This week I joined with farmers, ranchers, agribusiness leaders, and policy makers to celebrate the accomplishments and future outlook for Nebraska agriculture. The Governor's Ag Conference is one of my favorite annual agriculture events because it serves as a venue for frank discussion and dialogue about how our state's number one industry has fared in the past year and what we can look forward to in the coming year.
The backdrop for this year's conference is excellent because Nebraska's agriculture industry is strong and the outlook for 2011 is for continued strength. When final figures for 2010 are released it is anticipated that we'll have record net farm income. Prices look good for 2011. We'll need livestock prices to remain high to moderate the cost of inputs, but I'm optimistic about agriculture's future.
A number of our Ag Conference speakers pointed out that what's been good for Nebraska agriculture has been good for the entire state. Jason Henderson, an economist with the Omaha branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, noted that the success of our farmers and ranchers has supported the economy of Nebraska as much of the rest of the nation suffered through a major recession. Nebraska has its own financial challenges, but Nebraska and other plains states have done well in difficult times in large part due to our farms and ranches.
The future will not be without challenges, however. Troy and Stacy Hadrick, ranchers from western South Dakota, opened the agriculture conference by telling attendees it is essential that they become "advocates for agriculture." As the focus on livestock animal welfare grows, it is up to everyone involved in farming, ranching and agribusiness to let consumers know about what they do every day to put food on the table for our state, our nation and the world.
Congress is preparing to begin work on the next Farm Bill, and conference speaker Dale Moore, a former chief of staff to several Secretaries of Agriculture, encouraged attendees to be active in the development of this critical policy document. Conference attendees mentioned to me over and over again their concern about current and impending regulations, especially EPA regulations. Dr. Brad Lubben with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln outlined some of the more pressing regulatory issues and spoke about their potential impact on our agriculture industry.
Conference attendees are optimistic about agriculture's future. Agriculture exports are anticipated to be at or near an all-time high in 2011, maintaining agriculture's position as one of the few industries in the United States to have a consistently positive trade balance. The global presence of U.S. agriculture was the focus of the conference keynote address, provided by Paul Schickler, president of Pioneer Hi-Bred, DuPont's global advanced seed genetics operation. Schickler spoke about the global economic climate, currency issues, and other factors that will international trade.
While Nebraska continues to impact the world through our agricultural exports, I am proud that we also are making a difference through another kind of international outreach. Lt. Col. Lynn Heng with the Nebraska National Guard told conference attendees about an upcoming mission to Afghanistan, where Nebraska soldiers will be sharing farming practices and other techniques with local farmers. It's a mission designed to help the Afghan people move forward in creating a sustainable economy.
The 23rd Governor's Ag Conference was informative and productive. I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit with our farmers and ranchers who play a critical role in supporting our Nebraska economy.