

Today, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Treasury Inspector General Russell George, the federal government’s IRS watchdog, seeking answers regarding previously undisclosed consequences of the Administration’s new policy of deferred action. The Senators issued the following statements:
“By offering illegal aliens new payments under the Earned Income Tax Credit, the IRS may encourage fraud from those claiming children living in other countries. The Administration may have blown open the doors for fraud with amnesty bonuses of more than $24,000 to those who receive deferred action,” said Sasse. “This is basic economics: if you want more of something, you subsidize it. By subsidizing illegal entry with four years’ worth of new tax credits, the IRS would promote lawlessness. This program severely undermines the White House’s lip-service to enforcing the law and would increase the burden on law-abiding taxpayers.”
Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) made these remarks, “Non-U.S. citizens who qualify for President Obama’s temporary deferred actions will now be eligible to receive permanent Social Security numbers. A Social Security number is the key that opens a whole treasure chest of benefits, including significant tax credits. Most notably, qualifying applicants for the president’s programs can now claim thousands – even tens of thousands – of dollars in payments from the Earned Income Tax Credit and, for some, the Additional Child Tax Credit. These two programs, which cost taxpayers $89.6 billion in 2013, were responsible for $21 billion in improper, potentially fraudulent payments that same year.  Americans deserve to know where their taxpayer dollars are being spent and whether the Internal Revenue Service is failing to protect them from improper payments.”
A copy of the Senators’ letter is found below:

Dear Inspector General George:
This week, witnesses at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee discussed the implications of the President’s executive amnesty. We would appreciate your views on the testimony of Eileen O’Connor, formerly with the Department of Justice Tax Division, who discussed the tax consequences of the President’s new policies.
We would like to summarize her comments briefly and would appreciate your assessment of whether what we heard was accurate.
According to Ms. O’Connor, the President’s executive actions will not only allow illegal aliens to stay in the country for three years, but would also award them with free federal money.
Right now, the law requires anyone who lives and works in the country illegally to be returned to their home country. The law also prohibits these individuals from getting many federal benefits available to U.S. citizens and legal residents.
As Ms. O’Connor explained, however, the President effectively re-wrote the law in a way that significantly changed the status of some of those here illegally. From this point forward, any illegal alien who is approved under the new rules to stay in the U.S. – a process known as “deferred action” – will now be allowed to receive a Social Security Number.
The significance of this change, Ms. O’Connor noted, is that having a Social Security Number will allow individuals to get federal benefits that were previously unavailable. In particular, it could allow millions of people to receive a tax benefit known as the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. Under the law, families with low to moderate incomes can get an EITC cash payment as high as $6,143, but only if they have a Social Security Number.
For some people, the total amount could go even higher. This is because under EITC rules, anyone eligible for the program can also ask for payments to cover the three prior years as well. This means that an illegal alien with a new Social Security Number can get a payment of more than $24,000 for years they were working illegally. On top of this, Ms. O’Connor noted, families could also get thousands more in payments through the Additional Child Tax Credit program. This means a family with three or more children might collect even more than $24,000.
Ms. O’Connor concluded by pointing to the work of your office, which has found enormous fraud rates in both the EITC program and in the Additional Child Tax Credit program. Therefore, we are concerned that because the President’s new rules would let millions of people access these programs for the first time, the cost to the taxpayer could be billions of dollars.
When the President announced his new polices in November, these facts were not included. Moreover, none of the documents released by the administration provided any explanation for this, either.
In light of her testimony, we would greatly appreciate if you could provide answers to the following questions:
  1. Is the above summary of Ms. O’Connor’s testimony an accurate description of the effects of the President’s executive actions?
  2. Given the high rates of fraud in both tax credit programs, is there an incentive for tax filers to fraudulently claim more children than they have?
  3. To be eligible for the Additional Child Tax Credit, is a tax filer required to provide a Social Security Number for each claimed child?
  4. Is it possible for individuals to claim tax benefits under either program for children that do not live in the United States? If so, can you estimate the amount of fraudulent claims?
  5. If someone with children who has worked in the United States receives deferred action and gets a new Social Security Number, but has never filed their taxes, what is the highest amount that person might receive under both tax credit programs?
  6. What additional tax benefits might someone be eligible for with a Social Security Number that they would not have been eligible for with merely an Individual Tax Identification Number?
  7. What do you estimate will be the full cost of providing EITC benefits to illegal aliens under the President’s executive actions?
  8. How many people do you estimate will be eligible for EITC benefits under the President’s executive actions who were not previously eligible?
  9. Is the Internal Revenue Service equipped to detect and prevent fraud as it processes millions of new claims for EITC benefits?
We appreciate your assistance in better understanding this issue and believe both Congress and the American people will benefit from a full accounting of the facts.
Ben Sasse                                                                 Ron Johnson
U.S. Senator                                                              Chairman


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Smith Receives National Rural Health Association’s Congressional Champion Award

Smith Receives National Rural Health Association’s Congressional Champion Award
Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) accepted the National Rural Health Association’s Congressional Champion award today at the annual Rural Health Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. This award recognizes Congressman Smith’s leadership in introducing and advocating for legislation to address rural health challenges.
“As the representative for one of the largest and most rural districts in the country, I am focused on addressing issues impacting access to health care for Nebraskans,” said Congressman Smith. “Members of the National Rural Health Association know these challenges firsthand and are strong partners in ensuring our rural communities maintain access to quality, affordable care.”
Last month, Congressman Smith reintroduced two bills to help ensure access to quality health care for rural Americans. H.R. 169, the Critical Access Hospital Relief Act, would remove the 96-hour precertification requirement for patients at Critical Access Hospitals. H.R. 170, the Rural Health Care Provider Relief Act, would delay physician supervision requirements at critical access hospitals for at least a year and until the impact of the rules is studied.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Fischer Votes for Veterans Suicide Prevention Bill, Meets with Staff at Omaha VA

WASHINGTON – This afternoon, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) voted for the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (also known as the Clay Hunt SAV Act). The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 403-0, would set up important procedures to protect our veterans and give them the proper care to prevent suicide. It is expected to be the first bill of the 114th Congress to be signed into law. Senator Fischer released the following statement this afternoon:
“It is an absolute tragedy that so many of our soldiers are losing their lives to suicide – a number that eclipses those lost on the battlefield. Our nation owes these brave men and women the finest care and support for their courage in defense of our nation and this bill is another step forward in keeping that promise.
“The challenges of adjusting back to civilian life take a devastating toll on not only our troops, but their families and loved ones. I’m proud to support this initiative and will continue to work on bold solutions that will provide the best care for our nation’s heroes.”
Late last year, the Clay Hunt SAV Act was agreed to by a voice vote in the House, but no vote was scheduled in the Senate. Today, the bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly and is expected to be signed into law by the president. The Clay Hunt SAV Act would require an annual independent evaluation of the VA’s mental health care and suicide prevention be submitted to Congress annually, starting in 2018. It would set up a loan-repayment pilot program for psychiatrists to enhance recruitment. Additionally, the bill would create a pilot program with community-oriented peer support programs for veterans transitioning to civilian life.
Senator Fischer also released the following photo and caption after visiting the Nebraska VA Medical Facility in Omaha on Friday afternoon. While there, she visited with managers and staff about current facility conditions and projected improvements