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MAY 2014

High school ag programs flourish as farms dwindle Roughly half of agriculture jobs are filled by college grads with actual ag-related degrees ST. LOUIS (AP) — High school agriculture programs sprouting across the nation’s Corn Belt are teaching teenagers, many of them in urban environments, that careers in the field often have nothing to do with cows and plows. The curriculums, taking hold as school budgets tighten and the numbers of farms in the U.S. decline, are rich in science and touted as stepping stones for college-bound students considering careers in everything from urban forestry to renewable natural resources and genetic engineering of crops, perhaps for agribusiness giants such as Monsanto, Dow, DuPont

and Pioneer. Ag-minded students are in luck: Tens of thousands of jobs open up each year in the broader agriculture field, and roughly half are filled by college grads with actual ag-related degrees, observers say. “There’s a shortage of workers in a number of careers, and the numbers of those jobs are staggering,” said Harley Hepner, the Illinois State Board of Education’s chief consultant for ag education. “Schools that understand we can get students in the ag program know they’re going to be taxpaying citizens with good-paying jobs.”

Along with school programs, membership in Future Farmers of America is up to about 580,000 — nearly double its ranks of the mid-1980s. That spike dispels the notion the national organization is merely a haven for farm kids, given that the number of U.S. farms are on a long-term downward trend, shrinking another 4 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to the latest federal figures available. Untold numbers of FFA members have scant to do with farms, as Rebecca Goodman illustrates. In Indiana, where

The Associated Press

Rebecca Goodman makes a flower out of clay during a plant and soil science class at Beech Grove High School April 30 in Indianapolis. High school agriculture programs sprouting across the nation’s Corn Belt are teaching teenagers, many of them in urban Please see SCHOOL, Page 3 environments, that careers in the field often have nothing to do with cows and plows.

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corn is king, the 18-year-old junior is her school’s active FFA president but could never be confused for a country girl. Goodman, who’s lived in Indianapolis since she was 3, had never been on a farm, and her experience with animals is limited to cats and dogs. “The only thing I planted was a small garden, and the only thing that grew out of it was weeds,” she admits. Yet Goodman aspires to be a conservation officer, crediting tiny Beech Grove schools’ fledgling agricultural sciences program with steering her that way. Beech Grove’s Applied Life Sciences Academy, unveiled in November 2012, is billed as a place of hands-on, frequently technical exploration of live plants and animals. Educators say it makes

a connection, helping students who otherwise may grapple with comprehending concepts and theories in a traditional math or science class. “We live on the motto that 99 percent of the population doesn’t have anything to do with [farm] production,” said Chris Kaufman, a former state education department ag specialist who helped set up Beech Grove’s program. Classes include animal science, plant and soil science, separate offerings of advanced animal and plant science, natural resources and an introductory course. Some of the courses earn the students high school science credits. Such offerings increasingly have cropped up in many states in recent years in the nation’s breadbasket. Seven Kansas high schools and four in Nebraska joined the fold in the past school year. Over the past three

For advertising in the monthly Farm & Ranch Exchange, contact Tracy Sanburn at the Telegraph — 532-6000

years, Missouri has added seven to bring its statewide total to 331 — up 82 from two decades ago — and Illinois added 10. Beech Grove’s program, among 13 the state has added since 2010, has two middle school and two high school teachers for nearly 500 students, a number that helps the program pay for itself thanks to a state fund that gives districts a per-student stipend depending on the class. Those payouts range from $375 to $450 per student, accounting for what Kaufman says has funneled $180,000 into Beech Grove’s coffers. “Beech Grove needed more electives and teachers, and this was a perfect fit that didn’t cost much,” he said. “This is about understanding the environment and the world around you as it relates to animals, plants and food, then going out with those skills to get a good ca-

reer.” It has appeared to connect with Goodman, who remembers “kind of having a hard time with what I wanted to do with my life and was going by the book — be a nurse or something. It kind of made me boxed in, made me feel depressed.” “Before this [program] came, I was in a dark place,” she said. “It’s helped me find my way back.” Classmate Alicia Perez, 17, once dismissed learning about agriculture, convinced “this is gonna be for people who wanna be farmers.” Not so, she now submits. “It’s an amazing program, really life-changing,” the 17-year-old junior said of learning about plants and food, which feed her dreams of becoming a chef. “My heart is in culinary arts, and there are so many different careers you can pursue in agriculture. “This is definitely something you have to go into to realize it’s so much broader.”




Telegraph staff reports

4-H district horse shows start in June LINCOLN — Nebraska horse riders will compete June 9-14 in University of NebraskaLincoln Extension 4-H District Horse Shows. Riders awarded blue and purple ribbons at district shows qualify and automatically will be entered into state classes at the 2014 4-H Horse Exposition in Grand Island July 13-17. It is the exhibitor’s responsibility to enter the Ak-Sar-Ben 4-H Horse Show in September. This year’s dates, locations and local contact persons are:

n June 9, Sidney, Cynthia Gill, 308-2544455 n June 10, North Platte, Brenda Aufdenkamp, 308-5322683 n June 11, Leigh, Greg Schneekloth, 402-6150523 n June 12, Neligh, Dakota Kester, 402-8875414 n June 13, Clay Center, Jennifer Rees, 402-7623644 n June 14, Beatrice, Larry Howard, 402-3726006 For more information about the district and state horse shows, visit the 4-H District Horse Shows website at anscdistrict4hhorseshowsinformation.

Grant helps UNL scientist harness breakthrough that improves crops under stress Low-resource African farmers will benefit from potentially higher yields IANR News LINCOLN — Manipulating how plants express their genes holds the promise of higher crop yields and better performance under drought or other environmental stress. University of Nebraska-Lincoln plant scientist Sally Mackenzie is harnessing her breakthrough to improve crops important to developing countries. Mackenzie discovered that using a transformation technique to turn off a specific gene found in most plants stunts the plant’s growth. However, crossing this reprogrammed plant with an unmodified plant produces progeny with greatly enhanced growth, even under stressful conditions. In a variety of crops, these enhancements translate into up to 35 percent higher yields, said Mackenzie, the Ralph and Alice Raikes Chair of Plant Sciences and a member of UNL’s Center for Plant Science Innovation. Importantly, those enhanced characteristics remain stable in subsequent generations without altering their genetic makeup, she said. That’s because the process of switching off the gene in the parent or grandparent plant changed how the progenies’ own genes are expressed, or their epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how genes are expressed through mechanisms other than changing their genetic sequences. “All crops know this language,” Mackenzie said. However, this epigenetic technique requires the resources to create an original transgenic plant, resources many countries lack. In addition, some crop plants, such as dry beans, aren’t amenable to transgenic transformation. Now, with support from a nearly $3 million, three-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mackenzie is exploring epigenetics’ potential for improving crops for low-resource African farmers. “With the Gates Foundation grant, we’re directing our emphasis more to

Courtesy photo

University of Nebraska-Lincoln plant scientist Sally Mackenzie is harnessing her breakthrough to improve crops important to developing countries.

practical implementation,” she said. “So we’re also looking at what other technologies we can use to facilitate the transfer of this capability to a less-developed agricultural environment.” In one technique, Mackenzie’s team is using a weakened virus to introduce the foreign gene used to switch off the necessary plant gene. If it works, subsequent generations would contain neither the foreign gene nor the virus, but the plant gene would remain off, thus enabling enhanced growth. In another technique, they’re using millet lines epigenetically enhanced in the lab and breeding them to millet grown in Africa to create African varieties with enhanced characteristics. A third technique uses an epigenetically modified cassava line as a rootstock to graft to an unmodified line. If it works, the enhanced characteristics would be transmitted through the grafted cassavas’ seeds. “What we’re doing is really quite novel,” Mackenzie said. “And it’s in keeping with the spirit of the Gates Foundation: finding simple ways to expedite technology and getting it to developing countries.” Because these epigenetic techniques leave plant genomes unmodified, they eliminate concerns

Please see GRANT, Page 6

Cattle temperament linked to feedlot performance Study explores impact on animal health, carcass merit IANR News LINCOLN — The temperament of cattle may have a significant impact on how they perform in the feedlot, according to research by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kansas State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cattle classified as temperamental appear to be less susceptible to lung damage and related respiratory diseases and have decreased yield grades, but at the same time may produce lighter weight carcasses with decreased quality grade, according to the study by Ty Schmidt, Joe Buntyn, Chris Calkins and Kathy Domenech, all of UNL; Jeff Carroll and Jeff Daily, of USDAAgricultural Research

Service; and Justin Waggoner, of Kansas State University. The research team used 2,800 cattle at a commercial feedlot to determine cattle temperament solely by exit velocity upon arrival to identify the impact temperament had on feedlot performance. Infrared sensors were attached to the processing chute and alleyway and used to time how fast cattle exited the processing chute. Once exit velocity was determined, within each pen the fastest 20 percent were classified as temperamental and the remainder deemed non-temperamental, said Schmidt, UNL animal scientist. Exit velocity was used as a measurement of temperament because it is the only objective

and practical measurement of temperament that can be applied in a commercial setting. Scientists sought to evaluate the impact of temperament on animal health and carcass merit with an eye toward using the data as a sorting tool within feedlots. After scientists determined exit velocity, the cattle were maintained in their original pens and finished, not sorted based upon temperament . At the end of the finishing period, the research team followed the cattle to the packer and evaluated lung damage, liver abscesses and collected all the variables for carcass data. One of the major findings of the trial was the difference in lung damage associated with respiratory disease. The results suggest that the non-temperamental cattle had more observable damage to the lung, in-

dicative of the animal being impacted by respiratory challenge, when compared to cattle classified as temperamental. “The temperamental cattle may have more resilient immune systems,” Carroll said. “Research has suggested that temperamental cattle have an altered immune response and display limited clinical symptoms of illness and this altered immune response may be a more resilient immune response compared to non-temperamental based upon these findings.” Schmidt and colleagues also found that cattle classified as temperamental had lighter carcass weight at harvest and decreased quality grades. More than 53 percent of the non-temperamental cattle received a quality grade of choice, compared to 49 Please see CATTLE, Page 6

File photo

Cattle classified as temperamental appear to be less susceptible to lung damage and related respiratory diseases, according to study by University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kansas State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture

CATTLE from Page 5

percent of the temperamental animals. Schmidt said the findings from this trial “suggest that utilization of temperament may be a viable management tool for feedlots. It might provide for an unique management strategy that might increase returns on these temperamental animals.” With the difference in lung damage in the temperamental cattle at the time of harvest, and previous research indicating limited clinical signs of illness in temperamental cattle, segregation may allow for some modifica-

tions to the processing procedures and management of these cattle to take advantage of these alterations, Schmidt said. Alterations may also be introduced in terms of nutritional management, or even modification of days to feed to overcome the decreased body weight of the temperamental cattle. However, before this type of segregation can be used in commercial feedlot, there is still a need to further evaluate this methodology, Schmidt added. The next step for the research team is to determine temperament upon arrival and then sort the cattle based upon temperament.

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Corn planting ahead of last year Despite cooler temps and a rash of severe weather, farmers are at 77 percent By ROBERT PORE World-Herald News Service

GRAND ISLAND — Despite a rash of thunderstorms and severe weather, corn planting continues to be well ahead of last year throughout Nebraska, as drier conditions prevail compared to last spring. Following storms on May 11, cooler weather has settled in for the week, with temperatures averaging about 10 degrees below seasonal norms, according to the National Weather Service in Hastings. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that, as of the week ending May 12, corn planted was at 77 percent, well ahead of the 39 percent last year but near the 71 percent average. Corn emerged was 18 percent, ahead of the 2 percent last year but behind the 21 per-

The Associated Press

In this May 3 photo, central Illinois corn and soybean farmer Michael Mahoney plants seed corn in Ashland, Ill. A U.S. government report says the nation’s corn growers should have banner production this year despite lesser acreage devoted to the grain. But corn prices later in the year may suffer a bit. cent average. Soybeans planted were 36 percent, well ahead of the 6 percent last year and the 30 percent average. Sorghum planted was at 10 percent, ahead of the 3 percent last year but near the 11 percent average. The USDA report-

ed topsoil moisture supplies rated 13 percent very short, 25 percent short, 58 percent adequate and 4 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 17 percent very short, 35 percent short, 48 percent adequate with no surplus. Pasture and range conditions rated 11 percent very poor, 14 percent poor, 42 percent fair, 32 percent good and 1 percent excellent.

GRANT from Page 4

over releasing transgenic plants. Mackenzie expects that by 2016 they will know if the techniques work. If so, they hope to be able to provide crop material for distribution through collaborating institutions, such as the International Center for

Stock water supplies rated 5 percent very short, 9 percent short, 85 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus, according to the USDA. Winter wheat conditions, according to the USDA, rated 4 percent very poor, 17 percent poor, 32 percent fair, 43 percent good and 4 percent excellent. Winter wheat jointed was 56 percent, ahead of the 30 percent last year but

Please see CORN, Page 8

Tropical Agriculture. Mackenzie and her UNL team also are collaborating with researchers at UCLA to study the changes that take place within the genome to cause the enhanced characteristics. Better understanding the underlying biological changes will help researchers improve crop breeding in the future.

CORN from Page 6

behind the five-year average of 61 percent. Last week, the USDA reported that, based on May 1 conditions, Nebraska’s 2014 winter wheat crop is forecast at 55.4 million bushels, up 40 percent from last year’s crop, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Average yield is forecast at 39 bushels per acre, up 4 bushels from a year earlier. Acreage to be harvested for grain is estimated at 1.42 million acres, up 26 percent from a year ago. That would be 95 percent of the planted acres, well above last year’s 77 percent harvested. Nationwide, winter wheat production is forecast at 1.4 bil-

lion bushels, down 9 percent from 2013. As of May 1, the United States yield is forecast at 43.1 bushels per acre, down 4.3 bushels from last year. Statewide, oats condition rated 1 percent very poor, 17 percent poor, 41 percent fair, 40 percent good and 1 percent excellent. Oats planted were 96 percent, ahead of the 93 percent last year but near the 97 percent average. Oats emerged were 83 percent, well ahead of the 56 percent last year but near the 79 percent average. Along with additional moisture, warmer temperatures are needed to help promote growth. On May 13, temperatures were in the 30s, with Ord having a low temperature of 32 degrees. For Grand Island, the 30-year temperature average for mid-May has highs in the low

70s and lows near 50 degrees. May 15, there was a 20 percent chance of showers, with a high near 62 degrees. The wind came out of the north at 5 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. The low was 39 degrees. May 16 will be mostly sunny, with a high near 61 degrees. There is a 20 percent chance of showers tonight, with a low of about 43 degrees. On May 17, there will be a 30 percent chance of showers, with a high near 64 degrees. There will be a 20 percent chance of showers with a low of about 47 degrees. There’s a 20 percent chance of showers on May 18 with a high near 69 degrees and a low of about 54. May 19 will also see a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, with a high near 73 degrees.

Annual BIF meeting set in Lincoln in June IANR News LINCOLN — It’s no coincidence that the 2014 Beef Improvement Federation’s annual meeting and research symposium is in Nebraska, said Matt Spangler, associate professsor in University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s animal science department. The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, and USMARC scientists have contributed to the annual BIF meeting since its beginning, he said. The 2014 BIF meeting will allow the research community and industry to meet and discuss issues surrounding the genetic improvement of beef cattle and for at-

tendees to learn about technologies and management practices that can aid in the profitability of their operations. Co-hosted by UNL, USMARC and the Nebraska Cattlemen, the event will start at noon June 18 with registration. A welcome reception will kick off the event at 5 p.m., followed by a USMARC Symposium: 50 Years of Service to the Beef Industry. On June 19, the meeting will start at 8 a.m. with a general session and welcome. Presentations and technical breakout sessions will follow through June 20. A post-conference tour will take place on June 21. Cost to attend the

2014 Beef Improvement Federation’s annual meeting and research symposium June 18-21 at the Cornhusker Marriot in Lincoln is $300. Dayonly, student and media discount rates also are available. For a full and up-to-date conference schedule, lodging information or to register, visit The Beef Improvement Federation was formed more than 45 years ago to standardize beef cattle performance programs and evaluation methodology and to create great awareness, acceptance and usage of these concepts for the genetic improvement of beef cattle. It represents more than 40 state and national beef cattle associations.

Vermont law requires labeling of GMO foods Court battle looms as many opponents in the food industry criticize the legislation MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — As hundreds cheered, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a law May 8 that puts Vermont on the path to be the first state to require labeling of genetically modified foods and promptly announced an online fundraiser to battle expected legal challenges from the food industry. The Vermont law takes effect in mid2016, but opponents said shortly after the bill signing that they would file a lawsuit. The Grocery Manufacturers’ Association said government has no compelling interest in warning consumers about GMO foods. Another obstacle to the state law looms in Congress as Republicans work on a bill that would forbid

states from passing and enforcing laws requiring GMO labeling. Critics of GMO foods consider them environmentally suspect and a possible health threat. But many in the food industry say the food is safe, the technology boosts food production, and its use is less environmentally harmful than traditional farming methods. In signing the legislation, Shumlin asked for support Internet-wide, announcing the launch of a new website to help the state raise funds toward a court battle with agribusiness or biotech industries. “We are asking people all across America, and all across the great state of Vermont, to go to (the website) and make a donation, so that we can win the Vermont Food

Fight Fund fight not only for Vermont, but for America,� Shumlin said. The law calls for the labeling of processed GMO foods and for retailers to post signs on displays of unpackaged genetically engineered foods. Restaurants are exempt from the requirements. It also sets a civil penalty of $1,000 per day per product for “false certification.� The entire product, not each individual item or package, would be subject to the penalty. The Biotechnology Industry Organization was quick to criticize the new law. In a statement, the group said scientists and regulators worldwide recognize that foods made from genetically modified crops are safe. “And these same

The Associated Press

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin speaks before signing a bill requiring the labeling of food with GMO ingredients during a ceremony at the Statehouse in Montpelier on May 8. GM crops have enabled farmers to produce more on less land with fewer pesticide applications, less water and reduced on-farm fuel

use,� BIO Vice President Cathleen Enright said. In Congress, a House bill proposes voluntary labels on GMO foods. The bill would require

the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to create the guidelines for the labels.

Please see GMO, Page 10





UNL vet school uses greyhounds as teaching tool

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Students learn how to give dogs physical examinations

About 300 people gathered at the Statehouse to celebrate the new law with live music and Vermontmade Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. “I’m so proud of the state I live in,” said 11-year-old Brigid Ambrust, of West Hartford, who started a letter-writing campaign to persuade legislators to pass the law. “I feel like this is a wonderful step toward a healthier world and I’m so glad Vermont is the first to take it.” Maine and Connecticut have previously passed laws requiring labels on GMO foods, but their laws don’t take effect unless neighboring states follow suit.

IANR News LINCOLN — The University of NebraskaLincoln’s Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine is using greyhounds to teach students how to give dogs physical exams. The dogs, three males and one female, are donated each year from licensed breeders in Iowa who breed greyhounds for racing. All dogs in the program come from USDA-licensed facilities and greyhound

breeders and meet the requirements of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Other Midwest veterinary programs use animals from similar sources. The dogs are given new homes at the end of the semester. All of the dogs have already been adopted. Adam Bassett is a second-year veterinary student who oversees their care. “We have the dogs for the purpose of fur-

thering our education as future veterinarians with the ultimate goal of getting the dogs adopted out to new, loving families,” Bassett said, emphasizing that no research is done using the dogs. The dogs arrive unaltered and the veterinary students learn about spaying and neutering by watching a professor spay or neuter the dogs while also learning about how to properly anesthetize a dog and how to intervene if anything goes wrong. Bassett said that it is helpful for veterinary students to learn about what a healthy animal looks like.

The dogs also have been beneficial to him personally. “Having these greyhounds here and using them as a learning tool has helped me realize the human/animal bond,” Bassett said, referring to the time spent caring for the dogs. Bradley Jones, assistant professor of practice in the ISU/UNL Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine, said having the greyhounds allows students to learn important basic skills. “Our small program allows emphasis in core skills in diagnostic thought process and communication,” Jones

said. “The teaching greyhounds, in addition to interactions with other species, complete this process.” He talked about finding the greyhounds new homes. “I prefer owners that have adopted greyhounds before,” Jones said. He said this was due to their high energy needs and temperament. Jones said that the dogs shouldn’t be kept entirely outdoors due to their thin coats. Students in UNL’s Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine spend two years at UNL and then continue their education at Iowa State University.

Zealous legal defense is a fundamental right OSHA steps up focus on grain handling By RUSSELL HUBBARD World-Herald News Service

TALMAGE — Lincoln attorney Jim Luers says a zealous legal defense for people facing government investigations is a fundamental right, a belief that led to his helming two recent cases that gained widespread attention in legal and farming circles. Luers, 63, last year successfully represented a Holt County farmer who was in a showdown with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which wanted a test case on treating family farms with grain storage bins as commercial elevators subject to the full federal rulebook. That would have been a large expansion of the agency’s turf

into the off-limits field of small agricultural operations. OSHA backed down after Luers filed legal objections and lobbied political support. Also last year, Luers ran up against OSHA during the agency’s investigation of a worker death at a Talmage grain elevator the attorney represented. At one point, he instructed his clients to ignore OSHA’s queries to the elevator’s managers that were unrelated to the fatality, saying answering the questions would lead only to additional citations. In the end, OSHA issued citations that mandated fines and safety improvements at the grain elevator. “I am not out there saying OSHA doesn’t

have a legitimate right and basis for what it does,” said Luers, a native of Grand Island. “But in a variety of ways, it oversteps its bounds. And within the legal parameters of that discussion, we have been vindicated.” Representing clients facing OSHA claims related to grain handling and storage has been occupying more and more time for Nebraska attorneys. OSHA has intensified its scrutiny of the operations, saying deaths at grain elevators and warehouses have accounted for one-third of all Nebraska workplace fatalities in the past 10 years or so. OSHA investigations into grain handling are

“I am not out there saying OSHA doesn’t have a legitimate right and basis for what it does, but in a variety of ways, it overstep its bounds. And within the legal parameters of that discussion, we have been vindicated.”

on the rise. In 2008 in Nebraska, the agency issued 31 enforcement actions for “serious, willful or repeat violations.” Last year, the number had almost tripled, to 89 violations. Each case requires a defense lawyer, and there are plenty of choices — most of the state’s big defense firms offer representation on OSHA cases as part of their labor and employment practice groups. Luers has been involved in about a dozen since his private prac-

—Jim Luers, Attorney, OSHA

about standing up to

tice started in the 1980s, with the two recent cases being closely followed. “People are always taken aback when government scrutiny arrives,” Luers said. “In fact, I would say they are somewhat intimidated. I don’t know if they try to do that on purpose or not.” Bonita Winningham, the Nebraska area director for OSHA, said intimidation has nothing to do with its work — worker safety does. “There are inherent hazards to the grain in-

dustry,” she said. And although OSHA withdrew from the Holt County case, she emphasized that the Talmage grain elevator death led to citations, fines and a settlement agreement despite Luers’ protests about investigators’ questions. The grain industry, she said, accounted for about one-third of the 48 Nebraska workplace deaths during the past 10 years or so. In March, a man died in a grain-bin accident

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at a family farm in Clay County. Winningham said a particular hazard for workers is being quickly engulfed by grain when working on or around storage containers. That, she said, is why the agency pushes for ladders, buddy systems, respiratory gear and training. “No job is a good job if it is not a safe job,” Winningham said. n The Luers case last year involving the farm in Holt County got the attention of Congress and others. An OSHA inspector showed up at Niobrara Farms, owned by the Olson family, in 2011. The agent didn’t like what was going on at the bins where the farm stores corn and soybeans. In all, OSHA cited Niobrara Farms with 22 violations, proposing fines of $132,000. The alleged safety violations included failing to equip ladders extending more than 20 inches off the ground with safety cages or other protective devices; lack of a written respiratory protection program; and improperly guarded pulleys. And that was an in-

“No job is a good job if it is not a safe job.” —Bonita Winningham, Nebraska area OSHA Director, about why OSHA pushes for saftey

credible surprise to owner Carroll Olson, who didn’t think OSHA even had jurisdiction over his operation. Since the 1970s, Congress has barred OSHA from regulating farms that employ fewer than 10 people and that don’t provide housing for seasonal workers. “They tried overstepping their boundaries,” Olson said. He says it was all a misunderstanding about the current state of the business at the site. In the 1980s, when corn was often bought by the government because no one else wanted it, Olson established a grain-storage facility. But it hadn’t been in business for many years, much less employing two dozen workers, as listed in some old business directories. Regardless, he said, his first attorney wanted to enter into settlement negotiations with OSHA. That rubbed Olson the wrong way, so he sought new counsel. “My feeling was somebody had to stand up to them,” Olson said.

In Olson’s case, Luers was having none of it when it came to settlements. Fearing OSHA was trying to pry open the door to all small farms, Luers went on the offensive. He contacted Nebraska’s entire U.S. congressional delegation late last year, outlining the implications. U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., then took over, sending his own letter, this one to the secretary of labor and signed by 42 other senators, telling OSHA to lay off the family farms. “The Department takes seriously the congressional concerns raised in your letter and intends to fully comply with the small farms exemption,” reads the reply to Johanns signed by Brian Kennedy, Labor Department assistant secretary. OSHA dropped the Niobrara Farms case this year. The Niobrara Farms case registered with farmers and lawyers nationally, said John

Dillard, a Washingtonbased attorney who concentrates on ag and regulatory matters. He also wrote about the ramifications of the case as the legal columnist for Farm Journal, a monthly publication with a circulation of 365,000. “It got everyone’s attention,” said Dillard, who practices at the firm OFW Law in the nation’s capital. “OSHA came out of it with quite a black eye.” He said OSHA’s agreement to lay off the small farms was a simple policy decision by the agency. No laws were changed or passed because of the Niobrara Farms case. And in the minds of many, Dillard said, OSHA still

has a good legal argument for regulating the “post-harvest activity” on even the smallest farm. Dillard said it is no surprise farmers objected to surprise inspections over laws they didn’t expect to be held to. A milder approach in collaboration with university ag extension services might be OSHA’s next attempt, Dillard said. “People should realize that over time, farm accidents and fatalities have been decreasing,” Dillard said. “But at the same time, there has been an uptick in grain bin injuries. It is something the ag industry can do a much better job on.” Had OSHA prevailed

in the case, Luers said, its inspectors would have had free license to enter any family farm in the country and hold its storage bins to the same safety standards as commercial grain elevators. And that would mean a lot of small farmers answering complicated questions from government inspectors. Not everyone sees a problem with that. “I agree with OSHA’s emphasis on grain handling. It’s dangerous. Period,” said Rod Rehm, a Lincoln-based workers’ compensation and employee rights attorney. As for small farms, Rehm said workers there

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get a double dose of the blind eye: Not only do OSHA’s federal rules not apply, neither do the provisions governing Nebraska workers’ compensation, the insurance program designed to pay employee medical bills and lost wages in the case of injury. Rehm also said he finds it particularly galling that worker safety is deemed more or less important depending on the size of the employer. “The law requires companies to take care of workers with the notable exception of small farms,” Rehm said. “But people there get burned, crippled and killed just the same as they do at big companies.” Worker safety in Nebraska deserves more attention in general, said Abbie Kretz, a senior orga-

nizer at Omaha’s Heartland Workers Center. Kretz said jobs that rank among the most dangerous, such as construction, attract larger numbers of immigrants, many from Latin American countries with no history of workplace safety. It is good business, she said, to eliminate as many injuries and deaths as possible. “There are companies that go above and beyond,” Kretz said. “They are the ones that tend to have the best morale and the best rapport between management and employees.” n Luers started out from law school working in the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office as a deputy prosecutor before entering private practice with Wolfe Snowden, where he is a partner. There, he specialized in defense work for insurers and handled similar cases for railroads. Both

industries are highly regulated by various government agencies. Handling their legal work brought Luers into close contact with the bureaucracy, leading to his current practice of defending cases before OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Among his clients have been grain cooperatives and general contractors. Luers said he knows that when someone calls him, it is probably not a happy occasion — an agent with a government ID is at the door or someone has been hurt or killed. But he also said he tries to make sure people learn something, even if he gets them what they want, which is off the hook. “A lot has happened here,” Luers said of the Talmage grain eleva-

tor. “New ladder covers, training, entryway requirements. They take their worker safety seriously.” A worker at the grain elevator operated by Farmers Cooperative Co. was struck by a truck and killed in January 2013. Luers said OSHA’s initial investigation, begun almost immediately, yielded full and lengthy answers by co-op managers to all questions. But as the investigation continued, nuances emerged that Luers didn’t like. He says his clients were being asked questions unrelated to the fatality. It came to a head in June 2013, when OSHA filed court papers asking for a judge to order the co-op managers to answer additional questions about general safety practices. Luers objected, saying “fishing expeditions” were used to pile on additional cita-

tions. “Unless OSHA can tell me they’re not going to talk about violations or they’re not going to anticipate sending citations, we’re not going to testify,” Luers said, according to transcripts of the depositions of the co-op managers. “And every time the management has interviewed in the past, they (OSHA officials) utilize that interview to support their citations. And quite frankly, it’s unfair.” In the end, Luers consented to allowing managers to answer some additional questions. Farmers Cooperative then agreed to a total of $16,500 in penalties and to hire a safety consultant, develop a traffic safety plan and require workers directing traffic to wear high-visibility vests. “No penalties or fines were assessed related to the fatality, and we

strongly believed that no alleged deficiencies in the operation had anything to do with the unfortunate accident,” Luers said. Grain-handling regulations promise to continue to be in the news — and on the state’s legal dockets — for some time. Grain-handling safety has been tagged as an area of special emphasis for OSHA in Nebraska and Iowa. Winningham said she and her team are no less determined to see things done their way than Luers is to successfully defend his clients, suggesting that the two will continue facing off in court. “When all factors are accounted for,” Winningham said of workplace injuries and fatalities, “I believe almost everything is preventable.”

Alma student wins $3K Harvesters scholarship Wessels has worked with parents on harvest every summer for past 11 years World-Herald News Service

ALMA — When 18-year-old William Wessels, a senior at Alma Public Schools, applied for the U.S. Custom Harvesters Scholarship, he didn’t think he’d get it. “I didn’t really figure I’d get it. I figured there were kids that did more than I did,” Wessels said. But Wessels did win the $3,000 scholarship. He said it was a good fit because his dad owns Wessels Harvesting. Wessels has helped his parents work on the harvest every summer for the past 11 years. He says the hours are long, but he gets to meet all sorts of people. An average work day for Wessels during harvest is 12 to 16 hours. Harvest goes on all week, unless it rains, which means it’s time to work on equipment. “My first memory is being in a car seat

in a combine. You see all sorts of stuff you wouldn’t otherwise. You have to direct people who have never met before. You just work a whole lot of hours, and you don’t get much sleep,” Wessels said. To earn the scholarship, Wessels had to write six pages about his experiences harvesting. He also had to get two recommendations. In addition to the U.S. Custom Harvesters Scholarship, Wessels has been awarded the Harlan County Cattlemen’s scholarship and the Harlan County Homemakers scholarship. He has managed to stay upbeat, positive and involved with the wrestling team and football team despite shattering his back during his junior year during wrestling. He also suffered two back injuries while playing football.

Wessels has fractured his back in three places. He has a vertebra that’s shattered into three pieces and a degenerative disc below the vertebra. He eventually will have to undergo surgery. The injury means he can’t do any sports, including cross country running. Wessels has become involved in photography, helped manage the wrestling team and kept statistics during football games. He takes pictures at wrestling meets for the school yearbook. “I get to take pictures of people doing something they love. I keep track of what everyone is doing. I help keep everyone energetic at practice … I cheer them on so that they can do the things I wish I was doing,” Wessels said. Wessels had planned to become a mechanic before injuring his back. Now, he’s headed to Iowa State University to study agriculture engineering. He hopes to work for John Deere when he graduates. His family’s harvesting business was part of Please see WINS, Page 17








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U.S. Meat Animal Research Center celebrates 50 years Scientists have grown flagship programs to be largest breed comparison studies in that time IANR News LINCOLN — Fifty years ago, Congress approved legislation that began the transfer of a Naval Ammunition Depot to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, thus creating the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center. Since that time, scientists at the center and USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have grown its flagship genetics program and its germ plasm evaluation project, which has evolved to be the largest breed comparison study over the last 35 to 40 years, said John Pollak, the center’s director. The project also has information on how various breed crosses worked as composites.

“It laid the foundation for commercial ranches around the country,” Pollak said. USMARC houses both UNL and federal employees and also is the home to the Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center. During the last 15 years, capitalizing on its wealth of genetic diversity information, scientists began working in genomics and have been developing and refining genomic tools for use in selection by the industry, Pollak said. “During that time period, the genomics group worked on the first case of BSE, using genomics to identify the origin of the animal,” Pollak said. “It identified that particular cow

was a Canadian animal, not a U.S. animal.” The program also produced marker tests such as those for tenderness and for the genetic defect osteopetrosis in Red Angus cattle. In addition, USMARC was one of the collaborators, along with the University of Missouri, ARS Beltsville and the University of Alberta research teams, to work on the development of the original 50K SNP chip. “Today, USMARC is sequencing their discovery population to better learn about the underlying mutation causing variation in economically relevant beef traits,” Pollak said. In the late 1990s, USMARC scientists began a focus on food safety and developed mitigation strategies for management of E. coli through the production cycle from the feedlot to harvest. Please see YEARS, Page 21

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AMERICAN MORTGAGE COMPANY, offers an Investment Note Certificate-Series B. The minimum investment is $1,000.00 and maturities range from 3 months to 10 years. This investment opportunity is available to residents of Nebraska only. The interest rates for new investments are set monthly. The interest rate for the month beginning 05/01/14 is 2% for an investment maturing in 12 months and 3.5% for an investment maturing in 60 months. Accrued interest can be paid quarterly, semi-annually, or annually as requested by investor. Copies of the prospectus may be obtained from E. Dean Niedan, Jackie Pinkerton, Kim Barnhart and Cindi Hill at American Mortgage Company.

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WINS from Page 15

the reason he became interested in ag engineering. “I listen to my dad and grandpa gripe about everything that’s different on the machines in the summertime. I wanted to pursue that. … You have to learn how things work before you can design them to figure out what you can put where to make it all work,” Wessels said.

He said the program will involve a lot of physics, math and studying hydraulics. Wessels said he’ll be working with computers to learn how to design farming equipment so it works better. During harvest, Wessels enjoys running the grain carts and header. Wessels says he was raised to work until a job is done. His family is also there to support him. He says working with his parents has taught him a good work ethic and helped form a

more personal connection. Working on a harvest crew has also taught Wessels to strive for perfection in everything he does. Wessels has also participated in FFA and National Honor Society throughout high school. As a member of FFA, he competed in land judging, livestock judging, agronomy, welding, ag demonstration, parlimentary procedure and job interview. His local National Honor Society Chapter is conducting a food drive.

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551 Acreages & Lots

LAND FOR SALE! 10.8 Acres Lot #23 Hedgeapple Road 6 miles, south of Lake Maloney, 1 mile off HWY 83 on West side of Heageapple Road $16,000. Call Heather 308-530-8935

554 Houses For Sale

709 South Silber Avenue 2 Bdrm, 1 ba, 950 sq ft., a l l a p p l i a n c e s s t a y, 2 c a r detached garage, lots of updates, privacy fenced back yard. $89,000. 308-660-0145 or 308530-9591

11 0 2 W e s t 4 t h S t r e e t , North Platte for sale. Asking $185,000 OBO. Call Liz at 708-772-1235

REDUCED PRICE Beautiful 4 Bdrm, 3.5 bath, with enclosed sun room, new addition family room, fireplace, formal dining and living room, attached outdoor deck & covered patios, attached 2 car garage & large storage shed. In optimal southwest neigh borhood, North Platte. NE, must see to appreciate, Photos at Zillow .com 308-520-3545

New home under construction, quiet Cul-de -sac in Sutherland, NE 900 Darlin Court, 5 Bdrm, 3 ba, finished basement, open floor plan, large lot. 308-386-8345

For sale in Cozad: 4 bed /2 bath home. New roof and windows, basement, deck, attached garage, and underground sprinklers. Great family home with unique 2nd floor bedroom including built in beds and desks. All appliances included. For more information or to view contact 308-5300036 or 206-240-0143

& 6 Farm Ranch

613 Feed/Hay/Grain WANT TO BUY Baled alfalfa picked up in Semi loads, Call Steve at 308-325-5964

625 Livestock 2 Low birth weigh 6I6 Angus commercial bulls. $2,500 each you pick. or $2,000 each you take both. (308) 286-3424.

New, Used & Rebuilt tractor parts. Most makes and models. Buying tractors, combines & hay equipment for salvage. Miller Repair LLC, Maxwell, NE. 308-582-4303. Email: millerrepair@yahoo. com

613 Feed/Hay/Grain P r a i r i e h a y, b i g r o u n d n e t wrapped bales, (308) 386-8174 or (308) 3864643. Pasture grass for 30 Cow calf pairs, South of Maxwell, NE. The Classified Ads Work Miracles Rented my pasture the first morning! Thank you. D.M.

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3 Bdrm, 1 Bath 1000 square ft., Single car garage and storage shed, large backyard. $79,900. 308-520-3294

1005 Cars

AQHA 3 year old red roan mare, broodmare sound only. Great bloodlines. $300. 308-544-6449

8 Merchandise 849 Pets Purebred ShihTzu puppies male and females. Females $225., male $200, first shots, parents on site. Ready Now. (402) 376-8093

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S E A R AY 1 9 8 6 C A B I N CRUISER 21’ - 165 HP OMC inboard/outboard m o t o r, 1 9 8 5 C a l k i n b o a t t r a i l e r, f i s h f i n d e r, d e p t h f i n d e r, g r e a t f a m i l y b o a t , $3,000. (308) 532-2985

L U N D 1 6 ’ V- H U L L A L U MINUM B O AT with t r a i l e r, 2 5 H P J o h n s o n Ti l l e r e l e c t r i c s t a r t m o t o r, $1,900. comes with Hunting barge (308) 650-1012

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607 Farm Produce Fresh Farm Eggs $2.00 dozen. Will deliver in North Platte & Maxwell area. (308) 520-6006

FORD 1993 CLASSIC THUNDERBIRDTa n e x t e r i o r & i n t e r i o r, p o w e r locks and doors, new front end, new tires, 144,000 miles, runs excellent, $1,700 OBO. Can see at 2300 East Philip#11C 308-660-9203

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SUNTRACKER 1 9 8 0 ’s BASS BUGGY 20’ PONTOON B O AT60 hp Mercury m o t o r, fresh t u n e u p , f a c t o r y t r a i l e r, factory awning, exceptional condition. $4,990. (308) 539-4318 or (308) 532- 2755.

1013 Campers/RVs DANNY BOY 1971 14’ PULL CAMPERself contained, very good condition. $1,500. See at 3 2 5 0 N o r t h Wa s h b o a r d Road, North Platte, NE (308) 660-1157 J A M B O R E E 1 9 9 4 R A L LY 31’ Motor Home- 40,000 miles, 28 hour on genera t o r, s l e e p s 8 , c o m pletely self contained. $15,000. (308)530-8916.

1020 Trucks /Trailers GMC 1975 M6500- Allison transmission, air breaks, 900 tires, 18’ metal box with 50” sides, Omaha standard hoist with roll-over tarp. 308-539-7000.

1025 Motorcycles 2 0 0 8 Ya m a h a F J R 1 3 0 0 cc, sport touring bike, only 17,000 miles good tires, electric windshield, great p o w e r, throttle lock, start touring now only $7500 (308) 520-7154

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PONTIAC 2002 BONNEVILLE - 164,000 miles, good condition $3,200. (308) 520-9282 CHEVROLET 2001 MONTE CARLO SS3 5 , 0 0 0 m i l e s , l e a t h e r, $10,000. (308) 650-0993

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PONTOON 2003 BOAT 2003 40HP Honda, Great family fishing boat! Live Well, fish finder, cover, excellent shape Asking 11,750 (Firm) 308-534-5039 or 308-530-3491

KEYSTONE 2009 SPRING DALE - 27’, Like N e w, 1 s l i d e , e l e c t r i c a w n i n g , h e a t / a i r, F r i d g e , s t o v e , 2 6 ” T V, s l e e p s 6 , e l e c t r i c s t a b i l i z e r, e l e c t r i c jacks, equalizer hitch anti sway bars. $17,500. OBO. (308) 660-7388 FLEETWOOD 1989 T E R RY RESORT26’ 5th wheel, nice condition, newer bathroom stool, new water pump, rebuilt furnace fan, stove f r i d g e , h e a t & a i r, $ 4 9 0 0 . (308) 660-9003

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K AWA S A K I 2 0 1 0 V U L CAN 1700Nomad 2-tone Metallic, always garaged, low mileage 2700. Excellent condition. Asking $9600 or b e s t o f f e r. ( 3 0 8 ) 6 6 0 5614 SUZUKI 2008 650 VStrom V twin 6 speed, givi windshield, runs excellent, ready for summer fun only $4950 (308)520-7154 HARLEY D AV I D S O N 2003 DYNA LOW RIDER- 9,000+ miles in new condition. Has new quick disconnect saddle bags, backrest & windshield, comes with all stock parts $8,000 in North Platte 815 441-7086 HONDA 2006 CRV-EX Black, 5 speed, 4 wheel drive, great condition, $10,700 OBO. (308) 520-3551

Neb. State Fair staff move into new offices By ROBERT PORE World-Herald News Service

GRAND ISLAND — The Nebraska State Fair’s newest building, the Nebraska Building, has its first occupants as the fair’s administrative staff has moved into their new offices. On Friday, the Nebraska State Fair Board held its first meeting in the new board room that’s part of the administrative office suite. Nebraska State Fair Executive Director Joseph McDermott said they moved into their new offices a week ago. The total building measures 120 feet by 450 feet, with a total of 54,000 square feet of exhibition space on the ground level. The new office suite on the second floor covers a

10,800-square-foot area. McDermott said since moving the State Fair to Grand Island from Lincoln in 2010, the fair’s administrative office has bounced around the community, using several locations. Prior to moving to their new home, they were located at the Great Western Building on Highway 30. He said the Nebraska Building was supposed to be built when the Nebraska State Fair first moved to Grand Island, but the board decided to delay building it because of the building’s expense, along with the fact that they built new livestock and exposition buildings on the Fonner Park grounds before the fair opened. “We are thrilled to be in here,” McDermott said


about his staff’s new office suites. “It is a beautiful space.” It will also be convenient for the State Fair staff who in the past have had to temporarily move their operations to the State Fair grounds at Fonner Park during the fair. Now that the State Fair offices have settled into their new home, construction continues on the ground floor of the Nebraska Building for a number of new exhibit areas, including a permanent exhibit space for Nebraska Game and Parks, which will be returning to the State Fair after being missing from the fair since the move. It will bring back to the State Fair many of the features had been part of

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Scientists are now sequencing the genomes of E. coli and Salmonella to better understand the genetics behind antibiotic resistance, as well as to provide genomic DNA diagnostic tools to screen meat products for those pathogens. Since the main focus

of the Beef Improvement Federation’s annual meeting is genetics, it is fitting that the meeting will be held in Nebraska this year in conjunction with the USMARC’s 50th anniversary. Many of the USMARC faculty and scientists have been involved in BIF through research presentations since its beginning. A June 21 post conference tour following the

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Please see FAIR, Page 23

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FAIR from Page 21

the fair for more than 100 years, including a portable aquarium of Nebraska fish, archery, target shooting and other exhibits. The new Nebraska Game and Parks venue will include both inside and outside components. Also under construction is the University of Nebraska’s “Agricultural Experience” which will be open year round. The new NU ag exhibit on the north end of the first floor will be an interactive display showing the processes of Nebraska agriculture from farm to fork. The 54,000-square-foot Nebraska Building will also house the Nebraska State Fair Historical Museum and other exhibitions. McDermott said the new exhibits will “bring some excitement to the 2014 Nebraska State Fair.”

“The building is still not quite completed as far as the first level,” McDermott said. “There is still some work that is being done on the north and south ends. The north end will be turned over shortly to the University of Nebraska so they can start construction of their ag exhibit and the south end will be turned over to Game and Parks before too long so they can start construction on their attractions that they will have within their space.” While the new Nebraska Building will be this year’s “wow factor” for fairgoers, another potential “wow factor” was delayed for another year by the fair board as it decided not to commit more than $180,000 for 10 interactive way-finder devices that are intended to enhance fairgoers’ experience at the State Fair, along with creating an additional revenue stream for the fair through sales of advertisements and sponsorships. When moving to its new home in Grand

Island in 2010, Nebraska State Fair laid a vast network of fiber optics lines that allowed fairgoers to connect with the Internet. The interactive way-finders are part of a proposal from Nanonation of Lincoln, a national leader in new interactive technology. With the cost of smartphones and broadband technology declining every year, more and more people now own smartphones. With the new technology provided by the way-finders, fairgoers would not only be able to locate their favorite event or food vendor, but coupons could also be provided through the electronic technology for reduced food prices by participating vendors. Other vendors and exhibitors could advertise their booths at the State Fair or sponsor certain aspects of the services the way-finders provide.

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TIME TOOL AND EQUIPMENT 308.534.9370 South Jeffers Small Animal Hospital


JAG- Adult, intact male (neuter is sponsored), domestic shorthair Tuxedo. Litter trained, good with kids, cat, dogs. Very social, likes to play, super affectionate. GREAT CAT!!! *URGENT!* HOMELESS SINCE APRIL 18.

SHYLYNN- 2 year old, spayed female, Mixed Breed cutie! Housebroken, good with kids. No cats or small dogs, but ok with dogs her size. She knows 'sit' and 'shake' - very unique and happy girl! HOMELESS SINCE MAY 11.

STELLA- (In a shelter foster home, ask them to meet!) 8 year old, possibly spayed female, Border Collie Blend. Good with kids, cats, dogs. Housebroken, total angel! Well behaved, sweet as pie! GREAT CATCH! HOMELESS SINCE APRIL 21.

Fur the Love of PAWS passionately dedicated to saving animals in need at the North Platte Animal Shelter as well as animals in the community PAWSRescue

(308) 532-4880 220 W. Fremont Dr • North Platte

OSO- 3 year old, intact male, Lab/Husky Blend. Not housebroken, must be only pet. Good with kids! Very sweet, likes to give kisses. Should have 6 foot secure fence! *URGENT!* HOMELESS SINCE APRIL 17.

TAURUS- 1 year old, intact male, American Pit Bull Terrier Blend. Partially housebroken. Good with kids, but has never been around other dogs or cats - can test with them. He's not doing well in the shelter and really needs a patient home to help teach him new things. HOMELESS SINCE MAY 3.



1306 N. Buffalo Bill • North Platte • 308.534.1257

Westfield Small Animal Clinic 308-534-4480



NORTH PLATTE 308-534-7636 800-303-7636 MAYWOOD 308-362-4228 800-233-4551

Cans for Critters Recycling Program Proceeds benefit the Rescue of Shelter Pets & Homeless Animals of NP Area. Call for Drop Off Locations 520-7762

Farm & Ranch Exchange - May 2014  
Farm & Ranch Exchange - May 2014  

Monthly publication dedicated to the farm and ranch economy of West Central Nebraska.