Golden Plains committed to livestock

Monday, June 27, 2005

Two years after Nebraska passed "livestock friendly" legislation, Morrill County has become the first county to adopt the state's guidelines for the livestock friendly designation.

While Morrill County is the first to commit to the state standards, two counties in Southwest Nebraska had earlier declared themselves as "livestock friendly" using county zoning laws.

Those counties are Frontier, which passed the livestock friendly resolution with county zoning on Jan. 6 of this year, and Hayes, which approved the livestock friendly designation with county zoning on Feb. 8.

A third county in Southwest Nebraska, Hitchcock, is considering whether to become "livestock friendly." The resolution under consideration calls for Hitchcock County proposes to follow the state standards, as did Morrill County.

Which is best? County or state standards? That's the center of the debate, as counties in rural Nebraska continue to grapple with the livestock issue.

Whether they have passed resolutions or not, counties in this area are livestock friendly. You can see that clearly when you drive around the countryside, viewing all kinds of livestock operations. There are large herds of cattle, feedlots, dairies and hog operations.

Cattle and hogs have been around since this area's settlement in the late 1800s. The difference in the latest debate is that the main consideration is large-scale livestock feedlots, hog confinement developments and commercial dairies.

We have several in this area, and they have become good neighbors. Timmerman & Sons Feedlot between McCook and Indianola, Southwest Feeders in Hayes County and the Decatur County Feed Yard north of Oberlin are among the larger feeding operations, while the Three Star and Red Willow dairies maintain large herds of cows.

Gov. Dave Heineman endorsed the state approach to livestock friendly when he praised Morrill County officials for making "a strong public statement about rural economic development." In the months and years to come, it will be interesting to see which approach to "livestock friendly" is best: state standards or county zoning. Whichever way counties go, it's important to remember that livestock are an essential part of this area's heritage; and a key component of this area's future.

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