Weekly Column

Every state is home to an industry that drives its economy forward. In Hawaii, that’s tourism. In Massachusetts, many exceptional hospitals attract first-rate doctors. And in Michigan, the automobile industry employs nearly 291,000 people across the state.

In Nebraska, that industry is agriculture. Our farmers and ranchers grow produce and raise livestock that is among the world’s best, and they feed millions of people around the country and the world while they’re at it. Our international ag exports have risen in recent years, too, providing nearly $7 billion for our economy in 2018 alone. All told, agriculture supports one in four Nebraska jobs and provides one-third of our economic output each year.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Nebraska is a leader in agricultural research. The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln takes advantage of Nebraska’s diverse range of climates and growing conditions to conduct experiments on everything from food science to soil ecosystems to water quality, and their findings are crucial for Nebraska ag producers looking for new best practices.

That transition from lab to field is especially smooth for IANR because many of their scientists also teach at UNL. They spend some of their time on research and some of their time with Nebraska’s next generation of farmers and ranchers – the perfect combination for a state that boasts both a booming ag industry and a thriving university system.

IANR works with Nebraska Extension to offer this excellent education to people all across the state, not just those who live near a college campus. Extension does some of its best work on ag issues, too, which makes them invaluable to our producers and our economy.

Extension and IANR also partner with 4-H to bring these same skills to Nebraska’s youth. Over 140,000 Nebraskans between the ages of 5 and 18 can get hands-on ag experience through 4-H and Nebraska Extension, whether they live in a small town or in the middle of a city like Lincoln. 

IANR’s work spans many other fields. One of them is food security, and through the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute, they are quite literally changing the world. This program combines Nebraska’s prosperous ag industry with the world-class research coming out of UNL to develop new ways to help other countries make their food and water supplies more secure. One of the Daugherty Institute’s most impressive initiatives is the Nebraska Water Center, where UNL faculty come together with outside researchers to help make sure people everywhere have access to a safe and reliable source of water.

Nebraska Innovation Campus is also doing excellent work. Innovation Campus is right next door to city campus, and the office space they provide gives some of Nebraska’s most creative entrepreneurs the chance to work alongside the best researchers UNL has to offer.

The Food for Health Center is just one of Innovation Campus’ many remarkable programs. Here, UNL professors Andrew Benson and Robert Hutkins use their research on digestive health to develop hybrid crops and foods that can fight back against illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Their work has helped Nebraska become a world leader in this important field.

Nebraska’s agriculture industry is among the best in the country, and our state is home to remarkable cutting-edge research and dynamic growth. With both of these things happening side by side, the future is exciting for Nebraska. 

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.