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BrownfieldAgNews reports:

Efforts to expand the livestock industry in Nebraska are picking up steam.

The Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) has launched a campaign that encourages rural communities to include animal agriculture in their economic development plans.

"It (animal agriculture) truly is a development program that all rural communities can look at to help with and increase and sustain their economic vitality," says Willow Holoubek, executive director of A-FAN.

Holoubek hopes the A-FAN campaign will help spark more conversations about the opportunities to expand animal agriculture in the state.

"The conversation has begun out there about who we are in Nebraska and how we can use the resources that we have, and the wonderful human capital that we have here in Nebraska, to help everyone be successful," she says.

A-FAN's campaign coincides with a report from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) that outlines possible scenarios for livestock growth, including a 25% expansion in hog finishing and a doubling of the state's dairy herd. One of authors of the report, UNL economics professor Eric Thompson, says while nearby states have seen significant growth in livestock production in the last ten years, Nebraska has not kept pace.

"There's been substantial growth occurring in livestock activity in the upper Midwest, our part of the country," Thompson says, "and that's a part of a restructuring-a reshuffling-that's going on within agriculture in the United States.

"We need to take part in that as much as possible now, because this is when the changes are occurring and it's our best opportunity to participate."

The UNL report acknowledges there are environmental and societal implications to any expansion of livestock production. But Thompson says technology has helped address many of those issues.

"Hog finishing-that part of the livestock industry-and the industry in general, is benefitting from new technologies and new approaches," Thompson says, "and there has been a lot of innovation in terms of developing facilities that don't have as many externalities in terms of smell or other environmental issues.

"There are also some environmental benefits, potentially, from the expansion of hog finishing facilities, considering there is some potential to replace petroleum-based fertilizers."

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