Young farmers gather at Grand Island conference

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By Tim McNicholas


Updated: Mon, 27 Jan 2014 08:31:44 CST

In western Nebraska, erratic weather has ruined many young farmers' supply.

In eastern Nebraska, young farmers are struggling with crop prices.

And some—like the state's cattle producers—are riding a wave of success.

"You know in agriculture, you're at mother nature's whim,” Young Farmers and Ranchers Chair Shelly Thompson said. “And she can humble you very quickly."

The smiles and frowns came together Saturday in Grand Island.

Nebraska Farm Bureau's Young Farmers Conference serves as a forum for a new generation of producers.

A generation that's standing face to face with some issues they never ran into growing up on the farm.

"If we aren't telling our story somebody else is,” Thompson said. “And if we don't tell our story, we're not going to have a story to tell at some point."

Workshops at Saturday's conference zeroed on giving a voice to young farmers.

One focused on taking grassroots projects to new levels.

Another—a discussion from Senator Mike Johanns office on how to talk to local politicians.

Between the Keystone Pipeline debate and the recent concerns over OSHA regulations, it's now essential for young farmers to know how to communicate with their elected officials.

"Their job is to help us out with our needs and issues so we should always feel free to have an open dialogue with them,” first time conference attendee Jessika Benes said.

Organizers decide what workshops to hold based on critique forms from the year before.

They say that gives them a gauge on what farmers need and want in the conference.

But the most important aspect is that farmers have a chance to gather and discuss their trials and triumphs.

"They can talk about—mom and dad, they just aren't wanting to turn the reigns over. So this is what I did,” Thompson said.

Other workshops at today's conference touched on financial checkups and LLCs and Corporations.