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Two of my favorite country songs revolve around bars. Shocking I know that a country song would somehow involve drinking, but it isn’t the drinking aspect of the songs that I love. There are a lot of country songs that talk about drinking. These are more about friendship and the diversity that makes us great. When you walk into a bar there are only people there, not a definition of who the people are. People are accepted for who they are no matter what baggage they are bringing in with them. They are just your fellow patrons.

A disturbing trend that seems to be taking place, both in the public square and social media, is the lack of acceptance of those that think different, vote different, dress different, etc. Somehow, we have lost our ability to realize that the beauty of what makes us work as a society is that we are different individuals and it takes all types to make this thing called life function.

A number of years ago, when my wife and I, along with my parents, were trying to determine if we would be able to come back to the farm, we did a Returning to the Farm seminar. One of the components was doing a MBTI test to help determine strengths, weaknesses, potential conflict areas and potential areas for growth. One of the major things we learned was that my wife and I are nearly 100% opposite and that quite possibly my wife and my dad could more properly function on the business together than my dad and I could. The key takeaway for me, that we still use today, is that my wife and I do things different, look at things different and respond different. It is a challenge but it also brings a great balance to our marriage and our family.

But what does this have to do with farming? It is all about coexistence. It is working together to reach a common goal. In the case of our marriage it is to have a happy marriage and raise a family that is prepared to go out into the world. In the farming world it is working together to raise the highest quality, most consistent and identity-preserved crop in the entire world. It is about coming together to raise the barn, to have a place we can all be proud to call home. A place where everyone, no matter what they grow or how they grow, can coexist.  

Coexistence sounds like a great buzzword, but does it really matter? If we are all raising crops, what difference does it make? But in today’s market, today’s environment, today’s social media world, coexistence makes all the difference in the world. If we don’t start looking at the farming community as that bar where everyone is accepted, we will not like where it leads.

Farming has been in my blood from the point of conception. Most of us in the farming world can say the same thing. But we are losing sight that farming is the same thing anywhere you are in the world. Taking a seed, or animal, and nurturing it to the best of our ability to help it produce the highest quality product we can. Does it matter if it is GMO, non-GMO, or organic? Does it matter if I am using a 600 hp tractor, a team of oxen, or using human labor? No, it doesn’t.

But too often, farmers draw battle lines that do not need to be drawn. Lines over the “proper” way to grow a crop or raise animals. It is one thing to argue about red versus green tractors when we all realize they do the same thing. It is something entirely different when we start denigrating other farmers because they way they farm doesn’t fit our preconceived idea of the “proper way”. 

Farming is that bar. At the end of the day we are there to grow a crop and all of our yields come together to help feed and fuel an ever-growing world. We need to get back to respecting and encouraging each other in the way we choose to farm.

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And for savvy farmers, it doesn’t have to. Farmers can get compensated for pollinator protection- even in the Midwest.Bee_Honey_Comb-221211-edited.jpgEvery day It seems, we are reminded that, in any number of ways, we are killing off the Monarch Butterflies, Honeybees, Rusty Patched Bumble Bees, or any other pollinator that can get people’s attention. It’s blamed on pesticides, neonicotinoids, intensive farming practices, and just about any other activity that farmers, especially row crop farmers, do to produce a robust food supply.

Have our practices contributed to some of the decline? It’s likely that they have. We’ve planted more monocultures, removed trees and hedgerows, turned pasture ground into crop ground, and become very good at eliminating “pests” where we don’t want them. The situation is complex, and there isn’t one single cause that can be pointed to, but these and other small changes have likely contributed to a devastating overall effect.

The reality that some people miss is that most of us don’t spend much time thinking about the importance of bees, especially in the Midwest. We may see hives once in a while, but for the middle of the country, most top crops- from corn and soybeans to wheat and rice, are pollinated by the wind or other environmental factors, and bees aren’t top of mind in terms of protecting our businesses.

For farmers who live in other areas, however, like those that raise nuts, tomatoes, berries, clover, or anything else that needs pollinators to survive, these issues are critical. The economic value of wild pollinators to agriculture is estimated at over $3 billion according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and over 80% of pollination is done commercially, supporting an industry worth well over $15 billion. And that doesn’t include the value pollinators provide to wildlife and ecosystems that we enjoy and depend on. Needless to say, bees and other pollinators are big business, and doing more to protect wild populations will pay dividends for the industry in the future. Other farmers need our help, but sacrificing the viability of our farms to (hopefully) lower the impact on pollinators isn’t an option.

The good news is that protecting pollinators doesn’t require giving up the tools of modern agriculture heavy-handedly. The Butterfly Effect, that small changes can have huge impacts, has worked against us on this subject up until this point, but with small, positive changes, we can turn that around, and hopefully help turn devastation into recovery for pollinator populations.

And now is the time for farmers to get involved.

It’s time for the corn and bean states to show that we care about the pollinator population and start doing some basic things to help increase the biodiversity. USFWS has some basic things one can do at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/rpbb/factsheetrpbb.html. You’ve heard of many of them- planting a garden, reducing chemical use, using native plants in landscaping (Bayer AG and Syngenta also have good tips on how to provide pollinator habitat).

There are actually ways you can use 2014 Farm Bill programs to be compensated for pollinator conservation. The programs are part of the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentive Programs (EQIP), and your farm could be eligible for up to $20,000 in NCRS payments in a single year, for pollinator protection and other conservation activities. These programs vary by state, and you can learn more about what programs you could be eligible for here. You can also get assistance with planning and implementing your pollinator protection plan through your local NRCS office. Or learn about enhancing your existing conservation programs to support pollinators through CSP here. Pre-proposals are due in April, so now’s the time to start thinking about your 2017 season.

What does this mean? It means we have an exciting opportunity to turn those small and marginal areas of our fields into abundant habitats that can help completely change and revolutionize the pollinator habitat and health in agriculture, without sacrificing our profitability. Small changes can have large effect.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and not those of Farmer’s Business Network, Inc., its affiliates or members.

This article was originally published on Emergence by Farmers Business Network, Inc.

In Nebraska we have been blessed with a very deep bench of Republicans to run for many different offices. The primary for Governor is no different. We have had guys declare and then withdraw because of health issues with their wives. (Impressive because i don’t know how many of us would actually do that). We have had guys declare the withdraw to seek offices that are probably better suited for them. The bench is very deep and very talented which only makes the decision of who to vote for even tougher.

Being the political geek that I am, I started paying attention to this race over a year ago. This race and outcome was going to be a great indication of where we wanted to go as a state. Where we wanted to be tax wise, energy wise, technology wise as well as many other issues. Who was it I thought I could or even wanted to support? There were guys that are my 1, 1A and 1B. There were guys who I would not vote because of varying reasons. So the decision was not an easy one to make.

A few months back, I had the opportunity to spend a lunch hour with some fellow Hamilton county residents as we ate pizza and talked to Pete Ricketts on his view of where he wanted the state to be.

For full disclosure here, when I ran for Legislature four years ago, I approached Pete about donating to my campaign. During that conversation we had a long discussion on different topics, and while I did not agree with him on everything, I could tell he had some very strong convictions on certain issues that would not he swayed.

Now back to the pizza. Questions were asked and answered and a vision for what he wanted for the state was laid out. A vision that I knew I could latch on to and wanted to see for the state. From agriculture to renewable fuels to growing good paying jobs it became very clear this was a man I wanted to join up with to be the next Governor. It became clear that his business experience and his understanding of technology is what we need at this moment in time to take us to the next level as a business friendly, tax friendly state that is looking to grow and bring and keep young people back in the rural areas to keep Nebraska growing and vibrant.

At the end of the day it was about looking him in the eye on more than one occasion and realizing he believes in what he says and his core values are truly his core values. He is not changing who he is to get elected. That man that helped run TD Ameritrade is the right man to run this great state.

Those are just a few of the reasons why I am supporting Pete Ricketts for Governor and I think you should too.

If you are in Nebraska you realize we are in the home stretch of primary season. A primary season that has not disappointed for the news outlets and the political pundits. One in which I have chosen to support Ben Sasse for US Senate to replace the retiring Sen. Johanns.

Up until a few months ago I wasn’t sure who I would support. Was there anyone worth supporting or would I just wait until my ballot showed up in the mail and colored in the box next to one of the names? Then I got to hear Ben Sasse in person at our homeschool legislative day. Ben, along with 3 Gubernatorial candidates (Pete Ricketts, Beau McCoy & Mike Foley) spoke to our group after lunch. I had heard about Ben but wanted to see for myself what he was like. From the moment he walked into the room he meant business. He was there to deliver a message and that he did. I introduced myself and gave him one of my business cards.

After that we went to his Pro Life platform kickoff in south Lincoln. Again I was impressed with what he had to say and his Pro Life platform. I would say that was the moment I was sold. BUT that is not the only reason I am supporting him. I believe in what he has to say about Obamacare and agriculture. And as I continued reading his Issues page I realized more and more he thought like I thought.

The final impression point in making my decision was watching the way he interacted with his kids and wife. Not only that but also spending time talking to his oldest daughter and realizing that they have done an excellent job raising their kids and that what he talks about at the town halls he talks about at home. This allows me to see that he is deeply passionate about his beliefs and his desire to try to fix this country.

At the end of the day there may be more than one solid candidate to represent Nebraska in the US Senate. But in my view there is only one man who truly has the full out passion to be the voice we need in Washington DC. That man is Ben Sasse. On Tuesday May 13th, I ask you to vote for him as well.