Farm and Ranch - July 2020

JULY 2020




JULY 2020

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IANR News Service Agricultural land values averaged $2,725 per acre in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln 2020 Farm Real Estate Report, which was a 3% increase over last year and the first annual increase since land value peaked in 2014. Nebraska farm real estate values increase for first time since 2014 IANR News Service

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between 3% and 4%, while the values of gravity and center piv- ot irrigated cropland rose 1% and 3%, respectively. However, the Northwest and Southwest Districts saw declines between 2% and 5% for the two land class- es. Grazing land and hayland value estimates also rose be- tween 2% and 5% over the last year, with slight declines in two districts. Major cow-calf pair re- gions, including the Northwest, North and Central Districts, led the increase in market values, with growth between 6% and 8%. Many cash rental rates in Nebraska were set prior to the economic shocks caused by COVID-19. The survey collec- tion period for the Nebraska Farm Real Estate Report may partially reflect these rates and not account for possible adjust-

ments. Landlords and tenants might consider amending con- tracts to account for these shocks or consider the use of al- ternative lease arrangements. The Nebraska Farm Real Estate Report is an annual sur- vey conducted by the university’s Department of Agricultural Economics of land profession- als including appraisers, farm and ranch managers and agri- cultural bankers. Results from the survey are divided by land class and agricultural statistic districts. Land values and rental rates presented in the report are averages of survey participants’ responses by district. Actual land values and rental rates may vary depending upon the quali- ty of the parcel and local market for an area. The final report is available at

LINCOLN — Nebraska agri- cultural land values increased by 3% over the last year, to a statewide average of $2,725 per acre, according to the fi- nal results of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s 2020 Farm Real Estate Report. This marks the first annual increase since land values in the state peaked at $3,315 per acre in 2014. Survey participants reported that 1031 tax exchanges, non- farmer investor interest in land purchases and current interest rate levels contributed to high- er market values. These forces were reported as slightly pos- itive in impacting future land values prior to the domestic out- break of COVID-19. Estimated dryland crop- land values in the state rose

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JULY 2020

Giltner farmer elected to the NCGA Corn Board Telegraph staff reports LINCOLN — Due to

for Hunnicutt. Brandon was first elected to the board in July 2017.

the last few years, I be- lieve we have done a lot of good things that will benefit the corn indus- try for a long time. Part of our success has been due to our organiza- tion’s continual desire to think strategically and develop partner- ships with groups we may not have consid- ered working with in the past. We’re a di- verse group of farmers across the country, and NCGA must sup- port corn farmers as a whole, no matter their location, size or pro- duction practices.”

In addition to serving on NCGA’s Corn Board, Hunnicutt serves corn farmers through NeCGA and is the vice chair of the Nebraska Corn Board. He cur- rently serves as the chairman of Field to Market, a national alli- ance designed to bring together stakeholders to define, measure and advance the sustain- ability of food, feed, fiber and fuel produc- tion in the U.S. This is the first time a farm- er has been at the helm of this national Field to Market organization.

“I have no doubt Brandon will contin- ue to be a tremendous asset to NCGA,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, ex- ecutive director of the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association. “Brandon has prov- en himself as a capable leader, and our state’s corn industry has ben- efitted greatly from his leadership. Brandon is both very thoughtful and has a lot of experi- ence in many different facets of agriculture. I know he will contin- ue to face issues like

trade, the environment, ethanol, technology, consumer trust and new uses head on as we all work towards a long and productive future for our nation’s corn in- dustry.” Hunnicutt’s sec- ond term will begin on Oct. 1. The elec- tion took place July 15 during the 2020 vir- tual Corn Congress. The event is focused on shaping policy for NCGA. Corn farmer delegates from across the country participat- ed in the discussions and election.

the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the National Corn Growers Association’s biannu- al Corn Congress event was held virtually this week instead of in-per- son at its usual location in Washington, D.C. During this event, Nebraska corn farm- er Brandon Hunnicutt was elected to NCGA’s Corn Board. Hunnicutt farms with his fa- ther and brother near Giltner. This election leads to a second term

Each term lasts three years.

“I am

again grateful for the support and trust American corn farmers are plac- ing in me,” Hunnicutt said. “While NCGA has had to make some dif- ficult decisions over Brandon Hunnicutt

Nebraska Cattlemen announce Retail Value Challenge winners

Telegraph staff reports The Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation has announces the win- ners of the Retail Value Steer Challenge. First place in the average daily gain category was award- ed to the steer owned by Shotkoski Hay Company of Lexington, second place went to a steer owned by AL Ranch from Halsey and the third place was awarded to the steer owned by Imperial Beef. In the carcass val- ue category, Scott and Karen Langemeier of Stromsburg owned the winning steer, Platte Valley Companies of Scottsbluff received second place and Esch Cattle Company of Unadilla received the third place honors.

First place in the to- tal value category was a steer owned by Power Genetics of Arapahoe, second place went to the steer owned by FNBO-North Platte and third place went to West Point Implement and Design. The Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation Retail Value Steer Challenge is the pri- mary fundraiser for the organization, with money raised sup- porting youth and adult educational pro- grams, scholarships, research and infra- structure projects, history preservation and judging teams at colleges in Nebraska. The 21st Retail Value Steer Challenge be- gan at Darr Feedlot in November 2019 and

concluded in early June 2020. There are winners in three cate- gories: Average daily gain, carcass value and overall total value. “The NC Foundation would like to recog- nize the support of Darr Feedlot, Cozad, for administration and feeding of the steers that were entered into this year’s challenge,” the foundation wrote in a press release. “The foundation also ap- preciates Arthur J.

groups of individuals or businesses and NC affiliates and partici- pants can donate their own steer or purchase a steer from the foun- dation.

Gallagher and Co. and Bill’s Volume Sales, Inc. for their sponsor- ship of the Retail Value Steer Challenge and thanks the many do- nors who delivered or purchased steers for the RVSC. Their sup- port and participation allow the Foundation to fund the many projects and scholarships that benefit our industry.” The Foundation will soon be recruit- ing for the 2021 Retail Value Steer Challenge.

Donors receive com- plete carcass data on their steer or steers and the chance to win prize money. NCF welcomes steer donations by in- dividuals, businesses,

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JULY 2020

NCW announces Beef Ambassador Winners Telegraph staff reports LINCOLN — 2020 Nebraska Beef Ambassador Contest was held virtually on June 15. Contestants participated in a media interview and prepared an issue response. The Nebraska Beef Ambassador Contest pro- vides an opportunity for youth to become spokesperson and future leaders in the beef in- dustry. The winner of each division will receive a custom belt buckle. The Collegiate will be pre- sented with a scholarship from the Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation after completing their term. “Moving forward, keep sharing your stories, sell your personality and expertise, and keep im- mersing yourself in great opportunities like the Beef Ambassador contest,” said Mitch Rippe, Beef Ambassador Contest judge. Collegiate Division First, Dakota Lovett, Bladen. Second, Kaylee Wheeler, Wood Lake. Third, Aime Leandre Shimwa Wvuyekure, Lincoln. Senior Division First, Savannah Peterson, Gothenburg.

The latest U.S. Department of

Agriculture report re- leased this week says 73% of soybeans plant- ed are in good to excellent condition and 57% are blooming.

The Associated Press

Over half of state’s soybeans blooming

Telegraph staff reports LINCOLN—More than half of Nebraska soybeans were blooming as of Sunday, accord- ing to the latest crop progress report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Soybean condition was rat-

» Winter wheat — 45% good to excellent, 38% fair and 17% poor or very poor, with 50% harvested. » Sorghum — 53% good to ex- cellent, 44% fair and 3% poor, with 12% headed. » Pasture and range — 48% good to excellent, 34% fair and 18% poor or very poor.

ed at 73% good to excellent, 19% fair and 8% poor and very poor, with 57% blooming and 13% setting pods. Corn condition was rated at 70% good to excellent, 22% fair and 8% poor or very poor, with 19% at silk stage. Reports for other crops in- clude:

Second, Abby Scholz, Loomis. Third, Helene Keiser Gothenburg.

beans in addition to corn and wheat. Scoular Company adds new facility at north Grant location Company will accept soybeans for the 1st time, offer shorter waits

The North Grant fa- cility started with one storage building in 2007, with a second built in 2012. The bush- els of corn received at the facility have near- ly quadrupled over the past 13 years. “Scoular has made significant improve- ments to its North Grant facility over time to better serve producers,” Matousek said. Founded in the heartland of the United States, the 127-year-old Scoular has 102 offices and facilities world- wide and more than $4 billion in sales. For more information, vis- it

more than 70,000 bush- els per hour. “This investment will greatly improve the truck lines for pro- ducers at Scoular’s North Grant facility,” said Rick Matousek, Scoular’s Trade Unit manager for Western Nebraska. “More storage space means fewer transfer trucks. Traffic will f low the same way, but it will f low more smoothly and wait times will im- prove.” The facility, located about nine miles north of Grant in southwest- ern Nebraska, also will begin to accept soy-

Telegraph staff reports GRANT — The Scoular Company has added a new facility for storing corn and wheat at the north Grant loading and receiving facility. Scoular is construct- ing a 2 million-bushel storage building at the facility, along with two 300,000-bushel grain bins and two truck dump pits. The project is expected to be com- plete by the start of the corn harvest. On- site storage space will grow by 60% and total truck unloading ca- pacity will improve to




JULY 2020

21st Century Equipment makes organizational changes

Company expands from three districts to four, adds managers

Replacing Seymour as the vice president of sales will be Terry Gass. Terry joined 21st Century Equipment five years ago and recently served as the North District manag- er, before that, vice president, marketing. Gass has also held various positions at John Deere Corporate for 15 years. “These changes put each of our locations in a strong position for local-basedman- agement with strong District Managers, vice president of sales and COO as back-up to serve all of our customer needs,” Palm said. 21st Century Equipment is a 16-location John Deere deal- ership in Nebraska, Colorado andWyoming. 21st Century Equipment specializes in agri- culture and turf products. More information about 21st Century Equipment is avail- able at the company’s website at

that area. In addition, 21st Century Equipment has add- ed Kenneth “Ernie” Ewing to the organization as the new Scottsbluff locationmanag- er. For the last 10 years, Ewing was operations parts and ser- vice manager for Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Tracker Marine Centers across the United States. Casey Seymour will now lead the Bridgeport store. Seymour has held posi- tions for Foley Equipment, a major CAT dealership based out of Wichita, Kansas, and Prairieland John Deere in cen- tral Kansas, and he held the remarketing position at 21st Century Equipment. All district managers will report to Kreps. On the Parts and Service side of the busi- ness, Steve Jones has been promoted corporate parts manager. Jones will report to Wayne Brozek, VP of Parts and Service.

The newCentral District will be led by district manager Tyler Burkholder. Burkholder is responsible for Ogallala, Imperial, Holyoke, and now Sterling and Fort Morgan, Colorado, locations. Steve Nelson will assist Burkholder as the new locationmanager for Ogallala. The newNorth District will be led by district manag- er Lloyd Harding. Bridgeport, Sidney, and nowGordon, Alliance, Scottsbluff and Torrington, Wyoming, are Harding’s responsibility. Chad Schneider, currently the sales manager for the compa- ny’s irrigation division, will be the new locationmanag- er for Torrington. Prior to getting into the irrigation business in 2005, Schneider was a salesman for several years for Frank Implement in Torrington and is very fa- miliar with customers in

Telegraph staff reports SCOTTSBLUFF— 21st Century Equipment, LLC has made several organizational changes to strengthen its local decision-making management strategy, CEOOwn Palm, said in a press release. The moves are made, he said, in order to focus on localizedmanage- ment. “These changes came after a lot of thought and driven by our commitment to continu- ous improvement to serve our customers better at the local level,” Owen said. “Despite COVID-19, I trav- eled to all sixteen of our locations inmy first 90 days on the job and I believe these changes give us a competi-

tive edge by building both new and existing leadership,” said Keith Kreps, the company’s COOwho started in his posi- tion inMarch. 21st Century Equipment will go from four districts to three districts by expanding the geographical area of the districts. The South District will con- tinue to be led by Russ Ball. Russ is responsible for loca- tions in Colorado: Cheyenne Wells, Flagler, Burlington, and nowYuma andWray. At the location level, Rod Bailey will now be responsible for man- aging the Flagler location, in addition to continuing his management responsibilities for Yuma.

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JULY 2020




JULY 2020

Wheat harvest continues to move through state

Nebraska Wheat Board The United States Department of Agriculture reports that harvest is 50% complete in the state. This past fall, produc- ers planted 920,000 acres of wheat, though only 850,000 are ex- pected to be harvested. The USDA predicts Nebraska’s wheat crop production to reach 40.8 million bushels, which is a 26% decrease from the 2019 crop. Producers along the southern border of the state report that har- vest is near complete in almost all areas. Throughout the re- gion farmers harvested wheat with yields any- where between 15 to 80 bushels, test weights ranged from 55 to 64 pounds and protein content was between 9% to 14%. The hot, dry and windy days played a large role in the de- velopment of the crop throughout this sum- mer, causing there to be some shrinkage in kernel size and an overall lack of mois- ture needed for good growth. The drought

stress seemed to boost protein content in some areas of the state, though dockage due to low test weights will offset the premiums from protein. Wheat harvest in the southern panhan- dle is swiftly moving along with an esti- mated 50% of the crop being harvested al- ready. Farmers in the region are bringing in average yields of 45 bushels an acre with the test weights be- tween 60 to 62 pounds and protein averaging 11%. Unfortunately, the region saw an immense amount of wheat stem sawfly damage this year. There have been reports of farmers hav- ing anywhere between 5 to 15 bushels per acre of wheat destroyed by the pest. “The sawfly damage this year is the worst we have ever seen,” said Tyson Narjes, a wheat farmer near Sidney. Harvest is expected to wrap up in the re- gion next week. The northern pan- handle is beginning to get their first taste

Photo courtesy of Nebraska Wheat Board

Harvest continues on Pete Miller’s farm north of Lodgepole before a dust storm hits.

board invests the funds in programs of inter- national and domestic market development and improvement, policy development, re- search, promotion and education.

be wrapping up in the next couple of weeks. The Nebraska Wheat Board administers the check-off of 0.4% of net value of wheat market- ed in Nebraska at the point of first sale. The

end of the week. Early numbers are looking good with test weights near 61 pounds and protein around 11%. With how fast harvest has been moving this year, the state should

of harvest this year as producers are gear- ing up to hit the fields. Currently, the region has harvested around 20% of their crop with things really starting to gear up towards the

USDA Meals To You program delivers nearly 30 million meals Telegraph staff reports HOUSTON, Texas —

it Thursday toMcLane Global, one of USDA’s partners in the initiative, which has served kids across 41 states and 2 U.S. territories. “Meals to You is a prime example of USDA’s commitment to ‘do right and feed everyone,’ while lever- aging private sector ingenuity with public

sector funding. At the beginning of this pub- lic health emergency, President Trump made it clear we would only overcome these trying times if we came to- gether as one America. These folks feeding kids in need here in Texas and across the country rose to the challenge,” Perdue said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Meals To You program has de- livered more than 28.5 million meals to low- income kids in rural communities. USDASecretary Sonny Perdue announced the milestone during a vis-




JULY 2020

Conditions expected to become more severe throughout July Biggest impact could be on dryland yield

precipitation when cre- ating weekly drought monitor maps. A “con- vergence of evidence” approach is used in de- termining which of the Drought Monitor catego- ries is most appropriate for a location, Stiles said. “Most likely what will happen is that the indicators will so overwhelm the current (drought) in- dicators, they will be forced to move into a drought classifica- tion,” Dutcher said. “In fact, my suspicion is depending on these temperatures coming up, and where the pre- cipitation breaks out, if it follows what the models say, we will probably see a signifi- cant expansion across a large portion of west- ern Nebraska, probably portions of the west- ern Sandhills and see some of that creep into south central Nebraska

and certainly inten- sify in southwestern Nebraska.” Dutcher said if this trend continues and the forecast verifies for the month of July, as issued by the CPC, which he firmly believes it will, dry conditions will oc- cur with a very wide and expansive drought area which covers the southern Rockies and the southern Plains, with southern parts of Nebraska at the most northern part of the drought area. With strong drought possibilities and fore- casts, Dryland Cropping Systems Specialist Cody Creech said lower yield numbers may occur, specifically if corn is un- der drought stress when it reaches the tasseling stage of the growth cy- cle. “In terms of precip- itation, we are below average in many ar- eas of the Panhandle,”

Creech said. “I would foresee this year’s crop yields to be lower than the last two years.” With a strong pres- ence of dryland crop production in western Nebraska, Creech said, during drought condi- tions, growers may not be able to control mois- ture values, but input costs such as herbicide and fertilizer use, are a variable which grow- ers should consider in their dryland crop sys- tems. “It would be recom- mended to reduce input costs knowing that this year’s corn yields could be lower,” Creech said. A significant change in production may be observed during crop ro- tation planning for next year’s growing season, Creech said. Some pro- ducers may choose to plant a more drought tol- erant crop for next year, based on this year’s con- ditions.

Dutcher said he expects the Panhandle to fall into drier conditions as the growing season con- tinues. “Even though we are not seeing changes there right now, my full ex- pectation is that at least a bare minimum, the southern one third of the Panhandle is going to go to abnormally dry conditions,” Dutcher said. The U.S. Drought Monitor map uses a pro- cess of taking several drought indicators into account. For example, Stiles said, indicators include stream flow, soil moisture, and impacts, as well as several oth- er drought indicators, like the Standardized Precipitation Index and the percent of normal

dicts drought conditions to begin in areas of the Panhandle and persist throughout the season. “So it would seem that the indicators are pointing to drought in the northern area of the Panhandle. As for the rest of the Panhandle, some of the indicators just aren’t there yet,” said Crystal Stiles, UNL applied climatol- ogist. “However, if the hot and dry conditions that are forecast for the next week pan out and persist, conditions will deteriorate quickly, and I would not be surprised if drought spreads across the Panhandle very soon.” At the Nebraska State Climate Office,

By ELISE BALIN Scottsbluff Star-Herald

Western Nebraska’s annual precipitation has fallen well below normal levels since the begin- ning of the water year on Oct. 1 and experts say, if forecasts materi- alize “conditions will deteriorate quickly,” ac- cording to the Applied Climate Information System. Areas in western Nebraska are indicated to have received as little as 25-50% of the average annual precipitation. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center pre-

Associate State Climatologist Al


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OMAHA (AP) — The economy remains weak in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, according to a monthly survey of bankers released Thursday. The overall index for the region remained negative at 44.1 in July even though it im- proved from June’s 37.9. Any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy, while a score above 50 suggests a growing economy, sur- vey organizers say. The bankers remain wary about the econ- omy over the next six

months. The survey’s confidence index was up slightly in July at 43.9 from June’s 43.8 but still negative. “Weak agriculture commodity prices, retail sales, and layoffs have diminished economic confidence among bank- ers,” said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who over- sees the survey. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed. Nearly 18% of the

bankers said economic conditions had wors- ened in their areas over the past month. Farmland prices con- tinue to decline. The July farmland index declined to 45.6 from June’s 46.8. The farm equipment sales index remained weak at 34.4 in July even though it was slightly better than June’s frail 32.8. The borrowing index suggested more farm- ers are seeking loans. The borrowing index registered 57.4 in July, which was down from June’s 63.6.

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JULY 2020


According to State Medicaid officials, they do intend to have a comprehensive plan that includes physical health, behavioral health, and prescription drug coverage as of Oct. 1. At last, low income adults won’t have to use the emergency room as their primary care provider and small hospitals will have a better income stream to ensure their survival. Nebraska estimates that expansion will add 90,000 to its rolls but Families USA expects an additional 30,000 would qualify after losing jobs or income due to Covid-19. Total enrollment has already increased 4% since February according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Medicaid expansion ensures that coverage is available for Nebraskans with households incomes (look at your adjusted gross income on your tax return) below 138% of federal poverty level which would be $17,236 for a single person, $23,336 for a couple, or $35,535 for a household of

making less than $1000 per month couldn’t accessMedicaid benefits. Only working age adults with minor children or low-income people that were disabled were eligible. According to Governor Ricketts spokesman, Taylor Gage, “the state has spent the last year building the technology and team needed to serve the expansion customers and look forward to opening enrollment on August 1”, he said. Initially, the launch was expected to expand with a two- tier system of benefits requiring enrollees to jump through several hoops to get the full benefits. They included we l l ness , per sona l responsibility, and work or community engagement activities. As yet, the federal Center for Medicaid and Medicare hasn’t approved the requirements so the expansion won’t include dental, vision, and over- the-counter medications. That may happen once the plan has the blessing from the federal government.

four. Those people with incomes higher than that or non-citizens will not be eligible. Enrollment starts August 1 but the plans won’t be effective until October 1, 2020. Those people that currently have household incomes between 100% to 138% of the Federal Poverty levels that went through the Marketplace and enrolled in a plan will have to switch to Medicaid now that expansion is available. You won’t be able to continue to receive a subsidy for your health insurance if you are eligible for Medicaid but you will have to terminate through the Marketplace. You can apply for Medicaid beginning August 1 online at or call (855) 632-7633. If you have questions regarding your Marketplace accounts or health insurance, please call Rebecca Nordquist at 308-532- 3180. Location ALERT: the office has moved, we’re now at 319 East B Street here in North Platte.

By Rebecca Nordquist, RD, MHA, CLTC

Nebraska is finally joining most of the other states in the nation by expanding their Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Two years ago, enough signatures on petitions put it on the ballot and overwhelmingly was approved by Nebraska voters. That was 21 months ago. At last, low-income adults, who had previously been ineligible for NebraskaMedicaid can start applying beginning Aug. 1st. Prior to this, single adults and couples without minor children couldn’t qualify regardless of their income level so hairdressers, retail clerks, waitresses, or anyone working


JULY 2020 F10



Guernsey silt run offers irrigation stability

run conserved an av- erage of 30 acre-feet of water per mile per year. Annually, this re- sults in a total of 10,000 acre-feet (equal to 3.3 trillion gallons) of wa- ter conserved within the Fort Laramie and Interstate Canals,” ac- cording to Lindstone & Anderson’s 1993 report. Assuming the silt run has a 30-day effect, the Bureau of Reclamation further states the silt run provides the equiv- alent of “1 acre-foot per day per mile or 0.5 cubic feet per second per mile in additional capacity,” according to the 1993 re- port. The construction of the Glendo Dam locat- ed 25 miles above the Guernsey Dam, com- pleted in 1958, trapped large amounts of riv- er sediment, leading to the process put to use annually, which in- cludes decreasing the water flow from the Glendo Reservoir, al- lowing the water level of Guernsey to rapid- ly decrease, resulting in sediment flowing downstream lining ir- rigation channels. The 2020 silt run will begin on the morning of July 7, beginning with the release of water from Glendo Reservoir, then refill- ing weeks later. “On the morning of July 7, the release of water from the Glendo Reservoir will be decreased from ap- proximately 4,500 cfs to a f low of approx- imately 1,500 cfs. The decreased f low will cause a rapid de- cline of the Guernsey

of Guernsey actually lines the channels and helps prevent water loss in the channels, its pretty effective means of water efficiency in the canals themselves,” Mike Follum, branch chief of the Water and Civil Works sector of the Wyoming agency. Stability provided through the annual silt run, significantly re- duces seepage amounts throughout canals, which is crucial to their irrigation system, Pathfinder Irrigation District Manager Dennis Strauch also said. “By laying down a layer of silt along the canals, the silt run pro- tects us against large water losses,” Strauch said, “If we didn’t have the silt run, we would see a lot more water loss through seepage.” Paid for and contract- ed by the Pathfinder, Gering-Fort Laramie and Goshen Irrigation districts, Strauch said, money spent allow- ing the Guernsey silt run to occur annu- ally is well worth its price, simply due to the amount of water saved through the reduction of seepage in canal sys- tems. According to Lindstone & Anderson’s environ- mental analysis report, decreased canal seep- age and increased bank stability were observed during and following the silt run investiga- tions conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962 (BOR, 1963). “These investiga- tions estimated the silt

By ELISE BALIN Scottsbluff Star-Herald The annual Guernsey silt run, a process of intentionally lower- ing water levels of the Guernsey Reservoir, bringing silt laden water to irrigators annually since 1959, continues to be a crucial process of pro- viding stability to irrigation districts. After completion of the Guernsey dam in 1927, the Guernsey Reservoir began to provide irrigation water to the three downstream irriga- tion districts: Goshen, Gering-Fort Laramie and Pathfinder, conse- quently involving the Fort Laramie and in- terstate canals. Within 30 years of the dam’s comple- tion, 29,000 acre-feet (one acre-foot, equal to 326,000 gallons of wa- ter) of accumulated sediment occurred in the reservoir, reduc- ing storage capacity from 73,180 acre-feet to 44,800 acre-feet, ac- cording to a report analysis prepared by Water Resources and Environmental Consultants, Lidstone & Anderson, for the Wyoming Water Development Commission in 1993. The release of silt laden water from the reservoir to the ca- nals of irrigation districts, allowed for an increased amount of storage and decreased erosion within the Fort Laramie and interstate canals. “What it does is, the silt that is in the wa- ter which comes out

Spike Jordan / Scottsbluff Star-Herald In this April 2019 file photo, the North Platte River makes its way through a gorge downstream from the Guernsey Reservoir at Guernsey State Park near Guernsey, Wyoming.

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JULY 2020 F11



Former Chicago-area Target to be indoor vertical farm

ly, including Gotham Greens in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood and BrightFarms in Rochelle, both of which have recently expand- ed. But vertical farms, which use artificial light rather than sun- light, have struggled to succeed at a large scale. Counne believes he can make it profitable with lower-cost auto- mation, which he has been testing at a small pilot facility at The Plant, a food business incubator in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. He’s developed ro- botics to reduce the amount of time work- ers spend climbing ladders to tend to plants. For example, an automated lift collects trays of ready plants and brings them to an assembly line of work- ers for harvest. He’s also developed a sys- tem of cameras and artificial intelligence software that prompts the environment to au- tomatically adjust to optimize growing con- ditions. Wilder Fields’ pric- ing will be in line with greenhouse-grown let- tuces, which typically retail at $2.99 to $3.99 for a clamshell. Though its first prod- ucts will be standards like spring mix, spin- ach and basil, the plan is to also sell more unique varieties that

food desert.

people may not have tasted before. Among those Counne tested during his pilot were spicy wasabi arugu- la, tart red sorrel and horseradish-tinged red mizuna. Counne is proud that his first farm is bring- ing fresh vegetables and jobs to an area that needs both. Parts of Calumet City are in a


Counne will be hiring for a vari- ety of positions, from harvesters to soft- ware engineers to executives. He plans to implement a train- ing program that will allow people to move from entry-level roles to positions managing the computer algo- rithms.

CHICAGO — A for- mer Target that’s been sitting vacant in Calumet City, Ill., for five years will be re- born as an indoor vertical farm pro- ducing locally grown greens for the Chicago area. The 135,000-square- foot building in the River Oaks shop- ping center will house stacks of trays grow- ing kale, arugula and other leafy greens un- der artificial lights. A retail shop on site will sell the produce to the community and invite people in to learn about how indoor farming works. Once at full capaci- ty, Wilder Fields will employ 80 people and produce 25 million heads of lettuce a year that will be available in grocery stores across the region, said found- er Jake Counne. Wilder Fields is the new name of the company, which previously was called Backyard Fresh Farms. The property was exactly what Counne envisioned when he set out to repurpose existing buildings as indoor farms to supply fresh produce to cities far from the growing fields of California and Arizona. As retail giants close stores, a trend that’s

Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune via Tribune News Service Jake Counne, founder of Wilder Fields, sits inside an empty Target he plans to convert to an indoor farm on Tuesday in Calumet City, Illinois.

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out the kinks, Counne plans to finish devel- oping the site by 2023. A group of investors is funding the first phase of the project. He de- clined to say how much funding he has re- ceived. Produce grown local- ly indoors has gained popularity with con- sumers in recent years for environmental and quality reasons. It uses less land and water than traditional agri- culture and travels far shorter distances, so the product is fresher and lasts longer when it gets into consumers’ hands. Growing year- round in controlled environments also cuts down on waste and con- tamination and avoids the challenges of un- predictable weather. The Chicago area is home to several greenhouses that sell greens commercial-

been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandem- ic, Counne hopes to put the buildings they leave behind to sustain- able use. “We think this is very repeatable,” said Counne, who was a real estate investor before he became an agricultural entrepre- neur. “There is a huge amount of vacant an- chor retail space.” Calumet City, which borders Chicago’s southern edge, ac- quired the building from Target and will lease it to Wilder Fields for 12 months, Counne said. After that, he plans to purchase the property from the city. Counne expects to break ground by the end of this year, and have the first phase of the redevelopment com- pleted by early next year. After operating at a smaller scale to work


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SILT from Page F10

ramps at Guernsey Reservoir will no longer be usable due to the low reservoir level,” accord- ing to Bureau of Reclamation news release, “The silt run will begin on July 12 and is antici- pated to continue through July 25. Beginning on the evening of July 25, the release of wa-

ter from Glendo Reservoir will be rapidly increased to refill Guernsey Reservoir. The level of Guernsey Reservoir will con- tinue to rise by approximately 6 feet per day and is expected to reach the normal reservoir op- eration level by the evening of Tuesday, July 30.”

Reservoir level of approxi- mately 25 feet starting the morning of July 8 and con- tinuing through July 11. By Thursday, July 11, the boat

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