A-FAN Partnership Aims to Boost Ag Opportunities

Sunday, March 31, 2019

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Corn and cattle have strong roots in Phelps County.

According to 2016 Census statistics, 14 percent of Phelps County residents work in agriculture, second only to the 17 percent who work in health care and social services.

PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said he hopes to keep the agricultural industry thriving in Phelps County by finding new value-added opportunities.

“Production and livestock agriculture are important to our overall economy, but there’s more that we can do” Tillery said.

The Phelps County Development Corporation is a member of A-FAN, Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska, which supports growth in one of the county’s top industries. PCDC belongs to many organizations to improve its chances of building relationships with potential new businesses. A-FAN and PCDC have similar goals of advancing livestock development and food processing businesses to energize local economies.

A-FAN Executive Director Steve Martin said representatives from A-FAN attend national trade shows, such as the recent International Production and Processing Expo in Atlanta, Ga., and the World Ag Expo in California as part of its mission to expand agriculture in Nebraska.

In 2017, Tillery and a statewide group including A-FAN, attended the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin to promote Nebraska and Phelps County as great locations for expanding dairies.

Martin said that NPPD estimated the economic impact of one dairy cow at $5,000. A typical dairy would house 2,000 cows creating a $10 million economic impact. Income would be generated for farmers who grow grain to feed the cows, truckers to transport grain and cows, veterinarians and those in manure management.

If a processor, such as a cheese or milk plant, opens along with the dairy, the economic impact increases to $25,000 per cow.

“It would be a big impact,” Martin said.

A-FAN recently worked with counties in northeast Nebraska to bring the Costco Lincoln Premium Poultry operations to the area. Those operations give producers new income opportunities and chances to bring family members back to the farm.

One factor that encourages livestock expansion for Nebraska counties is the Livestock Friendly County (LFC) designation. About half (49) of the state’s 93 counties have the LFC designation. Phelps County does not have that designation.

“Having that Livestock Friendly designation tells companies that basically we are open for business, and we support all kinds of livestock industry growth and development,” Martin said. “It shows the commitment to doing what we can to grow our communities.”

Martin cited a recent example of a business owner who was comparing Nebraska locations. Since both locations were similar, the Livestock Friendly designation became the deciding factor in making a final choice on where to start new operations.

“If a county wants growth and development, then having their livestock friendly sign is only going to help,” Martin said. “Why would you limit yourself if you can have a designation that can move the needle a little bit?”

According to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, “every county has something to gain from pursuing the Livestock Friendly County designation. It is recognition for the work the county does to establish a thriving livestock industry.”

The designation doesn’t mean it’s a free for all.

“Everything is still regulated by the DEQ and the county zoning regulations,” Martin said. “There’s no change to any of that.”

If you would like more information or have ideas about value-added agriculture in Phelps County, please contact Ron Tillery at Ron@PhelpsCountyNE.com or (308) 995-4148.

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