Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann doesn’t have to look too hard to see the importance of agriculture in Dodge County and Nebraska’s economy.
On the trip Wednesday morning from Lincoln to Fremont, where he would bestow the Livestock Friendly County designation on Dodge County, Heidemann saw trucks pulling stock trailers and other ag industry goods and equipment.
“Just go down to Main Street,” he told about 50 people in the supervisor’s room on the third floor of the Dodge County Courthouse, “and you see all the businesses, and you see everything that agriculture and livestock production affects, whether it’s people that sell feed, people that do veterinary, people that sell fencing, steel, and just anything that you can think of, and the dribble down affect that agriculture has on your county, on this state and this country. It’s a significant contribution.
“Being a farmer myself, agriculture runs deep in my blood and my family’s blood,” he said.
“Agriculture is so important to this state,” Heidemann said. “We have over $20 billion in sales in agriculture products, and almost half of that is livestock. When you look at Dodge County, it almost mirrors Nebraska because they have $250 million of ag sales and almost half, $120 million of that, is livestock production sales.”
Dodge County became the 23rd Nebraska county to receive the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Friendly County designation. The program recognizes counties that actively support the livestock industry, and assists counties in promoting the livestock industry.
“It’s so very important that we go through the effort to get these Livestock Friendly designations to let everybody know that Dodge County is open for business when it comes to livestock production,” Heidemann said.
The designation, Dodge County Supervisors Chairman Bob Missel said, “is a true honor.”
“It’s certainly my hope, with this designation, that this takes us one step closer to hopefully entertaining potentially a dairy farm coming to Dodge County,” Missel said. “It’s something a lot of us have talked about, and we know how wonderful that would be to bring a dairy farm to Dodge County, and we know that there’s that potential out there, that they are looking, it’s just being ready for them and being able to offer the things that they would require. We know we have a lot of things they need in abundance. I think that by achieving this designation, it takes us one step closer.”
“As the hub and largest community of Dodge County,” Fremont Mayor Scott Getzschman said, “we’re extremely excited for this because we know that ag production, grain production, has a residual effect, and the tax dollars that it creates, not only for Dodge County, but for Fremont and for Fremont Public Schools, all enhance our growth.
“Fremont’s a rural community, we always have been, we always will be, and we can’t grow without the ag producers and the grain producers that are in this room,” he said.
Kathy Rhea, chairman of the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce’s agriculture and natural resources committee, said achieving the Livestock Friendly designation was a natural progression of her committee’s efforts to improve infrastructure for agri-businesses.
“We determined that it would enhance our ability to do this if Dodge County was designated a Livestock Friendly county. With that, we sought this designation,” said Rhea, whose family owns Rhea Cattle Company east of Arlington.
“We feel it will be important to the economy of this area that we have this,” she said.
Willow Holoubek, executive director of the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska, praised Chamber and county leaders for recognizing animal agriculture as “the base of your economy, not only here in Dodge County, but in Nebraska.”
Bobbie Kriz-Wickham, assistant director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, said the number of Livestock Friendly Counties is growing.
“We have more coming, so it’s great that we continue to grow the ranks of counties that are talking about livestock and having that important conversation within their elected leadership and within their communities about the value that they can add to their agricultural sector by recognizing the importance of livestock,” she said.
“I think that it’s a natural fit for Dodge County,” she said.
Jennifer Greunke, chair-elect of the Chamber board, thanked county officials “for having the foresight to put into place appropriate zoning to make this a little bit easier process.”
“Our economic roots are firmly planted in agriculture and ag-related businesses. Our farmers are some of the best in the world at what they do,” Greunke said.