MADISON – The importance of weather to farming can probably never be overstated.
Mark McHargue, who is a fourth-generation farmer from Central City, said his wife, Judi, didn’t come from an background and learned right away about weather.
One time early on, his wife asked him, “Am I supposed to be praying for rain or not?” McHargue said.
McHargue, who is president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, was the featured speaker Thursday evening during the annual Northeast Nebraska At Banquet at the Madison County Fairgrounds.
The banquet, which was put on by the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce and the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, had a theme of “Uniting the Agricultural & Business Communities.” Awards and scholarships were presented to those living in Madison County and the neighboring counties of Antelope, Wayne, Pierce, Stanton, Boone and northern Platte.
McHargue said not everybody – even in Nebraska – understands how important little weather farmers have over it. He noted that his area around Central City has had “incredible spring weather” in the past six weeks. Before that, Central City had only about one inch of rain going back to last October – and no snow.
McHargue said agriculture needed to be represented in conversations of climate change. There might be people, including farmers, who are skeptical about climate change and that’s OK, he said.
Nebraska truly is having weather changes, however, McHargue said. McHargue serves with an insurance company that is 75 years old and has records of weather going back that
“There’s no doubt that storms are becoming more frequent and more severe,” he said.
The fact that agriculture has always had to adapt to weather. Farmers should be open to discussion and can look at it two ways, McHargue said.
The first way is that it will be terrible for farming and there is nothing farmers can do to control it. The second way is that there will be changes, but new opportunities will happen, McHargue said.
Places like California, where lots of fruits and vegetables are grown, are getting warmer and drier. Places a little farther north could have new opportunities for crops.
In Nebraska, there could be options now to grow more than corn, soybeans and wheat. Farmers and businesses need to be open-minded and aware of what the country thinks about agriculture, he said.
“They’re going to blame us,” McHargue said, saying agriculture is often cited as responsible for 10% of the greenhouse gases.
The truth of the matter is that agriculture is reducing greenhouse gases and can be part of the solution to lowering greenhouse gases, he said.
“We have a really good story to tell,” McHargue said.
Nebraska needs to show the rest of the country that agriculture is going to be around while the state’s farmers and agribusinesses are going to be a player, he said.
Kris Bousquet, AFAN director of livestock development, also spoke about the importance of educating others about agriculture. AFAN stands for the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska.
Bousquet said AFAN’s projects include working with county officials to get poultry tours, pork, dairy and beef facilities.
It helps to have county officials, including planning and zoning directors, tour the facilities and ask as many questions as they want. Some of the county officials do not have any agricultural experience or background, he said.
Nebraska farmers tell it, he said.
One of the primary purposes of the banquet is to raise funds for academic scholarships for high school seniors and college students in Northeast Nebraska who are or intend to continue their education in the agricultural and agri-business fields.
More information from the banquet will be presented on the next Thursday’s Agriculture page, including scholarship winners and the winners of the business and family of the year.