NeFU Strongly Opposes TPP

For Immediate Release                                                        

Contact:  John Hansen 402-476-8815



Nebraska Farmers Union Strongly Opposes Proposed Flawed TPP Over Failure to Address Currency Manipulation


Lincoln, NE:  John Hansen, President of Nebraska Farmers Union, a former USTR trade advisor for 14 years under Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama issued the following statement on behalf of his organization:


“The recently finalized Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will perform in a manner consistent with the other cookie cutter agreements the U.S. has agreed to since Congress approved NAFTA in 1993.  Instead of remedying the structural shortfalls in past agreements relative to currency manipulation, TPP amplifies those weaknesses.”


“Unlike when NAFTA was considered, Congress has twenty years of data to use to evaluate the U.S. trade policy performance.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division, since 1994, our nation has averaged an annual balance of trade deficit of $428.69 billion while digging a $9 trillion balance of trade cumulative deficit by ignoring the real world impacts of currency manipulation and the disparities caused by VATs (Value Added Taxes).  The 2014  U.S. trade deficit was $504.7 billion, which represents 3% of our nation’s GNP.  If we had balanced trade, our economy would be growing at twice the rate it is currently.  Not once since 1994 has the U.S. balance of trade been close to breaking even.  How bad does it have to get before Congress stops digging the trade deficit hole our country is in deeper?”


“We know what the problem is, yet USTR has failed to come to grips with the widely understood problem of currency manipulation.  The TPP is structurally similar to NAFTA, and will produce similar damage to our U.S. manufacturing, labor, and agricultural sectors.  Our nation can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to currency manipulation.  The USTR will not deal with currency manipulation as long as Congress continues to rubber stamp trade agreements that fail to deal with currency manipulation.  As a result, in the strategic economic interests of our nation, it should be rejected.”


“Agricultural interests will not be well served with this agreement.  Like all previous agreements, TPP dangles the prospect and promise of new markets is used to get everyone’s hopes up to secure ag based support, yet when the trade data comes in, food and ag imports increase at a faster rate than food and ag exports. As in most ventures, past experience is the best guide to future performance.”


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.


Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Receives Golden Triangle Award From NFU

For Immediate Release                                              

Contact:  John Hansen 402-580-8815


Representative Jeff Fortenberry Receives Golden Triangle Award From Farmers Union


LINCOLN (September 21, 2015) – Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) presented Representative Jeff Fortenberry with the Golden Triangle Award, the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) highest legislative honor.  The award was presented last week as a part of the annual NFU fall Fly-In that brought 275 Farmers Union members from across the country to Washington, DC to share their view and concerns with their elected officials.

Six Nebraskans participated in the NFU Fly-In and meetings with members of Congress and their staffs.  In addition to Hansen, Nebraska participants included Lynda Buoy of Bassett, Carol Schooley of Grand Island, Jeff Downing of Elkhorn, Kevin Herrold of Grand Island, and Mike Sarchet of Minatare.

The Golden Triangle is an annual award presented to members of Congress who have demonstrated leadership and support policies that benefit America’s family farmers, ranchers, fishermen and rural communities.

“Recipients of the Golden Triangle Award have been strong advocates for family farmers and ranchers, and support similar principles and policies as Farmers Union,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We are pleased to honor those who have proven to be true allies of our organization and family agriculture.”

This year’s Golden Triangle recipients were selected for their leadership on a variety of issues, including votes on Country of Origin Labeling and the RFS.  Representative Fortenberry’s award was presented by NeFU President John Hansen and his team at the end of their Fly-In meeting.

“Representative Fortenberry continues to be a leader on renewable energy, conservation, rural development, and family farm and ranch issues,” said NeFU President John Hansen.  “He does his homework, understands the issues, and is a respected and thoughtful advocate of family farm and ranch agriculture.  We particularly appreciate his “open door” approach to working with everyone in the rural community.”

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.

NeFU Sponsors Renewable Energy Forum

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


LINCOLN (September 2, 2015) – Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) President John Hansen announced that his organization is sponsoring a free public renewable energy forum at the Lifelong Learning Center, 701 Benjamin Avenue, Norfolk starting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 10th.  The forum will focus on the importance and potential of farm based renewable energy, including wind and solar from farm to commercial scale use.  He encourages the public to attend.

Neligh area farmer Art Tanderup and his solar installer Martin Kleinschmit of Hartington will discuss the process and financing used to install a solar electric generation system at Art’s farm.  Solar energy is increasingly being used by farmers and small businesses, and in communities around the state.

Lyle Kathol, Dean of the Applied Technology Division of Northeast Community College will discuss the state’s only Wind Energy Technology Associate of Applied Science degree program that his school sponsors for wind technicians needed to operate the growing number of wind farms in northeast Nebraska.

By the end of 2016, 72% the state’s wind energy generation capacity will be located in northeast Nebraska with 952 MW’s of the state’s 1,316 MW’s in the area served by Northeast Community College in Norfolk.  Renewable energy is the fastest growing source of new tax base, farm income, and local jobs in rural northeast Nebraska.  Those 545 area wind turbines need technicians to service them.

Rev. Kim Morrow, Executive Director of Nebraska Interfaith Power and Light will discuss the importance of renewable energy as part of the religious community’s moral response to the growing challenges posed by climate change.

John Atkeison, a long time analyst, researcher, and writer on renewable energy, climate change, and wildlife issues will present the findings of the University of Nebraska’s report “Understanding and Assessing Climate Change: Implications for Nebraska”.  The report was prepared for the Legislature as a result of LB583 passed in 2013 sponsored by Sen. Ken Haar and signed by Governor Heineman.

John Hansen, NeFU President and Co-Chair of the Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference will provide an update on the status of wind development in Nebraska, pending renewable energy legislation in the Legislature, and topics to be covered in the upcoming 2015 Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference to be held in Omaha November 4-5th.  Hansen will also highlight the enormous economic opportunities renewable energy offers rural communities struggling to diversify and grow their tax bases, increase farm incomes, and create new good paying jobs that help rural kids stay in the rural communities they love.

NeFU Brings Six Members to Washington for Fly-in

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

LINCOLN, NE  (September 1, 2015) – Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) President John Hansen announced today that six NeFU members will participate in the fall National Farmers Union Fly-In scheduled for September 15-18.  Hansen said this year there was also a targeted Fly-In last May focused on opposing the repeal of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) in the House of Representatives.

“There is no substitute for bringing farmers and ranchers to Washington to visit directly with their Congressional delegation and the Administration on the issues of the day that impact their operations.   They are the experts on how different public policies impact their farming and ranching operations.  Fly-Ins is grassroots democracy in action,” Hansen said.

The top three issues that will be discussed this fall in the NFU Fly-In will include COOL, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and several trade issues including expanding trade with Cuba and opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership that fails to deal with the trade distorting impacts of currency devaluation and Value Added Taxes (VATS) have on trade.

Hansen said that NeFU has fought to establish COOL for domestically produced food products since 1984.  He said, “It is extremely frustrating that the four adverse WTO rulings on COOL leaves the U.S. bound by a completely bizarre ruling that does not allow for a path forward for U.S. mandatory COOL, but still allows 70 other countries in the world to continue to have some sort of mandatory COOL in force.  “COOL provides food producers with the ability to identify and differentiate their own products in their own domestic market.  COOL provides U.S. food consumers with the ability to make informed buying decisions about the food they buy for their families.  Polls continue to show that 90% of food consumers want to know where their food comes from.”

Farmers Union has long championed the benefits and value of the RFS, and will be continuing to encourage Congress to support the original EPA annual ethanol production targets.  “Given the collapse of domestic grain prices to below the cost of production for many producers, the last thing we ought to be doing right now is reducing the amount of ethanol we produce from domestic grains,” Hansen said.

“Last year the U.S. balance of trade deficit was $504 billion, which is approximately 3% of our nation’s GNP.  Since 1994, the cumulative balance of trade deficit is over $9 trillion.  Current trade policy is not working for American citizens.  Our public officials need to need to deal with the real world issues of currency manipulation and Value Added Taxes that other countries have and the U.S. does not that puts the U.S. at a 19% disadvantage for products coming in and products going out.  Our nation simply cannot afford to continue to run annual trade deficits of $504 billion,” Hansen said.

NeFU Urges Higher RFS Levels

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                     Contact: John Hansen 402-476-8815
July 27, 2015                                                                                                                                               

NeFU Strongly Urges Administration to Comply with RFS Levels in EISA Statute

LINCOLN (July 27, 2015) – Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) President John Hansen submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging the administration to set Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume obligations to the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) statutory levels.

“NeFU strongly believes the volume standards issued in EPA’s proposed rule for RFS target levels represent a substantial but unnecessary step backwards relative to renewable energy development. The proposed EPA production targets send negative signals that will hurt investment. The EPA delay in proposing the production targets for 2014, 2015, and 2016 will not be finalized until the end of 2015. These production targets are supposed to be done in advance of the production years. The production levels reductions themselves are unnecessarily hurtful, and the lateness of the regulations is simply inexcusable,” said Hansen. “NeFU strongly urges the administration to comply with the RFS levels already provided in the popular, bipartisan EISA statute.”

“The proposed, lower volume standards reward the oil industry for not increasing consumer choice and dragging their feet with retail blender pump deployment. The proposed EPA volume standards ignore the will of Congress. Congress mandated these production levels, and for less than good cause, EPA rolls them back. That is very concerning,” said Hansen. “EPA should hold the oil industry to the proposed targets. That would be consistent with the Administration’s support for renewable fuel development, and the need to build the consumer retail fuels infrastructure necessary to use higher-level ethanol blends.”

Hansen noted the proposed rule is inconsistent with the administration’s climate resiliency goals and policies that are needed to mitigate the threats climate change poses to family agriculture. He said the RFS is a forward looking roadmap for renewable energy that is good for the economy, the rural economy in particular, energy independence, air quality, and carbon and GHG emission reductions.

“EPA should pursue GHG emission reductions at every opportunity to try to mitigate climate change as much as possible,” said Hansen. “The RFS offers tremendous capacity to reduce GHGs by encouraging the use of transportation fuels that emit fewer GHGs than petroleum-based transportation fuels.

“NeFU respectfully asks EPA and the Obama Administration to reverse the unnecessary step backwards the EPA proposed production targets represents. Our nation needs to move forward with more renewable energy production, not backwards, especially given the projected size of the 2015 corn crop and the painful drop in corn and grain prices. Common sense needs to prevail in this major economic and environmental regulation. The proposed EPA ethanol production standards need to be reversed.”

Tell EPA to Support the RFS

For Immediate Release                                                               

Contact: John Hansen 402-476-8815


NeFU Asks Consumers to Tell EPA to Support the RFS


Lincoln, NE.  Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) announced it will host an information booth at the Neil Young concert at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln Saturday to help consumers send written or electronic comments to EPA in support of the original RFS production targets through their public comment process.  The EPA public comment deadline is July 27th.

“We are pleased that our long-time friend Neil Young is coming back to Lincoln.  Neil has been a long-time advocate for home-grown renewable energy, including ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, wind, solar, and biodiesel,” said John Hansen, President of Nebraska Farmers Union. “NeFU was pleased to welcome Neil Young, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp and their friends Steppenwolf, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, and John Denver along with the Grateful Dead via satellite to Lincoln for their third Farm Aid concert September 19, 1987, and we are pleased to welcome Neil Young back to Lincoln and Nebraska.

NeFU will have postcards from the Nebraska Corn Board for public comments to EPA in support of the original production targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  NeFU will also have information on how to go to the Growth Energy website to send in comments to EPA electronically.

The Growth Energy website has a user friendly link that makes it easy and simple for the public to send their comments to EPA in support of the RFS.  That link is:

NeFU has been a pioneering state leader in the development of home-grown renewable energy, including ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, wind energy, solar energy, biodiesel, biomass, and landfill gas through public education and legislative efforts.  “Renewable energy reduces carbon emissions, improves air quality, provides new tax bases, new jobs, new value added profitable markets for farm commodities, and represents a responsible and sustainable future,” said John Hansen.

NeFU praised and thanked Neil Young and Farm Aid’s long-standing support of the Nebraska Farm Crisis Hotline, the longest continuously operating farm crisis hotline in America.  NeFU, along with members of the faith community and other farm organizations through the sponsorship of Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska formed the Nebraska Farm Crisis Hotline in 1984. Through the (800) 464-0258 Hotline number, rural people in crisis can access trained professional counselors who help them get the services they need, including emergency food assistance, legal assistance, financial counseling, mediation services, and mental health vouchers used to access the statewide system of ag knowledgeable professional mental health counselors.  “A friend in need is a friend indeed, and Neil Young and Farm Aid have been a friend to thousands of Nebraska family farmers and ranchers in their time of need for the past 31 years,” concluded John Hansen, a 25 year Board of Director of the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline.

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.

NeFU Testifies at RFS Hearing in KC

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

June 25, 2015


NeFU Testifies at EPA RFS Hearing in Kansas City


Kansas City, KS:  Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) Vice President Vern Jantzen of Plymouth represented Nebraska Farmers Union at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing on their proposed ethanol production targets for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Jantzen’s testimony took EPA to task for their failure to get the production targets finalized in advance of the production years, and also for the target levels themselves.  In his testimony, Jantzen said:

“Timing:  EPA is inexcusably late with their decision.  EPA was under obligation to set the production targets, and propose and finalize the rules well before the 2014 production year began to give the ethanol industry the certainty it needs to prepare for the next year.  The 2014 production year has already come and gone.  The 2015 rules will not be finalized until the year is mostly over.  It remains to be seen if the proposed rule is finalized before the 2016 production year begins.  In our view, EPA’s failure to set production targets in advance of production years is inexcusable, and damaging to the ethanol industry by virtue of the uncertainty it creates.”

“Production levels:  EPA flat out blew the setting of targets.  We believe the proposed targets are not consistent with the intent of Congress.  In our view, EPA bought a bogus blend wall problem argument from the oil industry.  The oil industry is the source of any real or imagined blend wall problem by virtue of the fact they have failed to make higher retail ethanol blend options available to the consuming public.  They have denied fuel consumers the ability to purchase E85, E30, and E15 blends, and then claim there is a blend wall problem.  EPA’s proposed production targets rewards the oil industry for dragging their feet on the retailing of higher grade ethanol blends.”

“Summary:  EPA’s proposed ethanol production targets are not consistent with the Administration’s efforts to reduce the carbon emissions that drive global warming, not consistent with the intent of Congress, not consistent with our nation’s efforts to improve air quality, and not consistent with the needs of production agriculture and rural America that is facing a dramatic downturn in commodity prices for corn.  EPA’s proposed production targets hurt our ethanol industry, and our nation’s corn producers and the rural communities they live in.  We urge EPA to pull back their proposed rule, and stick with the original legislatively set targets for 2015 and 2016.  Thank you again for the opportunity to testify.”

NE Cattle Ranchers Divided on COOL

Nebraska cattle ranchers divided on country-of-origin labeling

Darrel Buschkoetter can’t understand it: When he buys a shirt or an appliance, it says “Made in China,” or wherever the item was produced. But when it comes to the beef cattle he raises at his Webster County farm, laws requiring country-of-origin labels are under attack.

Under threat of trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico, the U.S. House on Wednesday voted to repeal parts of a law requiring the labels on packages of beef, pork and poultry. Now labeling opponents are pressuring the Senate to do the same.

Buschkoetter said that’s misguided: “Consumers would like to know where their beef is coming from.”

It’s an issue that divides Nebraska’s cattle industry and its congressional delegation, as Canada and Mexico threaten measures including tariffs against a variety of U.S. imports if the label law isn’t repealed. Those nations oppose the labeling because it causes their animals to be segregated from those of U.S. origin — a costly process that has led some U.S. companies, including Tyson and other meatpackers, to stop buying some exports.

Coming from the other side, Nebraska Cattlemen President Dave McCracken said: “I cannot see how you could possibly hope to have a tariff put on your product. It makes no sense to me.” He said the organization favors voluntary, not mandatory, country-of-origin labeling.

Beef sellers also are divided. The National Grocers Association, representing independent supermarket operators, supported the repeal, saying the law imposes costs on retailers for something that is “of very little value to the consumer.”

Omaha Steaks said it would continue to provide labels even if not required. “There are hard costs involved with labeling products with country of origin but given the scale of our business it’s minimal,” spokeswoman Kelsey Bugjo said.

In York for his organization’s midyear meeting Thursday, McCracken said Cattlemen members celebrated the House’s vote and now will lobby Nebraska’s senators on the issue. No Senate bill has been introduced.

“It is important we work quickly to honor our trade commitments,” she said. “We must protect U.S. producers and manufacturers from regulatory tariffs that would have disastrous consequences for Nebraska jobs and exports.”

Lobbying pressure is also on from the Nebraska Farmers Union. Its president, John Hansen, said consumers deserve to know where their meat was raised and slaughtered, and he said U.S. meat producers want to be able to distinguish, at retail, what they believe is a superior product. He called the House vote an “unfortunate and tragic surrender” that amounted to giving in without looking for another solution.

The vote came after the World Trade Organization rejected a U.S. appeal last month, ruling that the labels that say where animals were born, raised and slaughtered are discriminatory against the two U.S. border countries.

The Obama administration has already revised the labels once to try to comply with previous WTO rulings. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said it’s up to Congress to change the law to avoid retaliation.

The law was initially written at the behest of northern U.S. ranchers who compete with the Canadian cattle industry. Supporters have called on the U.S. government to negotiate with Canada and Mexico to find labels acceptable to all countries.

The House bill would go beyond just the muscle cuts of red meat that were covered under the WTO case, repealing country-of-origin labeling for poultry, ground beef and ground pork. The legislation would leave in place country-of-origin labeling requirements for other commodities including lamb, venison, seafood, fruits and vegetables and some nuts. Congress required the labels in 2002 and 2008 farm laws.

Reps. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., and Brad Ashford, D-Neb., supported repeal of the labeling requirements. So did Reps. Steve King and David Young, both western Iowa Republicans.

Young said tariffs could total billions, severely hurting U.S. producers, and he questioned the point of the labeling requirements.

“While (the labeling) is well-intentioned, we have voluntary programs already in place that give consumers information and the right to know where these products came from,” he said.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., voted against repeal.

“If you know where your shirt comes from, then you should know where your food comes from,” he said. “I anticipate that we will be able to come up with a solution that avoids retaliation.”

World-Herald staff writer Joseph Morton contributed to this article, which contains material from the Associated Press.

NeFU Hails Defeat of LB176

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


NeFU Hails Defeat of LB176 as a Victory For Family Farmers and Rural Communities

LINCOLN (May 28, 2015) – Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) said the legislative battle to modify the current statutory state prohibiting pork processors to directly own hogs in Nebraska was an important victory for family farmers and ranchers, and rural Nebraska.

“Where do we want the profit centers to be located for hog and livestock feeding in our state, rural Nebraska or Beijing, China?” asked John Hansen, NeFU President.  “When family farmers and ranchers own the livestock, the profits stay in rural communities and powers capital investment, equipment purchases, hiring of more labor, expansion, and improvements in the quality of life since that is where they and their families live.”

Hansen pointed out that Smithfield is a company owned by the Chinese government.  Smithfield owned 887,000 sows in the U.S. at the end of 2014, and 1,111,000 total when counting their operations in Mexico, Poland, and Romania according to Successful Farming magazine.  That is over twice as many sows as Triumph Foods, which includes five hog operations.  Smithfield is also the largest pork processor in the nation.  The top four hog processors control over 63% of all hog slaughter in the nation.

“Why would it possibly be in the interest of Nebraska for the Legislature to help facilitate the ownership and control of the Nebraska hog industry by hog processors, especially from hog processors from China and Brazil?” Hansen asked.  “Hog processors ought to process hogs, and hog producers ought to own and raise hogs.  That is how we keep competition in the marketplace.  LB176 was a frontal assault on the structure of the hog marketplace.  It would have economically, socially, environmentally, and structurally changed how we raise hogs in our state, damaged the current hog market, and undermined the state ban on beef packer ownership of cattle.  LB 176 was a major change for the worse in our state.”

Hansen noted that according to AgWeb, only 3% of all hogs sold in the U.S. today are open market hogs sold on the cash market.  “When a marketplace has only 3% cash sales, that is a cry for regulatory help and a disgrace to our American free enterprise and competitive marketing system. The anti-trust division of the U.S. Justice Department has failed our nation.  The last thing rural America needs and hog producers need is to have the Chinese government take over control and ownership of our domestic hog industry,” Hansen said.

Hansen thanked the State Senators who stood up for family farm agriculture, including Senators Dave Bloomfield, Kate Bolz, Lydia Brasch, Ernie Chambers, Tanya Cook, Sue Crawford, Al Davis, Mike Groene, Ken  Haar, Sara Howard, Rick Kolowski, Bob Krist,John Kuehn, Beau McCoy, Jeremy Nordquist, Merv Riepe, David Schnoor, and Kate Sullivan for either voting “NO” or “Present Non-Voting.  “They stood up and fought for the interests of family farmers today” Hansen concluded.                                    

Packer ownership ban survives repeal attempt

by Ken Anderson

An attempt to repeal Nebraska’s ban on meatpacker ownership of hogs is dead for this session.

The bill had received first round approval, but a filibuster on Wednesday prevented it from advancing to a second-round vote.

Nebraska Farmers Union president John Hansen applauded the legislature’s action–or, in this case, inaction.

“The impact of LB176 would be to structurally, economically, environmentally and socially change how we produce hogs in Nebraska,” Hansen says.

During debate on the bill, Senator Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids said allowing meat packers to own hogs and contract with Nebraska producers would not be a positive move.

“I would suggest to you that this bill makes those producers nothing more than serfs,” Sullivan said.

But Senator John Stinner of Gering argued that agriculture has evolved since the packer hog feeding ban was instituted in 1998.

“I will tell you that the family farm has now morphed into thousands of acres of production, technology has been incorporated throughout their organizations, and many times these family farms and farms have now morphed into trucking organizations, cattle feeding, hog production, and so on,” Stinner stated. “So, they are looking for ways to continue to diversify, continue to expand, and continue to build.”

Nebraska Farm Bureau president Steve Nelson was disappointed that the bill failed to advance.

“We know there are great opportunities to expand livestock in Nebraska and this is just another option for farmers and ranchers to use to expand livestock in their operation.  It might be a way to bring a young person back into the operation,” Nelson says.