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.

Please support NeFUF TODAY on Give to Lincoln Day

Dear NeFU members and supporters,

For the first time ever, the NeFU Foundation is participating in the annual Give to Lincoln Day on May 28thTODAY! You have the opportunity to make a contribution to nonprofit organizations in Lincoln and we’re counting on you to choose us. This is a unique opportunity because the Lincoln Community Foundation is offering to match donations up to $10,000.

NeFU Foundation’s educational programs for the public and family farmers and ranchers include topics that range from high value-added locally produced foods of all kinds, to renewable energy opportunities including wind, solar, ethanol, and biofuels to soil and water conservation programs, to climate change to livestock husbandry issues.

The NeFU Foundation embraces the educational opportunity to share information and perspective on the tough issues and challenges facing our society as a whole and family farm agriculture. We believe in the value of and need for a healthy and vibrant civil society as part of our citizenship responsibilities.

This year, we are excited to be involved in Give to Lincoln Day 2015 along with other Lincoln nonprofits. the NeFU Foundation is a statewide foundation that is headquartered in Lincoln. It is a new opportunity for us to let you know about our educational efforts to support our traditional system of independent owner-operator agriculture. We welcome your interest, questions, and support.

It is best to contribute through the Razoo page on the link below so we can better keep track of contributions but it’s also possible to drop a check by the Lincoln Community Foundation’s office in downtown Lincoln at 215 Centennial Mall S Ste 100. There are also events happening at their office that day. We kindly ask that you don’t mail a check or send it to the Farmers Union office.

Donate here: TODAY!

Thank you for your generous support!

Filibuster Fails to Get Enough Support to Keep Corporate Ban

By Paul Hammel / World-Herald Bureau

LINCOLN — After a sometimes emotional, daylong debate, state lawmakers advanced a bill that would end a state ban on corporate ownership of hogs.

Proponents hailed the proposal as a way to create jobs, increase the number of hogs raised in Nebraska and lure young people back to rural areas.

But opponents, who mounted an unsuccessful filibuster, disputed that, maintaining that it would allow a Chinese-owned company to own hogs in the state and make hog farmers “sharecroppers” to big corporations.

“This bill makes farmers nothing more than serfs,” said State Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids. “You would be totally beholden to the corporate entity that owns the hogs.”

Legislative Bill 176, the priority bill of Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, would eliminate a ban on corporate ownership of hogs that was passed back in 1999.

That was when Nebraska still had a constitutional ban on corporate ownership of farmland, Initiative 300, and the ban on hog ownership was seen as an extension of that.

But Schilz said that times have changed. Not only has Initiative 300 been declared unconstitutional, but the senator said that Nebraska has been left in the dust when it comes to hog production.

While Nebraska has matched the national growth rate in hog production over the past decade at 14 percent, the senator said that neighboring states have grown much faster. South Dakota had 53 percent growth; Iowa 30 percent; Minnesota 25 percent; and Missouri, 22 percent, according to Schilz.

“Nebraska is not keeping pace,” he said.

Schilz said that he is concerned that the state’s three hog processors may someday move elsewhere, jeopardizing the 5,000 jobs they now provide. About 40 percent of the hogs they slaughter come from out of state, said the senator, a cattle feeder.

The vast majority of hogs raised in Nebraska are done so through contracts with hog processors, who set timetables for delivery and often provide feed. LB 176 would allow the processors, like Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest hog processor, to also own the animals.

Critics of the bill said that it lead to the “chickenization” of the hog industry, and could eventually spread and lead to the end of the independent cattle producer.

“Chickenization” refers to how chickens have been raised for years. Large corporations own the animals, the barns and the land, as well as the processing facilities. Workers are employees, not “farmers” in the traditional sense of the word.

Opponents of LB 176 said that just like the price of chickens are now set by the big companies, the price of pork would be established by a few corporations.

John Hansen of the Nebraska Farmers Union said that allowing corporate ownership of hogs would saddle a farmer with all the liability for buildings, taxes and manure disposal, but the company would make most of the profit.

“This bill isn’t for family farming, it’s for corporate farming,” said Scribner Sen. David Schnoor.

Gering Sen. John Stinner said that allowing corporations to own the hogs, and contract with farmers to grow them, might help bring young people back to rural areas. With such a contract, a young person, with just a small plot of land, would have the equity needed to get a loan to build a confined hog operation, said Stinner, who is a banker.

But opponents of LB 176 said that wouldn’t be the case because companies wouldn’t be seeking out startup farmers, but larger, more established hog growers.

Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy, whose family in southwest Nebraska used to raise hogs, said that he was concerned that the profits from hogs would be flowing out of the state and even out of the country, pointing out the Chinese ownership of Smithfield.

But the complaints of opponents never got traction as a series of amendments and motions they pursued over the eight-hour debate never got more than a dozen votes.

Backers of LB 176 included the State Department of Agriculture, the Nebraska Farm Bureau and the State Chamber of Commerce. Gov. Pete Ricketts has also spoken in support of expanding the state’s livestock industry.

When it came time to vote on ending the filibuster and passing the bill, supporters won easily, with most urban senators backing LB 176. The cloture vote to end the filibuster passed by a 34-9 margin, and the vote to advance the bill from first-round debate was 28-10.

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.