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FDA revising facts labels on back of food packages Nutrition has evolved over last 20 years WASHINGTON (AP) — Those nutrition labels on the back of food packages may soon become easier to read. The Food and Drug Administration says knowledge about nutrition has evolved over the last 20 years, and the labels need to reflect that. As the agency considers revisions, nutritionists and other health experts have their own wish list of desired changes. The number of calories should be more prominent, they say, and the amount of added sugar and percentage of whole wheat in the food should be included. They also want more clarity on how serving sizes are defined. “There’s a feeling that nutrition labels haven’t been as effective as they should be,” says Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “When you

The Associated Press

The nutrition facts label on the side of a cereal box is photographed in Washington on Jan. 23. Nutrition labels on the back of food packages may soon become easier to read. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says knowledge about nutrition has evolved over the last 20 years, and the labels need to reflect that. look at the label, there are roughly two dozen numbers of substances that people aren’t intuitively familiar with.” For example, he says, most of the nutrients are listed in grams, the metric system’s basic unit of mass. Jacobson says people don’t really understand what a gram is. Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, says 20 years ago “there was a

big focus on fat, and fat undifferentiated.” Since then, health providers have focused more on calories and warned people away from saturated and trans fats more than all fats. Trans fats were separated out on the label in 2006. The nutrition facts label “is now 20 years old, the food environment has changed and our Please see LABELS, Page D4

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LABELS from Page D3

dietary guidance has changed,” says Taylor, who was at the agency in the early 1990s when the FDA first introduced the label at the behest of Congress. “It’s important to keep this updated so what is iconic doesn’t become a relic.” The FDA has sent guidelines for the new labels to the White House, but Taylor would not estimate when they might be released. The FDA has been working on the issue for a decade, he said. There’s evidence that more people are reading the labels in recent years. According to an Agriculture Department study released this month, a greater percentage of adults reported using the nutrition facts panel and other claims on food packages “always or most of the time” in 2009 and 2010 compared with two years earlier. The USDA study said 42 percent of working

adults used the panel always or most of the time in 2009 and 2010, while older adults used it 57 percent of the time during that period. One expected change in the label is to make the calorie listing more prominent, and Regina Hildwine of the Grocery Manufacturers Association said that could be useful to consumers. Her group represents the nation’s largest food companies. Hildwine said FDA also has suggested that it may be appropriate to remove the “calories from fat” declaration on the label. It’s not yet clear what other changes the FDA could decide on. Nutrition advocates are hoping the agency adds a line for sugars and syrups that are not naturally occurring in foods and drinks and are added when they are processed or prepared. Right now, some sugars are listed separately among the ingredients and some are not. It may be difficult for

the FDA to figure out how to calculate added sugars, however. Food manufacturers are adding naturally occurring sugars to their products so they can label them as natural — but the nutrition content is no different. Other suggestions from health advocates: n Add the percentage of whole wheat to the label. Many manufacturers will label products “whole wheat” when there is really only a small percentage of it in the food. n Clearer measurements. Jacobson of CSPI and others have suggested that the FDA use teaspoons instead of grams on the label, since consumers can envision a teaspoon. n Serving sizes that make sense. There’s no easy answer, but health experts say that single-size servings that are clearly meant to be eaten in one sitting will often list two or three servings on the label, making the calorie and other nutrient information deceptive. FDA said last year that

it may add another column to the labels, listing nutrition information per serving and per container. The agency may also adjust recommended serving sizes for some foods. n Package-front labeling. Beyond the panel on the back, nutrition experts have pushed for labels on the package front for certain nutrients so consumers can see them more easily. The FDA said several years ago it would issue guidelines for front of pack labeling, but later said it would hold off to see if the industry could create its own labels. Tracy Fox, a Washington-based nutrition consultant, says clearer information is needed to balance the billions of dollars a year that the food industry spends on food marketing. “There’s a lot of information there, it’s messy,” she says. “There may be a way to call out certain things and put them in context.”

Burns critical to upland birds habitat shortage Nebraska ranked No. 1 in grassland lost to row crops By MARK DAVIS World-Herald News Service

Habitat for upland game birds is disappearing at alarming rates. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nebraska ranked No. 1 in grassland lost to row crops between 2011-12 with almost 55,000 acres lost. Add to that the net loss of 90,000 acres of CRP and the landscape is changing quickly — especially for upland game birds. Jake Holt is right in the middle of the fight to preserve habitat. He works for both the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Pheasants Forever with one goal: helping pheasants statewide. Much of Holt’s work is meeting with landowners to develop and rehab habitat for the popular game bird. Part of that

effort is assisting in training for prescribed burns. Controlled burning in the spring limits the growth of woody and other unwanted vegetation, maintaining the prairie as a distinct ecosystem. It also stimulates new growth of grasses, forbs and legumes. That promotes insect production, a critical food source for young birds. “Prescribed burns have always been important, but it has become more important as we lose grasslands to crops,” Holt said. Eight Nebraska prescribed burn workshops are being held across the state between Jan. 21 and March 19. The workshops offer training and education to assist in the removal of undesirable vegetation Please see BURNS, Page D11

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Incomes not keeping up with inflation in Nebraska Rural counties most closely tied to agriculture fared much better By HAROLD REUTTER World-Herald News Service

GRAND ISLAND — Despite a robust farm economy, median household income in Nebraska did not keep up with inflation from 1999 through 2012. That was also true for Adams, Hall and Buffalo counties, which are a mix of small cities and agricultural land. Median household income in the state dropped from $54,087 in 2000 inflation-adjusted dollars to a

median household income of $51,381, which is a drop of $2,706, or 5 percent. David Drozd, research coordinator for the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said the median household income number for 2000 was calculated on the basis of that year’s U.S. Census when people could look at their 1999 tax returns. The 2012 figure is an amalgamation of answers to American

Community Surveys distributed to households from 2008 through 2012 that asked people to list their household income, Drozd said. County-by-county median household income is partly a reflection of what some people have called “the Great Recession” and partly a reflection of the farm economy when snapshots of median household income were taken from two very distinct points in time, Drozd said. In general, rural counties whose economies are most closely tied to agriculture fared much

better when it came to median household income than more urban counties. As a result, incomes in some rural counties had climbed much closer to incomes in more urban counties by 2012.

County by county Adams, Hall and Buffalo counties followed the overall trend for the state of falling household income. Hall County had the largest percentage drop of 5.7 percent, with median household income falling from $50,948 in 2000 to $48,044 in 2012. Adams County was

next, with median household income falling from $51,207 in 2000 to $49,017, a drop of 4.3 percent. Buffalo County had only a slight decrease, going from $50,686 to $50,307, a drop of just 0.7 percent. Three other counties that border Hall County, however, saw a small increase in median household income. Hamilton County’s rose from $55,502 in 1999 to $56,809 in 2012, a jump of 2.4 percent. Hamilton had the highest median household income in inflation-adjusted dollars of any county bordering Hall County. Merrick County also

faired well, with incomes rising from $48,177 to $49,609, a 3-percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars. Howard County did the best in percentage terms, with incomes rising from $45,895 to $48,293, an increase of 5.2 percent. With median household incomes available on a county-by-county level, it is possible to rank order Nebraska’s 93 counties from the largest percentage increase to largest percentage decrease in median household income. In those terms,

Please see NOT, Page D8

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World-Herald News Service

Public power assists ag producers NORFOLK — Nebraska businesses are “reaping” success because of federal rural development grants. About 225 Nebraska businesses, including 75 agriculture producers, received about $20 million in federal development Rural Energy for America Programs (REAP) grants. REAP is an energy-centered grand program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office, and Nebraska public power utilities helped many of the 2013 grant recipients procure a large percentage of those funds for Nebraskans. “Public power utilities want customers to receive good value from their energy dollar,” said Ron Rose, a Nebraska Public Power District energy efficiency consultant from York. “That’s why our energy-related services go beyond supplying electricity alone.”

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Task force-related water bills headed to legislature Senators met from July to early December to look at project needs By LORI POTTER World-Herald News Service

KEARNEY — The final two of three bills reflecting the work of the Nebraska Water Funding Task Force will be introduced in the Nebraska Legislature this week. “I’ll do that on [Jan. 21],” Natural Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege said Saturday at the Nebraska LEAD Alumni Conference in Kearney. The 34-member task force, including six nonvoting state senators, met from July to early December to look at Nebraska’s water project needs, priority-ranking criteria and potential dedicated sources of funding for $50 million a year.

State Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala introduced LB940 Jan. 23. It would require $50 million for 2014 to be transferred from the cash reserve fund to a newly created Water Sustainability Fund by July 31. Carlson said one of his bills “remodels” the current Natural Resources Commission into the entity that will govern the Water Sustainability Fund. NRC members will remain the core of the proposed new governing body. His second bill would provide an annual appropriation of $50 million to the fund from the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee starting in 2015. That’s a different long-term funding ap-

proach than the one in the task force’s consensus report to the Legislature. It has a menu of funding options, including a dedicated portion of the current state sales tax and taxes on ethanol, fertilizer and soft drinks. When asked by the Hub Saturday about the change, Carlson said the annual allocation approach is preferred by people whose support will be needed to get long-term water project funding approved. The other funding options will be kept in reserve. “If you have only one option and you lose, you’re done,” Carlson told the LEAD alumni. It was estimated that one-eighth of a cent of the current sales tax would generate about $32 million annually. Other task force ideas were:

n Remove the sales tax exemption on bottled water n A tax on soft drinks n Severance tax on enterprises such as sand, gravel, oil and gas mining n Excise tax on ethanol n Tax on ag and residential fertilizer Now, Carlson said, the case must be made that Nebraska needs to fund water projects. The task force’s proposed criteria focuses on whether a project promotes water use sustainability. “If we use more than our supply gives us, we’re digging a hole. If we don’t stop, we dig a bigger hole,” Carlson said, adding that the two options to

reach sustainability are to use less water or enhance the water supply. “We need a couple more [Lake] McConaughys someplace” in west and northwest Nebraska to capture water in times of excess flows to use in times of shortages, he said. However, task force members also recognized that water issues are different from west to east. Carlson said about half the state has water scarcity as a main issue, while the other half has too much water much of the time. So, water projects must include enhancing the supply and providing flood control. Carlson specifical-

ly mentioned the need to repair a levy near Offutt Air Force Base at Bellevue that nearly failed during 2011 flooding. He cautioned that federal officials could decide that if levy repairs aren’t made by Nebraska, the easiest fix might be to move the base. He also described how South Platte River floodwaters from Colorado were diverted into Central Public Power and Irrigation District canals and Elwood Reservoir last fall to limit flood damage and recharge groundwater in the Platte and Republican basins. “I’m convinced

Please see WATER, Page D10


NOT from Page D5

Hall County ranked No. 73, with Adams County ranking No. 66, Buffalo County No. 49, Hamilton County No. 37, Merrick County No. 34 and Howard County No. 25. Thomas County, north of North Platte, had a 50 percent increase in median household income, giving it the largest percentage income gain during the measured period, Drozd said. Not only is that county very rural and agriculture based, but it also has a very small population, Drozd said. That means it is pos-

sible for a big upward swing in a relatively few households to have an outsized effect on the median household income for the entire county. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Thomas County had only 647 people on the April 1, 2010, census date. Drozd said the relative good fortune of rural counties whose economies are largely dependent on agriculture also reflects the times when the snapshots of median household income were taken. Drozd said 1999 was a relatively poor year for agriculture in Nebraska, with 2012 capturing a boom year for Nebraska agriculture.

Those particular starting and end dates for median household income in rural areas — which reflect a relatively low starting point and a relatively high end point — may help skew the overall picture a bit toward the positive side of the ledger.

Great recession Drozd’s theory that ag-based portions of Nebraska did better than urban areas is bolstered by the median household statistics for Lancaster and Douglas counties, home to the state’s largest cities. Lancaster County had a median household income of $51,810

in 2012, a drop of nearly $5,900, or 10.2 percent. Douglas County had a median household income of $53,295, a drop of almost $6,250, or 10.5 percent. The drop in median household income is largely a result of the Great Recession, which officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, Drozd said. He said Nebraska’s economy perhaps did not start slowing down until 2008 and also recovered a bit later, as well. He said median household incomes in urban areas could have been hurt in a variety of ways during the recession. Income would naturally drop in a two-income household if one spouse had work hours reduced, he said, with the other spouse

seeing only modest wage gains. Of course, income would also be hurt in a home where one spouse completely lost a job, he said. Perhaps that spouse eventually found another job, but at a lower rate of pay. Although the national and Nebraska economies are growing again, the drop in median household incomes for many Nebraska counties shows that some households have not fully recovered from the income losses they suffered during the Great Recession. Taking a broad look at the period from 1999 through 2012, Drozd said, inflation grew on average about 3 percent a year. In order to keep up with inflation,

wages and salaries also had to grow about 3 percent a year. For example, the median household income in Hall County was $38,136 unadjusted for inflation. Drozd said the agriculture economy has softened since 2012, noting that “$4 corn is a lot different than $6 or $6.50 corn. Hopefully, yields have improved to help offset that drop in commodity prices.” Still, it is hard to predict what median household incomes will do over the period of another decade, he said. With commodity prices dropping, it is possible median household incomes in urban areas will someday outpace those in rural areas.

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George is new Ducks Unlimited conservation program director By ROBERT PORE World-Herald News Service

GRAND ISLAND — Mike George of Grand Island is the new director of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited (DU) in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming, based in DU’s field office in Grand Island. “I am looking forward to working for one of the premier conservation organizations in North America,” George said. “DU’s reputation for put-

ting work on the ground is impeccable, and I am excited to be a part of it.” He was the Nebraska state supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, overseeing the work of 13 professionals to review impacts on migratory birds and endangered species, as well as collaborate with stakeholders. He also worked with the Corps of Engineers for 25 years, with a substantial amount of time focused on ecosystem restoration along the

Missouri River. “Mike’s experience with team leadership, conflict resolution and partnership development will strengthen DU’s team in the Great Plains,” said Steve Adair, DU director of operations for the Great Plains Region. “Mike has been very involved with the Platte River Recovery Program and in developing innovative solutions for species impacted by energy development.” George grew up in Colorado and has spent the majority of his professional career in Nebraska. He is currently completing a Ph.D.

WATER from Page D7

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with the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He worked 35 years with the Army Corps of Engineers on endangered species issues on the Missouri River as the Missouri River program manager. Three years ago he accepted the position as head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operations in Nebraska. He was based in Grand Island. On Jan. 1, he took the position with Ducks Unlimited. “It is a pretty exciting opportunity,” George said.

Please see DUCKS, Page D11

that,” Carlson said. He described water as the lifeblood of Nebraska’s No. 1 industry, agriculture. “The future of agriculture will be OK if we do the right thing with water,” Carlson said.

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Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Colorado State University, but he has spent his whole working career based in Nebraska and South Dakota. He is a trained wildlife biologist. “I grew up in the mountains and I was going to be a forest ranger,” he said. “But my first job out of college was on the prairies of South Dakota.” George said he has been familiar with the work of Ducks Unlimited throughout his career. “What I really like about them as a conservation organization is that they are one of the few conservation organizations that truly put the work on the ground, he said. “They raised the money and only 20 percent of all the money they raise goes to administration and fundraising and the remaining 80 percent goes back to work on the ground. When you look at other natural resource

BURNS from Page D4

such as invasive cedars. Burn associations across the state require the workshop training for memberships. The associations are groups of landowners who have banded together to assist in prescribed burns. “It’s neighbor helping neighbor,” Holt said. The main benefit of the associations is manpower. A burn should have eight to 10 people to be successful, Holt said. Associations also have the equipment needed for a safe, effective burn. For more information or to register for the workshops, visit www. NebraskaPF.com or call 308-850-8395. n Jan. 30: Sidney,

agencies, their numbers are not even close. I have always been fascinated by Ducks Unlimited and how they did that.” George said North America’s real “duck factory” is Canada and the Dakotas, with their pothole lakes that provide good breeding habitat. The role Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas and Colorado play is mostly a migratory stopover. “You have to have the wetlands for them and you have to keep the pothole country healthy,” he said. “You want to make sure that they have that migration habitat when they are coming through, especially in the spring.” The Prairie Pothole Region of the northern plains is a conservation priority for DU as millions of ducks and geese pass through that region, nesting in the grasslands and wetlands. The region contains thousands of shallow wetlands known as potholes, which were left behind thousands of years ago at the end of the last major ice age.

South Platte NRD, 551 Parkland Drive, 9 a.m.4 p.m. n March 19: Wayne, Wayne State College Student Center, East 14th Street, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. n Feb. 12: Red Cloud, Community Center, 142 W. 3rd Ave., 9 a.m.-4 p.m. n March 5: Loup City, Sherman Reservoir Wildlife Management Area, 79027 Sherman Dam Road, noon-3 p.m. n Habitat meeting Feb. 8 The annual Nebraska State Habitat Meeting, hosted by Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, will be held Feb. 8 at the Ramada Inn in Kearney. The meeting, which is open to the public, will include 27 presentations on wildlife, wildlife habitat and education.


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