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Letters to the Editor
“Pat your tummy and say thanks to a farmer” PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 27 March 2014 00:00

Dear Editor:

March 25th was National Ag Day–a day to pat your tummy and say thanks to a farmer without whom that tummy would be growling with hunger. Each farmer/rancher in the U.S. feeds 144 people in the U.S. and abroad. In the 1960s each farmer fed just 25.

As each generation gets farther and farther from the farm, it becomes more and more important to educate the eaters of America with where that food comes from and how it gets to their tables.

When food consumers have never sat down around a table and heard Grandpa or Uncle Bill or Dad talk about the challenges of farming, they begin to think raising food is easy.

When consumers never experience seeing the farmer trekking through the snow to save a cold baby calf or spending a whole day in the heat repairing a combine or watching a big black cloud demolish a complete crop, they begin to believe that farmers are in it “just for the money.”

It is up to us, the producers of 2014, to tell our stories and educate our consumers so they can truly appreciate the men and women producing the food to keep their tummies happy.

Other producers of goods and services advertise their products. We can begin our own private advertising by talking about what we do with the people we meet—our families, the guy who sits next to us on the plane, the clerk at the store, the kids in our schools, the people at our church, etc.

We need to begin challenging the myths about farming and ranching and letting consumers know that food is produced by real PEOPLE. People who care about the welfare of our animals, crops, and natural resources.

People who face the elements and financial challenges every day so consumers can have a safe, steady supply of food. People who live in families and work together long hours so their children can have a healthy diet.

We can help tell the story by joining with other farmers and ranchers in organizations that educate consumers. It doesn’t cost much to join an ag org. As they say in other advertising “just pennies a day.” In most ag organizations, it comes to “less than a penny a day.”

For example, WIFE (Women Involved in Farm Economics) dues are just $80 a year. For those dues, you get educational activities for people of all ages, information so you can be better informed, and a chance to make your voice heard on legislative and regulatory issues.

It’s up to you and me to tell the story. Not just for National Ag Day but every day of the year. Have you considered joining others in doing just that?

Pam Potthoff, President

Nebraska WIFE

Trenton, Nebr.

Nebraskan water stewardship has produced measurable results PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 17:53

Dear Editor:

Nebraskans care about preserving groundwater, and their stewardship has produced measurable results.

According to a United States Geological Survey report issued in 2012, every state but Nebraska that overlies a significant portion of the Ogallala Aquifer has significantly less water than it did before irrigation development began.

Nebraska, on the other hand, has actually increased the amount of water in the aquifer by 1.2 million acre feet since the 1950s. That compares to declines of 60 million acre feet in Kansas and 150 million acre feet in Texas.

Remarkably, this was achieved at the same time Nebraska overtook California as the state with the most irrigated acres.

A 2012 study for Nebraska Farm Bureau done by Decision Innovation Solutions concluded that the inability to irrigate in Nebraska would cause an estimated loss of $11 billion in sales.

Despite this achievement of growing the agricultural economy without sacrificing future generations’ access to water, and the far-reaching economic consequences of undercutting the irrigation in the state, a state senator from Omaha is aggressively pursuing a policy that could dismantle a significant portion of Nebraska’s agricultural economy.

The bill, LB1074, introduced by Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, has been described by supporters as a way of simply allowing any river basin in the state to be declared over-appropriated like a portion of the Platte River has been.

In reality, the bill could replace a cooperative dialogue between Natural Resources Districts and the state Department of Natural Resources with a severe mandate that the difference between fully and over-appropriated level of a river basin be “reduced to zero.”

To understand this requirement, one must understand what fully appropriated means. The condition occurs when the most junior surface water user in the basin is unable to divert 85 percent of the irrigation requirement of corn or as much as they could divert when the permit was issued, whichever is less.

LB 1074 uses this same definition for fully and over appropriated. Since the only water use that can be regulated is groundwater irrigation, impliedly groundwater use would be limited to the point the most junior surface water user was able to divert as much as they could when their permit was issued or supply at least 85 percent of the full irrigation requirement.

In many cases, groundwater irrigation would have to make up for reduction in surface water supplies caused by conservation or irrigation.

What could this mean for water users across the state and the agricultural economy?

Groundwater irrigation would have to be unnecessarily curtailed or even shut down across large swaths of the state with no clear idea of who would actually benefit.

Just as problematic is that perceived beneficiaries of the proposal—some surface water appropriators—would in many cases not see the regeneration of water supplies promised in the bill. This is because the reduction between water supplies they have now and what they had when first receiving surface water permits in most cases is not due solely, and in many cases not even primarily, by groundwater irrigation.

In the Republican Basin, for example, studies have shown that Republican River stream flow has declined about 63,000 acre feet annually because of small dams and terraces.

Additionally, studies have shown that the percentage of precipitation that results in runoff in the Republican River—the flow of which is 70 percent runoff and 30 percent baseflow from groundwater —has been reduced by about 40 percent since the 1940s because of modern farming practices such as no-till and fewer large rain events.

Finally, in the Republican Basin, approximately 70,000 acre feet of water that annually used to enter Nebraska from Kansas and Colorado no longer enters the state. Despite these conditions that have nothing to do with groundwater irrigation, LB1074 would impose additional regulations on groundwater irrigation to make up for these losses in stream flow.

Simply put, the bill could force historically severe water use regulations in a futile attempt to achieve the impossible.

Ironically, the same water users the bill intends to help—surface water users —could be harmed the most. In many cases surface water users also have groundwater wells because they are more efficient. Groundwater wells closest to rivers, and in many cases owned by surface water appropriators, would likely be first in line to be shut down to generate additional stream flow, if LB1074 were to pass.

While it is unclear who would actually benefit from the legislation, a recent study helps quantify the losses. The 2012 Nebraska Farm Bureau study concluded that the inability to irrigate via all types of irrigation in Nebraska would cause 31,221 job losses and a $7.1 billion loss in direct economic activity such as purchase of supplies and equipment.

The total value-added loss—which includes loss of labor incomes, property income and indirect business taxes—would be approximately $5.5 billion. The total annual value-added loss in the Republican Basin alone could be more than $800 million.

The conclusions in the study were based on a cessation of both surface and groundwater irrigation in Nebraska but the majority of the impacts would be caused by the stoppage of groundwater irrigation. Approximately 8 million acres in Nebraska are irrigated with groundwater; about 565,000 acres, or roughly 7 percent of all irrigated acres in the state, are irrigated with surface water.

Given Nebraska’s thriving agricultural sector, abundant water resources and management of them that far exceeds what is done in other states, some questions should be asked of LB1074: Does it cause more problems than it solves?

Managing water responsibly for the benefit of all water users now and far into the future is one of the most important tasks we have as a state. We believe if Nebraskans take a close look at this legislation they will conclude it represents an irresponsible step that could cause permanent and unnecessary economic damage.

Dustin Weiss, Imperial

Agent, Farm Bureau Financial Services


Writer: Things I had not considered PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 19:27

Dear Editor:

The January 2, 2014 issue of the Wauneta Breeze contained a letter to the editor in which I very strongly expressed my opinions concerning the purchase of iPads by the Wauneta-Palisade School District. I said I believe in old-fashioned teaching rather than overuse of high-tech devices. In that letter I also quoted figures about U.S. students’ rankings worldwide, mentioning that our rankings, as we hear constantly from some media, are low.

I fully expected an equally strong rebuttal and have looked in the paper ever since that letter was printed to see if anyone was going to let me have it.

Nobody ever did. I wondered why, but then I remembered that now I live in Nebraska, a state where the most marked characteristic about its people is that they are very nice, so much so that it is practically state law to wave at other motorists as we pass each other. Try that in most other states and you get odd stares.

As I conducted my “supermarket polls” to see what sort of reaction my letter elicited, again, everyone was very nice. Finally, someone “corrected” me by her telling me some things I did not know and feel should be shared.

This sweet young lady told me that we cannot take for granted that our test scores are any lower than any other country because, besides the use of different types of testing instruments, many countries do not include the test results of special-needs students, which may affect the averages.

We, in the U.S., do include these scores. She said that when we compare our test scores with those of other countries, we are, therefore, comparing apples to oranges.

This lovely person also expressed her opinion about the teaching of grammar, saying that the most important variable in students’ learning is how much they read. She stressed that the more people read, the better pretty much all of their skills become.

Whether or not I agree wholeheartedly with this very bright individual is immaterial. The point I want to make is that she informed me of things I had not considered in a gentle, considerate, and respectful manner. I really appreciate that.

I, of course, always wish to be fair. So I would like to thank my friend for her considered opinion and most of all, for her warm, patient, and friendly demeanor.

Pat Holder


Writer: Focus on high-tech devices rather than real learning, has contributed to U.S. students’ rankings PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Tuesday, 31 December 2013 18:04

Dear Editor:

I read in the Nov. 28, 2013, edition of the Wauneta Breeze about how Wauneta-Palisade Schools used $13,216 in grant money to purchase iPads “for every high school student and teacher.” The article went on to mention that the superintendent said the grant money paid for “approximately 90 percent” of these devices.

The students were quoted as being “very excited.” I’m glad they were excited. Yet that excitement is rather like children being excited that they get candy for dessert. While candy is delicious, it does not contribute any significant nutrition.

Similarly, while iPads are fun, in my opinion, they do not contribute significantly to education, to actual learning. I believe it is this exact focus, a focus on high-tech devices rather than real learning, that has contributed to U.S. students’ rankings where we have slipped internationally from 24th to 29th place in science, with similar results in math, and an equally appalling 10th place to 20th place in reading.

We in Wauneta are in a position to do something about this.

When my last letter to the editor was printed in the Breeze, a letter where I commented on our not-so-great test scores at Wauneta-Palisade Schools, I received overwhelming positive feedback all over town.

In that letter I mentioned that I had called the superintendent of our schools and offered my services to help bring up these low test scores. Test scores are an area I know something about.

When I taught GED at the fifth-ranked junior college in the nation, I used a textbook and an old-fashioned chalkboard, and my results were that I had exactly twice as many students pass the test as my colleague who used programmed texts (those books that presented material, asked questions, and gave answers on the next page, a useless tool that was abandoned decades ago) and computers.

I never got a phone call back from the school. Call me old-fashioned, but along with good old-fashioned teaching that brings good old-fashioned learning, I believe in the common-courtesy practice of returning phone calls.

Thank you,

Patricia Holder


Writer: Newspaper was right not to sugar-coat school’s test results PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 31 October 2013 21:02

Dear Editor:

I read Tony Cribelli’s letter to the editor in the Oct. 24 edition of the Breeze about our school’s 2012-13 not-so-great test scores, and I felt I must respond to his “stridently negative” comments.

I truly don’t understand why he was so outraged. After all it is the paper’s responsibility to report the facts, good and bad, and that’s exactly what it did. It would have been flat-out wrong to sugar-coat the story. I agree with Dr. Phil who says, “You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.”

I would suggest Mr. Cribelli do what I did when I read the headline about the test scores: Instead of attacking the paper for doing its job by reporting the facts, I called the superintendent and offered my services to help improve the scores since I worked for years at a junior college where I taught GED.

I agree with Mr. Cribelli that we have a tremendous staff at Wauneta-Palisade Schools.

All we need to do is tweak our test-taking skills with practice and be certain we cover the material on the tests. Then, everybody wins.


Patricia Holder

Wauneta, Neb.

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