Nebraska

Anti-pipeline signs greet visitors to Art Tanderup's farm near Neligh, Nebraska. Now that TransCanada has been granted a federal permit, Nebraska state approval is one of the last hurdles for the project.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline, is scheduled to go before the Nebraska Public Service Commission next week, the final hurdle before the agency decides whether the pipeline’s path should be approved.

Nearly all of the ethanol blended into U.S. gasoline is made from corn.
File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

On a sweltering summer morning, Rob Mitchell surveys a plot of switchgrass at a research field near Lincoln, Nebraska. The grass is lush, green and nearly six feet tall.

“And it will get a couple feet taller than this,” says Mitchell, an agronomist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “So we’re putting on a lot of biomass right now.”

Charred trees scatter a hillside in northwest Nebraska after a massive wildfire in 2012. That year's fire season set a modern record in the state with around 500,000 acres burned.
File: Hilary Stohs-Krause / NET News

Wildfires burned through thousands of acres of Great Plains farm and ranch land in the 1980s. Today, wildfires are likely to char millions of acres.

The Great Plains are seeing more wildfires, according to a new study, leading researchers to ask why the fires are happening, and fire managers to examine what resources they will need to keep the blazes in check.

File: Stephanie Paige Ogburn for Harvest Public Media

After coming to an agreement with U.S. trade officials to bring American beef to China after a 14-year hiatus, the most populous country in the world is set to once again import U.S.-raised beef. To take advantage of the massive new market, however, the U.S. cattle industry is going to have to make some changes.

Some of Steve Krajicek's cattle stand in a barn in Cuming County, Nebraska.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Cattle ranchers have spent years battling big meat companies, saying the companies have too much market power. Now, those ranchers worry that a Trump Administration move to delay federal rules that would make it easier for them lodge complaints about unfair treatment may spell the end of the new rules altogether. But the industry is divided by the government’s move to make sure meat companies play fair with farmers.

A sign at the edge of Bill Bevans' turkey farm near Waverly, Nebraska, serves as a biosecurity checkpoint.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Midwest farmers are warily watching as one strain of a highly contagious bird flu virus infects and kills humans in China and another less-worrying but still highly contagious strain infects a Tennessee poultry farm. Two years after a devastating bird flu outbreak in the Midwest, many farmers here say they now have a better idea of how to keep bird flu at bay.

Many farmers are used to fixing their own machinery, but without the right software from tractor manufacturers they are effectively locked out.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

A new tractor often costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but not included in that price: the right to repair it. That has put farmers on the front lines of a battle pitting consumers against the makers of all kinds of consumer goods, from tractors to refrigerators to smart phones.  

Free trade agreements like NAFTA have generally eased restrictions on Corn Belt farmers selling their corn and soybeans to markets all over the world.
File: NET Nebraska

The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, has been very good to many Midwest agriculture producers. That’s why many farmers and ranchers are nervous about President Donald Trump’s promise to either completely dismantle, or at least renegotiate, the free-trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

The Brazile Creek Groundwater Management Area encompasses 756 square miles of north-central Nebraska.
Ariana Brocious / For Harvest Public Media

At a nitrogen management class in the small town of Creighton, Nebraska, Tanner Jenkins shows a chart of groundwater data to a group of about 40 farmers. He points to a red line, which shows the level of chemical nitrates in groundwater over time.

“You can see we’re on a pretty steady upward click,” Jenkins, who works for a local groundwater district, tells the farmers.

Decades of intensive farming have contaminated the groundwater across many parts of Nebraska. A new plan may help farmers in the northeastern part of the state address the problem.

Advocate Jamie Manzer, right, shows reporter Mike Tobias a bag of essential items a local nonprofit gives trafficking victims.
David Koehn / NET News

“For most of our trafficking victims this is kind of where we're going to start,” says Jamie Manzer, as she gives a tour of the SASA (Spouse Abuse Sexual Assault) Crisis Center, where she worked until recently.

SASA helps survivors of domestic and sexual violence. That includes women being trafficked: sold against their will for sex. Like a lot of social service agencies, the SASA office used to be something else, but they’ve made the best out of oddly shaped space and rooms.

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