Foresight on Food Politics: What is 'livestock friendly,' and why should you care?

What is livestock friendly?

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.

Why should you care?

  • Nebraska's Department of Agriculture reports Nebraska led the nation in beef and veal exports during 2013, valued at $1.128 billion. According to the NDA, every dollar spent on agricultural exports generates $1.27 in economic activity, which equates to beef and veal exports generating over $1.4 billion for Nebraska.
  • A 2002 study from Dixon County showed the total economic impact in that year from livestock production and related business was nearly $67 million, creating about 350 jobs in the county. When the study considered the ripple effect of livestock production on value-added factors like employee compensation, owners’ incomes, property taxes and indirect business taxes, livestock added another $16 million to the economy.
  • A Virginia study measuring the impact of animal agriculture for the first decade of the millenium showed a value across all states of $252 billion, including $40 billion paid in wages to more than 1.8 million job holders, about $6.2 billion in property taxes and more than $10 billion in federal, state and employment taxes.
  • A similar Illinois study showed a $3.2 billion total economic impact, 29,400 jobs and $256.8 million in taxes for that state in 2004. The state's 326 meat and dairy processing plants that year generated $19.7 billion in economic impact and 90,000 jobs.
  • A 2007 study in Vernon County, Mo., estimated that two-thirds of the roughly $87 million livestock producers spent to raise their animals went to expenses that directly affect the local economy, like feed, wages,utilities, fuel, repairs and veterinarian expenses. Livestock production created an estimated 392 jobs in the county.

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