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SCC Ag student delivers speech during Gage County event

Rachel Olson, a student in Southeast Community College's Agriculture Business & Management Technology program, delivered a speech on the future of the livestock industry during a program designating Gage County as a Livestock Friendly County.

Olson, from Fullerton, is in the Livestock Focus of her program. She gave May 2 during a ceremony that recognized Gage County as a Livestock Friendly County. Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy was among those in attendance.

The LFC designation is not something the state does to a county, but rather it is recognition for the work the county does to establish a thriving livestock industry, according to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture's website.

The Legislature directed the NDA to develop an LFC program to recognize counties that support Nebraska's livestock industry. The program assists counties and agriculture producers in promoting the livestock industry in Nebraska. With the addition of Gage County there are now 15 Nebraska counties designated as Livestock Friendly.

"In receiving this designation, Gage County has made a strong commitment to supporting rural economic development," Sheehy said. "Being part of the Livestock Friendly program is a way to recognize the tremendous impact the livestock industry has on Main Street and the local economy. It provides jobs for those working with animals and a marketplace for grain and hay producers while also adding value to those products. With this designation, Gage County has demonstrated that it is open to agribusiness and the benefits that come from responsible livestock production."

Olson's speech:

"The future of the livestock industry I know is bright. As I have continued my education at SCC, there has been emphasis placed on current events in the agricultural world. I know in order for there to be a future in livestock, we as producers and consumers of all agricultural products must educate ourselves on the current events and analyze them for what they really are.

"I see on the news all the time agricultural 'events' being blown out of proportion, therefore giving the livestock industry a bad name and scaring those who are not a part of the agricultural community to the point where they believe agriculture is single handedly destroying the world. You have all heard it. You can't tell me you have haven't: It's the Mad Cow, Swine Flu, and Pink Slime. These are all negative names given by the media who, more times than not, don't know the real facts. What perhaps the media don't realize is how it hurts us as livestock producers. Don't get me wrong; these issues scare us producers. It's our bottom line, it's our livelihood, and it's how we put food on the table for our families and yours too.

"This leaves me to wonder: Does the rest of the world know how hard we work as producers to keep the food system safe? (Do they know about) all the programming, vaccination tracking, testing, research, and regulations that are put into place that every producer has to go through just to put a steak, a pork chop, lamb chop or even a goat chop on your plate? From the soil in the field to the water beneath it, from the crops growing in the field till it hits the rumen stomach of that steer, from the fertilizer that that steer produces until its put back on the field? All of this is managed with a close eye so we can produce the safest product that is possible while keeping the environment in mind. This is a big job for the agricultural industry, and we are doing the best we can and always looking for ways we can improve. Did you know that less than 5 percent of the people in the world produce food for the growing population? Does this mean the rest of the 95 percent of the people in this world get to make the rules and regulations for livestock producers to follow?

"The solution to this problem is easier than we all think. It all comes down to education, in my eyes. As producers, we need to learn how to safely put food on the table, while doing it in a sustainable manner. Many of my colleagues are simply going back to the family farm once they are out of school; they know how important it is to get an education and understand how the agriculture is forever changing. Agriculture changes every day. We all must change with the times. Now more than ever producers need to make more food while using fewer inputs, that the way our parents, our grandparents, and even our great grandparents did things aren't necessarily the right way to do them. Gandhi said, 'Be the change you wish to see in the world.' I think this quote works the best in the agricultural world.

"As livestock producers, we can be that change in the world. The youth, every 4-H and FFA member, every Ag student high school and college, we are all in charge of the future of agriculture. It is up to us to speak our minds and fight for what we believe. Every freshman in FFA learns the FFA creed by E.M. Tiffany, and in that creed are some of the most powerful words I have ever heard a freshman speak: 'I believe in the future of agriculture.' These are freshmen in high school starting at an early age believing in the future of agriculture because they know they are the future of this industry, that they will be the ones making the rules and the decision for agriculture in the future. If we don't believe in the future of agriculture, who will? It is our jobs as producers and consumers to educate the uneducated and to prove once and for all that agriculture isn't here to destroy the world; we are here to feed it.

"I am going to end here today with another quote by Harvey Mackay that I believe will drive it all home to every producer or supporter of any kind here in this room. 'Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.' It's going to take more than the people just in this room to change the minds of those who think that agriculture is hurting the world. But if we stand up for what we believe, everyone else is sure to follow. If we work to make it worth it, many generations after us will have a future in agriculture. We can be the 5 percent of the world that has the loudest voice and make our thoughts known throughout the world. Be an advocate and believe in the future of agriculture."

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For more information contact:
Stu Osterthun
Administrative Director of Public Information and Marketing
402-323-3401
sosterthun@southeast.edu