More than a decade after Nebraska's legislature began creating “livestock friendly” designations for counties, those counties that have participated have gained more cattle ranches and lost fewer hog farms than counties that have not sought the state designation, according to a new study by University of Nebraska ag economists.
The Livestock Friendly County Program, passed by the unicameral in 2003 in an attempt to stave off some county-level attempts to stop large hog-confinement operations from building in the state in the late 1990s, created county-level enterprise zones to encourage livestock development. It supports counties that voluntarily apply for designation from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and declares them receptive to new livestock developments in the counties. The designation is used to promote the state as open to livestock development nationally and internationally.
Morrill County was the first granted the designation, in 2005. Today, 37 of the state's 93 counties have achieved the designation. Several more are in the process.
The University of Nebraska study, just published in the Online Journal of Rural Research and Policy, looked at the loss or gain of livestock operations across the 21 counties designated livestock-friendly between 2002 and 2012, based on the censuses of agriculture from 2002, 2007 and 2012. The research showed counties with the livestock friendly designation experienced a higher growth in the number of cattle ranches. Livestock-friendly counties showed and average 12 percent increase between 2007 and 2012. All others showed an 8 percent increase. Over three out of four livestock-friendly counties increased their number of cattle operations.
And even though most Nebraska counties lost hog farms during the decade the study considered, the decline was smaller in the livestock-friendly counties. While the drop in numbers from 2007 to 2012 for non-designated counties was 62 percent, those deemed livestock friendly declined only 15.6 percent.
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