March 27, 2013

Agribusiness Virtual Roundtable–David Bracht


*The Business Leaders "Virtual Roundtable" discussion was gathered for the Spring 2013 CornsTalk publication. The responses of these business associates were consolidated for the publication, but you can find the full responses through this blog series.

BrachtDavidDavid Bracht, Partner, Stinson Morrison Hecker, LLP

Also: Chairman of the Agriculture Council of Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce

How does Nebraska's strength in agriculture—and corn, livestock and ethanol specifically—influence your business/organization? How does the fact that you are located in Nebraska provide a competitive advantage or growth opportunities for you?

As a lawyer focusing on agriculture (and an ag-lender before that) Nebraska is a near ideal place for me to develop my career. Nebraska has a very diversified agriculture industry, including livestock, grain and, more recently, renewable energy. This means that as markets change and, as we experienced in 2012, weather events occur, the broader agriculture industry in the state is more balanced and stable.

What should Nebraska do to leverage its strength in agriculture to enhance economic vitality across the state—and position the state for long-term success in meeting global demand for food, feed and fuel?

The strength of Nebraska’s agriculture industry helps the economic vitality of the state in many ways, including:

The fact that Nebraska has such a diverse agriculture base, and several sectors that lead the nation, allows for synergies between those sectors. For example, Nebraska’s number two position is ethanol is in part the result of Nebraska’s strong cattle industry and irrigated corn production, which gives the state a competitive advantage over the industry in other states. Nebraska’s cattle feeders highly value the wet distillers grains produced by the ethanol industry, which is both a better feed product and cheaper to produce than dried distillers grains. On the grain side, Nebraska’s irrigated corn producers can assure the ethanol plants a consistent supply of high quality corn, even during years of drought like 2012. We should continue to look for new ways to take advantage of other potential synergies between our agriculture sectors.

Nebraska’s diverse agriculture base also supports a broad range of industries throughout the state, and by doing so contributes to the economic vitality of the state. This is especially true as more of our agriculture commodities are processed in Nebraska. While ethanol and biodiesel are recent examples of new industries supporting our rural communities, Nebraska’s meat processing industry has supported employment and businesses in several communities for decades and is a direct result of the state’s successful cattle and hog industry (which is in turn supported by Nebraska’s grain and ethanol industry.) We should continue to look for other opportunities to take advantage of our natural resources or geographic locations, for instance by expanding our dairy industry (both production and processing.)

What do you think Nebraska consumers—especially those in urban areas—need to better understand about Nebraska agriculture and your organization's relationship to agriculture?

The number of Nebraskans who have had personal, firsthand farming experience continues to decline (both in what we traditionally think of urban areas like Omaha and Lincoln, and in smaller communities elsewhere in the state.) Without that experience, it is more important than ever for agriculture organizations to develop outreach opportunities to help consumers learn more about all that Nebraska farmers do to produce safe and healthy products. My firm can help that process through communicating with our staff and, more broadly, introducing our agriculture clients to our other clients.

While many Omaha business people and residents may not realize it, Nebraska’s agriculture industry is the basis for a significant portion of the economic activity in the greater Omaha area. Omaha has several national and international companies directly involved in food and agriculture, along with many more that support those businesses and the other agriculture-based companies and producers in the state. My personal and firm practice focus on agriculture offers an opportunity to increase the awareness of the relation between Omaha’s economy and agriculture.

How important is it that Nebraska corn farmers continue to invest in the future of their industry through their checkoff?

Developing new uses for the agriculture products grown or raised in Nebraska is a driving force behind the state’s strong rural economies. Ethanol is the most recent example of how a new industry can develop from new uses of farm products to support growth in our rural communities. Technological advances in the future can provide ways for farm products to be natural alternatives for many of the things consumers need, further supporting new agri-businesses but support and research dollars are needed for those products to be identified and developed.

What concerns you most about the future of agriculture in Nebraska? And what will it take to address those concerns?

While not a “concern,” the declining number of young people with direct agriculture experience poses both a challenge and an opportunity for agriculture. My farm experience and my education at the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources have proven very valuable to me in my career. I’ve been able to use my perspective and knowledge to help the non-agriculture professionals I am dealing with understand and appreciate the position of my agriculture-related clients. Agriculture organizations and educational institutions that can foster a similar understanding in people with different backgrounds will both provide opportunities for the individual, and serve the greater good of the agriculture community.

Any other comments or perspectives regarding Nebraska agriculture that you wish to share.

I want to compliment the Nebraska Corn Board for its work to support Nebraska agriculture. I have benefited both personally and professionally from products and markets developed because of the foresight of the Corn Board and staff.

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