NeFU Brings Country Support for COOL to DC

For Immediate Release                                                                Contact:      John Hansen 402-476-8815


Nebraska Farmers Union Brings Country Support for COOL to Washington, DC

LINCOLN (May 22, 2015) – Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) sent two of their state leaders to Washington, DC this past week as a part of the National Farmers Union (NFU) targeted Spring Fly-In on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) to show the strong support that family farmers and ranchers from across the country have for COOL.

The message from NeFU President John Hansen and NeFU Secretary Mike Sarchet of Minatare joined sixty other local and state Farmers Union officers from 27 states to ask their elected officials in Congress to allow the World Trade Organization (WTO) process to conclude their established process without interference from Congress.

“Family farmers and ranchers as well as consumers continue to strongly support COOL.  U.S. consumers want to know where the food they are buying for their families came from.  U.S. family farmers and rancher food producers want to be able to identify and differentiate their own food products in their own domestic marketplace just as their competitors do in 70 countries of the world that have some sort of mandatory COOL,” said John Hansen, NeFU president.  “We need to remember that the WTO decision did not outlaw COOL.  It did say the U.S. would need to make changes, not repeal the law altogether.”

The Farmers Union delegation met with both Nebraska Senators and all three Congressmen to ask them to allow the WTO process to continue forward.  While Canada has made ever changing claims as to damages they have incurred from COOL, they are not entitled to any more damages than they can prove.  “There is a lot of difference between what you can say in a press release and what you can prove in an international court of arbitration,” said Mike Sarchet, NeFU Secretary from Minatare.  “We want the process to go forward so that the negotiations can go forward.  We know one thing for sure, if the shoe was on the other foot, the Canadian government would be dragging the process out as long as it possibly could, as they should if they thought their interests were at risk.”

Based on the recent study done by C. Robert Taylor at Auburn, the economic collapse of 2008, not COOL caused a decrease in Canadian cattle exports to the U.S. as U.S. consumers tightened their pocketbooks and ate less beef.  The study will make it difficult for Canada to prove that COOL has caused real economic harm to their agriculture sector.  Canada is not entitled to any damages unless they can prove them.

“While the recent WTO decision was disappointing, it is clear there is still a path forward for U.S. COOL,” said Hansen. “If 70 countries around the world can figure out how to implement mandatory COOL and be WTO compliant, we know the U.S. can figure out a way to implement COOL too.  If the House Agriculture Committee wanted to be helpful, they would help find a way to implement COOL in a fashion that is WTO compliant.  Instead, they chose to insert itself in the middle of the WTO process in an inappropriate and unprecedented fashion with the 38-6 passage of H.R. 2393 that would repeal COOL.  That effort breaks faith with U.S. consumers, U.S. food producers, and Congress that has passed COOL multiple times before,” Hansen concluded.

Nebraska Farmers Union is a general farm organization with 5,671 farm and ranch family members dedicated to protecting and enhancing the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities.  Since 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union has helped organize over 445 cooperatives.

Amount of Carbon Dioxide in Air Hits Milestone

Amount of carbon dioxide in air keeps rising, hits milestone


WASHINGTON — Global levels of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent heat-trapping gas, have passed a daunting milestone, federal scientists say.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says in March, the global monthly average for carbon dioxide hit 400.83 parts per million. That is the first month in modern records that the entire globe broke 400 ppm, reaching levels that haven’t been seen in about 2 million years.

“It’s both disturbing and daunting,” said NOAA chief greenhouse gas scientist Pieter Tans. “Daunting from the standpoint on how hard it is to slow this down.”

He said it is disturbing because it is happening at a pace so fast that it seems like an explosion compared to Earth’s slow-moving natural changes.

Carbon dioxide isn’t just higher, it is increasing at a record pace, 100 times faster than natural rises in the past, Tans said.

Pushed by the burning of coal, oil and gas, global carbon dioxide is 18 percent higher than it was in 1980, when NOAA first calculated a worldwide average. In 35 years, carbon dioxide levels rose 61 ppm. In prehuman times, it took about 6,000 years for carbon dioxide to rise about 80 ppm, Tans said.

Monthly levels fluctuate with the season, peaking in May and then decreasing as plants absorb carbon dioxide. But they are increasing on a year-to-year basis.

Levels are also higher in the Northern Hemisphere because that’s where carbon dioxide is being spewed by power plants and vehicles, Tans said.

The first time levels passed the 400 ppm milestone was for just a few weeks in the Arctic in 2012. Last year the monthly Northern Hemisphere average measured in Hawaii exceeded 400 and now the global average has as well, said James Butler, head of NOAA’s global monitoring division.

Congress should NOT support TPA

Midlands Voices: Congress should not support TPA

By John K. Hansen

The writer is president of the Nebraska Farmers Union and served as a U.S. Trade Representative trade adviser for three administrations for 14 years starting in 1994.

The House and Senate have sent Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) proposals out of their respective committees to the floor for consideration, so the issue is now before us.

TPA, also known as Fast Track Authority, provides the administration with trade-negotiating direction and authority while also forcing Congress to vote up or down on trade proposals without amendment and within a limited amount of time for consideration.

My organization believes in the value and necessity of good process, especially for congressional oversight and regulation of trade, as our Constitution provides. TPA is a shortcut of Congress’ normal process that reduces their ability to do the job we elected them to do.

TPA makes the known problems associated with trade negotiations worse. It limits congressional oversight and review while empowering the administration in power to potentially cause more mischief behind closed doors with the implanting of “sweetheart” provisions for special interests. TPA then ties the hands of Congress to take the pork provisions out because of the “take it or leave it without amendment” structure.

Is such a scenario possible? As a former United States Trade Representative (USTR) adviser for three administrations for 14 years, I feel the implanting of “sweetheart” provisions is not only possible but probable.

First, the USTR advisory system is dominated by U.S.-based companies that have massive worldwide economic interests and footprints. These international players are oftentimes both the largest exporters and importers of products and services into our country. These heavy hitters have the ear of our trade negotiators.

When these players weigh in with advice and guidance, it is fair for the public to wonder whether they are wearing their “company” hats or their “country” hats. Whether or not these heavy hitters guide our nation’s trade negotiating hand is not in question.

Second, USTR staff tends to be young, bright and ambitious. They also tend to move from employment at USTR to the private sector — to companies they worked with closely in trade negotiations — after the trade deal is completed. There is a clear self-interest for them to cash in their public trade expertise for a higher-paying job with a large company with international trade interests.

TPA also makes the well-known trade-negotiating problems of secrecy and lack of consultation with Congress worse because it reduces the need for any administration to consult with Congress as the process moves forward. Instead of consulting with Congress as they proceed, which actually strengthens the negotiating position overall by securing congressional buy-in, TPA results in negotiations behind closed doors and then springs the final work product on Congress at the end of the process.

Why should any administration take Congress seriously when Congress fails to take its own constitutionally defined role seriously? As all parents know, there is no substitute for active involvement.

These days, trade agreements do more than target tariffs for reductions. They set economic, environmental, labor and agricultural policy, and they establish legal standing and dispute resolution processes that undermine state and national authorities to set domestic standards.

If you suspect that trade agreements have the far-reaching ability to give away our nation’s sovereignty, you are right.

The last reason Congress should not support Trade Promotional Authority is that our national trade policy is a colossal failure and needs more, not less, congressional oversight.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Trade Division, over the past 21 years, the U.S. has amassed a cumulative balance of trade deficit of $9 trillion, averaging deficits of $428.7 billion per year. And it is getting worse. The past 11 years have averaged a $585 billion-per-year deficit.

Last year’s trade deficit of $504 billion represented a 3 percent drag on the growth rate of our national economy. Trade deficits export jobs, manufacturing capacity and tax revenues.

Trade policy can produce either good or bad results. Just to be clear, a $9 trillion cumulative trade deficit over 21 years is a self-inflicted punch in the gut. TPA is a process shortcut that would make a bad situation worse.

Like most Americans, I am not against trade, but I am against 21 years of losing trade policy.

Step up, Congress. Do your job.

NeFU Receives Grants From Environmental Trust & DEQ

For Immediate Release

Contact:  John Hansen 402-476-8815


Lincoln, NE – April 16, 2015 –Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) announced today that it will receive two grants for their “Food Waste Reduction through Vermicomposting and Composting” project.

The Nebraska Environmental Trust Board announced funding of $169,046.00 for the project at its meeting on April 2, 2015 in Lincoln. The project is one of the 113 projects receiving $19,491,958 in grant awards from the Nebraska Environmental Trust this year. Of these, 56 were new applications and 57 are carry-over projects.

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality awarded NeFU $26,850 for the same project through its Nebraska Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Act.

The funding will support efforts by NeFU to create a vermicomposting system to re-direct the waste stream from Lincoln Public School’s cafeterias and other sources of waste that would otherwise be sent to the landfill.  This project will utilize onsite worm bins and pre-composting to transform the food and other wastes into soil building, high value worm castings.  This project will also work to incorporate animal compost from the Lincoln Children’s Zoo to utilize even more waste product that would otherwise be destined for landfills. The first year of this project will evaluate the reactions of worms with foodstuffs available, creating working plans and manuals all while incorporating education for students. The project will expand to additional schools and other waste sources as soon as feasible.  The grant partners for this project to date are Lincoln Public Schools, Community Crops, and the Lincoln Children’s Zoo.  Additional partners will be added as the project capacity expands.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $233 million in grants to over 1,700 projects across the state. Anyone – citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses – can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The Nebraska Environmental Trust works to preserve, protect and restore our natural resources for future generations.

NeFU President John Hansen said, “These funds will help our project coordinator Jeremiah Picard and our organization turn an unwanted and expensive landfill commodity into a soil building product that will benefit specialty crop growers of food for human consumption, gardeners, and crop producers while also helping research and educational efforts.”

Nebraska Farmers Union is a general farm organization with 5,671 farm and ranch family members dedicated to protecting and enhancing the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities.  Since 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union has helped organize over 445 cooperatives.

Local Control Prevails on LB106

For Immediate Release                                                        

Contact:  John Hansen 402-476-8815

April 2, 2015


Lincoln, NE.  Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) hailed the successful first round legislative efforts that gutted LB106, the Priority Bill of Sen. Dan Watermeier as a clear victory for local control.  The amendment adopted struck all the original language and replaced it with the authority for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to develop a completely voluntary livestock siting matrix.   “LB106 in its original form was a clear assault on local control in its efforts to impose a mandatory state controlled matrix that would have shifted the ultimate authority for local decision making to the state level.  The Legislature wisely derailed that anti-local control effort.  All the “shalls” are gone,” said John Hansen, NeFU President.  “This was a major victory for local control.”


Hansen praised the combined efforts of their organizational partners including the Center for Rural Affairs, Nebraska Sierra Club, Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics, and Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska.  He also praised the efforts of local government officials, including county commissioners and planning and zoning leaders despite NACO support for the Bill.  Hansen also noted that in addition to Farmers Union, Center for Rural Affairs, Nebraska Sierra Club members and many others who worked hard to call their State Senators to oppose LB106, he thanked all the rural residents who helped defeat LB106 in its original form, including many county Farm Bureau organizations.  He also praised the many rural State Senators who worked so hard to amend and defeat LB106 that lead to the massive overhaul it received.


“For our organization, we understand that when it comes to local planning and zoning decisions, it is the local officials who best know the natural resources and the desires of the local people as they chart the course of their county.  Local people, unlike state officials, are more likely to make the right zoning decision for the local community.  And, if a mistake is made, they have a vested interest to fix it because they actually live with the consequences of their decisions.  The thrust of LB106 was to replace local control with state control and a one size fits all state grid system called a matrix,” said Hansen.  “That would have been a terrible mistake for our local communities and our livestock operations who need to live and work together.”


“While we do our best to work together with the organizations that represent rural interests, we were in strong conflict and disagreement with the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Association of County Officials, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Nebraska State Dairy Association, and Smithfield, the Chinese government owned pork producing and processing company.  Fortunately, the folks back home in the country supported our position and made this big win for local control possible,” concluded Hansen. “The grassroots ruled on this issue.”

Roundup of the NFU 113th Anniversary Convention in Wichita

NeFU President Re-elected NFU Treasurer and 21 Nebraskans Attend National Farmers Union 113th Anniversary Convention in Wichita, Kansas

For Immediate Release

Contact:  John Hansen 402-476-8815 Office or 402-580-8815 Cell


Lincoln, NE – Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen was re-elected National Farmers Union (NFU) Treasurer by the NFU Board of Directors at the 113th Annual National Farmers Union Convention held March 14-17 in Wichita, Kansas at the Hyatt Regency hotel.

21 NeFU members attended the NFU Convention.  NeFU President John Hansen said:  “It was a great facility, excellent speakers and program, and was well attended.  It is always a positive when Farmers Union members participate in their grassroots driven organization.”

The NFU Convention delegates from Nebraska were:  Dennis Buse, West Point; Graham Christensen, Lyons; Ben Gotschall, Raymond: Carol Schooley, Grand Island; and NeFU President John Hansen.

Other members attending were Stan & Judy Brown, Ron Meyer, Jeremiah Picard, and Mark Kavan, Lincoln; Martin & Linda Kleinschmit, Hartington; Mike & Roberta Sarchett, Minatare; Vern Jantzen, Plymouth; Gus Von Roenn, Omaha; John & Mardelle Goeller, Pilger; Terry Kirby, Central City; Jeff Downing, Elkhorn, and Tracy Zink of Indianola who participated in the NFU Beginning Farmer Institute.

NFU convention highlights included a keynote address from United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Dr. Temple Grandin, whose movie was shown Sunday afternoon.

In addition to updating NFU’s policy, the delegates adopted 6 Special Orders of Business:

Full text of the adopted policy manual will be available soon at

The 2016 National Farmers Union Convention will be held at the Radisson Blu hotel in Minneapolis, MN March 5-8, 2016.  The Radisson Blu is directly attached to the Mall of America.

Nebraska Farmers Union is a general farm organization with 5,700 farm and ranch family members dedicated to protecting and enhancing the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities.  Since 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union has helped organize over 445 cooperatives.

8th Annual NE Wind and Solar Con Announced

8th Annual Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference Announced

For Immediate Release: March 24, 2015

For More Information Contact:  Nicole McDermott (402) 637-4455 (Media Inquiries); Paula Steenson (402) 346-3950 (Registration and Sponsorship Inquiries); John Hansen, Co-Chair (402) 476-8815; Dan McGuire, Co-Chair (402) 489-1346; Adam Herink, Co-Chair 402-637-4845

Lincoln, NE- The eighth annual Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference and Exhibition is planned for November 4-5 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska at the Hilton Omaha.

“We are excited to bring this convention to the City of Omaha for the first time,” said Adam Herink, Conference Co-Chair. “The renewable energy industry continues to grow, innovate and create new opportunities and applications for all producers and users of electricity. This year’s wind and solar conference will continue to share those ideas with the industry and the general public.”

“We anticipate over 400 attendees to take part in this eighth annual Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference as it will include top quality, nationally known and respected industry experts and speakers with timely presentations related to Nebraska’s growing opportunities in both the wind and solar industries,” said Dan McGuire, Conference Co-Chair. “I urge potential exhibitors to sign up early to make sure they are included.”

“This annual conference is considered by many to be one of the best in the United States,” said John Hansen, Conference Co-Chair. “Since 2008, farmers and ranchers, state agencies, public power utilities, developers and higher education professionals have come together to share the latest information and ideas to help advance the wind and solar industry of Nebraska.  We keep the costs of participation down so it is affordable to all the interested stakeholders.”

Registration information is available at the conference website , and rooms will be $122 per night, which includes free parking. Those not staying at the hotel will receive a reduced daily parking rate of $5.

For hotel reservations, contact Hilton Omaha, 1001 Cass Street, Omaha, NE  at (402) 998-3400 or

To view last year’s presentations, go to

NeFU rips Korea free-trade pact

NeFU rips Korea free-trade pact, says it has harmed U.S. economy


The Nebraska Farmers Union joined with trade activists Monday to oppose a free-trade pact with Korea that the group says has hurt the U.S. economy.

John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, said on a conference call hosted by Public Citizen Global Trade Watch that exports to South Korea have fallen and imports from South Korea have increased since the United States and the Asian nation agreed to a free-trade pact in 2012.

Public Citizen said the free-trade pact is the model for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement the U.S. is negotiating with 11 Asian and South American countries.

“We are not having a fair opportunity to be able to sell our products into other economies, but we have the welcome mat out to competition coming into our economy,” Hansen said.

The call also featured commentary by others who said they were harmed by Korean free-trade, including an Alabama steelworker and a Connecticut business owner.

In each case the complaint was that the U.S. had lowered tariffs and trade barriers with South Korea but hasn’t promoted cross-ocean commerce. Nebraska beef exports to South Korea, for example, have fallen 5 percent in the past three years, Public Citizen said on the call. Overall, the deal has cost 85,000 U.S. jobs, the group says.

Though Korean leaders lifted a five-year ban on U.S. beef imports in 2008, some consumers have continued to have health concerns over the potential for mad cow disease and the use of growth additives in cattle feed.

Hansen said U.S. trade policy concentrates too much on the potential volume of trade without considering its profitability.

If a business proposed such an equation, its “banker would say ‘Go for counseling,’ ” Hansen quipped.

Nebraska Farmers Union Completes Series of Specialty Crops Producer Trainings

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jeremiah Picard

402-476-8815 Office

402-570-3746 Cell


Nebraska Farmers Union Completes Series of Specialty Crops Producer Trainings

Lincoln, NE – Nebraska Farmers Union has completed its series of five one day producer trainings held in Grand Island, Norfolk, Lincoln, and Omaha.  The trainings were geared toward specialty crops including vegetables, fruits and nuts.  There was a wide range of expert presenters covering good agricultural practices, insurance coverage, financial management, market development, employee management, and wholesale success.

The first two trainings focused on Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs), food safety and development of farm safety plans for their operations. These safety plans pave the way for compliance with the new regulations from the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act.  NeFU partnered with UNL Extensions to provide these in-depth trainings. The following trainings focused on Employees, Insurance, Meeting with Buyers and Financing from the FSA. One full day was spent on Holistic Financial Management teaching the nuts and bolts of running the farm to produce a profit. Participants were provided work books and other materials to use on their farms.

For the final session, participants from all four locations came to Lincoln atSoutheast Community College’s auditorium to hear renowned grower Atina Diffley. They were served food catered by local producers Prairie Plate, run by Renee and Jerry Cornett.

Jeremiah Picard, NeFU Outreach Director who organized the workshops said, “This series of trainings focused on small to medium specialty crop producers to increase their skills so they can take full advantage of future economic and growth opportunities for their businesses. These types of targeted trainings are designed to help insure that our local food and specialty crop producers continue to grow and thrive as they gear up to meet the increasing consumer demand for locally grown foods.  We hope to continue additional trainings in the future. ”

One attendee had this to say about the workshops: “This class is invaluable to us as farmers – very helpful in clearing up confusing issues around food safety and processing vegetables. Thank you!”

NeFU President John Hansen said “The workshops were designed to increase the economic viability of the participants by providing them with the tools necessary to reach new profitable markets including schools, restaurants, grocery stores and other wholesale markets. Thanks to the funding of USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service, Local Food Promotion Program, we hopefully helped grow the capacity of our local food producers to help them meet the growing needs of food consumers.”


Nebraska Farmers Union is a general farm organization with 5,700 farm and ranch family members dedicated to protecting and enhancing the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities.  Since 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union has helped organize over 445 cooperatives.


During 4-hour hearing, backers, foes debate eminent domain bill

During 4-hour hearing, backers, foes debate bill that would remove eminent domain authority for future oil pipelines

By Joe Duggan / World-Herald Bureau | Posted: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 9:00 pm


LINCOLN — If not for a Canadian company’s power to condemn private land in Nebraska, the Keystone XL pipeline would stand almost no chance of being built.

So opponents of the project stood firmly behind a bill heard in the Nebraska Legislature Wednesday that would take away eminent domain authority for future major oil pipelines.

Meanwhile, a representative from TransCanada Corp. urged members of the Judiciary Committee to kill the bill. The committee took no immediate action on the proposal.

During the four-hour public hearing, 30 people testified for Legislative Bill 473, introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha. Many expressed bitter disappointment in a 2012 law that gave eminent domain power to TransCanada, which they said the company has used as a threat to obtain land easements.

Jeanne Crumly, who owns property near the community of Page in northeast Nebraska, said she can understand using eminent domain for projects that benefit the public. For example, she and her husband have sold some of their farmland for a highway project.

“What we do not understand is the taking of private land for corporate profits,” she said.

Andrew Craig, land manager for the Keystone project in Nebraska, said the company strives to reach voluntary agreements with landowners. It has done so with 90 percent of the more than 500 landowners who own property along the 250-mile pipeline route in Nebraska.

He argued the pipeline provides a public benefit because it connects Canadian oil supplies to markets in the United States and helps lessen the reliance on overseas imports. That’s a point disputed by opponents, who say the oil, once refined, will be exported.

Passing Chambers’ bill into law, Craig said, would allow a single landowner to potentially block an entire oil pipeline. Plus, “it would establish a precedent that could be extended to other projects that expand and replace” aging equipment, such as rail, natural gas and electrical lines, he added.

For most of the past 80 years, state law imposed no restrictions on oil pipeline companies when it came to condemning land. TransCanada used eminent domain authority to build its first Keystone pipeline, which, since 2010, has carried up to 580,000 barrels of heavy crude oil daily through the state.

But pipeline regulations changed in response to controversy over the Keystone XL project, a 36-inch diameter line that would transport up to 830,000 barrels daily. In November 2011, the Legislature passed the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act during a special session called for the purpose of moving the project route away from the ecologically fragile Nebraska Sand Hills.

The 2011 law required builders of major oil pipelines to obtain route approval from the Nebraska Public Service Commission before they could use eminent domain against landowners.

During the 2012 legislative session, at the request of TransCanada, the Legislature passed another law that allowed the company to avoid the PSC. The 2012 law required a review by state environmental regulators, after which the governor could approve the route and give eminent domain authority to the company.

That law has ignited three years of litigation now destined to go before the Nebraska Supreme Court a second time. Landowners who oppose the pipeline say the 2012 law unconstitutionally gave the governor the authority to grant eminent domain power.

Keystone XL, first proposed in 2008, would carry bitumen mined from Canada’s oil sands region to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The southern leg of the project, from Oklahoma to Texas, is already operational.

For the northern route, the company has obtained rights-of-way in Montana and South Dakota, although South Dakota regulators are currently conducting an updated review.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has yet to recommend whether the project should receive a permit to cross the border between the two nations. President Barack Obama, who will make the final decision on the permit, recently vetoed a Senate bill that would have approved the pipeline without such a permit.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9587,