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Agriculture runs deep, Western Nebraska’s culture finds beginning in agriculture

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

“Nebraska agriculture has been described as expansive and diverse with an abundance of natural resources,” says the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA). “The landscape varies from large pasture dotted with feeding cattle to miles of rolling hills bursting with a wide variety of crops and everything in between.”

NDA explains abundant water supply and ample crop and pasture lands are the most important asset for the state’s residents. 

“Farms and ranches in Nebraska have been handed down from generation to generation, and families still serve as the hub of the state’s number one industry – agriculture,” NDA says. “Known for hard-work ethic and a strong set of values, these families continue to produce the highest quality food products that help feed the world.”


The first pioneers entering western Nebraska were met by a host of semi-nomadic Indians, including the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Potawatome, who lived in teepees that were dismantled and moved with the buffalo herds that provided them sustenance. 

It wasn’t until fur traders began to traverse the state, traveling along the North Platte River, that white settlers entered the area. Lewis and Clark mapped the eastern boundary of the state in 1804,  but it wasn’t until 1854 that the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by Congress, organizing the Nebraska Territory. Prior to that date, the land was reserved for Indian settlements.

The Union Pacific Railroad was completed across Nebraska in 1867, the same year that Nebraska joined the U.S. as a state, and the Burlington system crossed the state by the mid-1880s. 

“Many early railroads received land grants from the state and federal governments to offset the cost of construction,” says “These lands were sold to settlers through extensive advertising campaigns, with some companies sending representatives to Europe to encourage immigrants to come to Nebraska.” 

In 1904, Congressman Moses Kinkaid of Nebraska  passed the Kincaid Act, which increased the size of homesteads from 160 to 640 acres, bringing with it a population cell in the Sandhills of the state. 

Ag impacts

According to Farm Flavor, “Agriculture is the heart and soul of Nebraska.”

“As the state’s leading industry, the impact goes far beyond the plate, providing Nebraskans with jobs, significantly contributing to the state’s economy and touching the lives of its citizens every day,” the organization continues.

Production in Nebraska reaches more than $25 billion and is the result of work on 49,100 farms and ranches on 45 million acres. 

“In fact,” Farm Flavor reports, “farms and ranches use 92 percent of Nebraska’s total land area.”

Nebraska was fourth in the nation in terms of red meat production in 2014, and they are leading in production of cattle and calves, corn, soybeans, dry edible beans, hay, wheat and more.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reports approximately 59 percent of the production value in the state of Nebraska comes from livestock.

Corn and cattle are the top two commodities produced in the state. 

“Nebraska also leads the way in production of many other crops and livestock,” says NDA. “It has been the number one producer in the United States of popcorn and Great Northern beans and among the state leaders in producing soybeans, wheat, dry edible beans, pork, grain sorghum and eggs.”

Extensive reach

Beyond production ag, NDA says one in four jobs in the state is related to the agriculture industry, and careers in agriculture include insurance, equipment sales and repair, technology, irrigation, engineering and more.

“Agribusiness is vital to the state’s economy, and having a ready and willing workforce has helped those businesses thrive,” explains NDA. “All Nebraskans seem to be connected to agriculture in one way or another.”

The infrastructure in Nebraska provides the necessary routes to move ag products easily across the state. 

“With monikers like Cornhuskers and The Beef State, it doesn’t take long to figure out corn and cattle are two of the top commodities produced in Nebraska,” NDA says. “The ready supply of corn as feed for the cattle results in producing premium-quality meat products, which are sought by consumers throughout the world.”

More information on Nebraska’s agriculture industry can be found at

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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