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Public sasfety risks, scams may follow ice storm

Don't use climbing spikes when pruning trees

Cow-Calf College will be Jan. 31

Ricketts champions tax reform in speech


Public safety risks, scams may follow ice storm

Following the ice storm, the Nebraska Forest Service (NFS) would like to remind Nebraskans to exercise caution when surveying neighborhood damage or assessing impacts to their trees. Homeowners should never attempt to clean up or remove storm-damaged trees near power lines. Always contact local power companies to report the location of the damage.
"Accumulations between one-quarter and one-half inch can cause small branches to break; anything greater can cause limbs, power lines and poles to all come down," said Amy Seiler, NFS community forestry specialist.
When inspecting a tree for damage, Seiler said it is tempting for homeowners to take on the entire job themselves ­­ often overlooking hazards that are not always obvious to the untrained eye.
"Regardless of the species, ice can increase the weight of branches 30 times or more. This additional weight loads branches with tension and if not relieved correctly, limbs can unpredictably spring back into saw operators or bystanders," Seiler added.
After initial storm damage is cleared, homeowners should look for lateral cracks in branches and vertical cracks in the trunk says Seiler. If cracks are found, a certified arborist should be contacted. The NFS recommends certified arborists because of their expertise in the management of damaged trees ­­ especially large and potentially hazardous trees. Certified arborists also help shield homeowners from scams that are likely to follow any severe weather event.
"Certified arborists and other reputable companies will have personal and property damage insurance and coverage for worker's compensation," said Seiler. "They almost never solicit work door-to-door. But if they do, do not be afraid to request proof of the company's certification and insurance."
Utilities are also urging customers to not take matters into their own hands.
For more information: Graham Herbst, community forestry specialist, eastern Nebraska,;
Amy Seiler, community forestry specialist, western Nebraska, To find a certified arborist near you, please visit For more information on caring for storm damaged trees, please visit

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Don't use climbing spikes when pruning trees
Following this week's ice storm, there probably will be a number of trees that will need trimming and some people may be tempted to use climbing spikes to get up into the storm damaged trees. However, the use of spikes is discouraged by the Tree Care Industry Association.
Climbing spikes are sharpened steel spikes attached to the climber's leg by leather straps and padded supports. With other ways to reach into the trees now available, the spikes should only be uses to access trees being removed. When these spikes are used on living trees, it is traumatizing to the tree and creates unnecessary damage. 
Each puncture from a climbing spike produces a certain amount of tree tissue death, though this varies from tree to tree. In most cases, isolated wounds will seal, but over time, groupings of spike holes can cause the entire area on the trunk to die back with no chance of recovery. This happens when a tree is repeatedly climbed for pruning while using spikes.
The likelihood of piercing the cambium (living tissue beneath the bark) is high, even with larger trees and thick bark. If soon after the work is performed with spikes there is sap oozing from the wounds, the tree is responding to spike damage. Repeated damage of this type is harmful to the tree.
So why would climbers use spikes if they are harmful to the tree? There are a few exceptional situations where using spikes is appropriate, such as:
· when the tree is being removed.
· when branches are more than throwline distance apart and there is no other means of climbing the tree (for example: when there are no branches lower than 50 feet), with no access for an aerial lift device or crane.
· if the tree is too close to power lines and cannot be accessed safely by other means.
· to reach an injured climber.
Professional tree care companies are aware of the dangers of spikes and use proper tree equipment such as ropes and climbing harnesses to climb (or aerial lift devices or cranes, if accessible). This, coupled with their training and experience, contributes to the future health of the tree.

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Cow-Calf College will be Jan. 31
The Farmers and Ranchers Cow-Calf College Partners in Progress beef seminar will be held at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and Great Plains Veterinary Education Center near Clay Center, Neb., on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Registration with coffee and donuts available starts at 9 a.m. The program will run from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. The program is sponsored by Nebraska Extension's Farmers and Ranchers College and will feature speakers discussing issues and management strategies that can affect the profitability of all beef producers.
There is no cost for the event and the public is invited. It does include a noon meal, which means that early registration is necessary to reserve materials and a meal.
The program begins with a welcome by John Pollak, director of meat animal research center and Dale Grotelueschen, director of the Great Plains Veterinary Education Center. Mary Drewnoski, Nebraska Extension specialist, and Chad Engle, animal research center livestock operations manager, will kick off the seminar with "Annual Forage Systems - A Pasture Alternative." They will offer strategies for utilizing cover crops and other forages.
Kate Brooks with UNL's Department of Agricultural Economics will present an update on the cattle market. In her presentations she will share beef marketing trends with an emphasis on how to make a profit.
Lunch is provided and will be handled with a rotation system during two noon sessions featuring split sessions on Management Tips and Strategies from a local producer and the 2015 Leopold Conservation Winner, Brian Shaw.
The afternoon session will start with Aaron Berger, Nebraska extension educator on "Strategic Ranch Management during an Economic Downturn." With lower prices, it is imperative for producers to have a plan in place and follow through with it in order to remain viable in today's rapidly changing global markets.
Kip Lukasiewicz, Sandhills Cattle Consultants Inc., will lead "The Veterinary Feed Directive Update." Returning from last year's conference, Kip is expected to entertain while being on target to address some of critical health issues that face beef producers. Kip will also inform participants how to comply with the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) as well as other feed and vaccine protocols.
All presenters will then join to pull everything together, give their final thoughts and considerations and provide a coffee-shop style panel discussion during which cattlemen can ask questions and get answers on questions that came to them during the day's sessions.
A chance for door prizes will be awarded to those that stay for the entire event.
Pre-register by Tuesday at the Nebraska Extension Office in Fillmore County to insure a seat and lunch. Walk-ins are accepted, but may not get a lunch. Remember contact information is required to be on the research center property, so pre-registration is helpful.

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Ricketts champions tax reform in speech
By Lynn Yen,
Nebraska News Service
Faced with a $900 million budget deficit, Governor Pete Ricketts is optimistic about the condition of Nebraska, and called upon using "Nebraska grit" to balance the budget in his State of the State address on Thursday.
The budget deficit, income and property tax reform and education funding were key points in the governor's speech.
One challenge for the state is decreasing farm incomes, which has led to lower than expected state revenue, which resulted in a budget deficit.
"Farm income has gone from $7.5 billion just a few years ago, to $4.5 billion in 2015 and probably close to $4 billion last year," Ricketts said.
The governor was emphatically against raising taxes to balance the state budget. "I will not support any effort to raise taxes on Nebraskans," he said.
In addition to addressing the current budget's deficit, the 105th Legislature is tasked with passing a new two-year budget that will begin this July.
Ricketts outlined his guidelines for the new biennium budget including closing the revenue gap without raising taxes, reducing government expenditures and maintaining $500 million in cash reserves.
Ricketts said this would be achieved in part by cutting income tax for the top tax bracket to attract more people to Nebraska, grow the economy and increase the taxable population.
The tax cut he has proposed in LB 337 would reduce the tax rate for people in the top income bracket, such as married couples jointly earning more than $59,180, by 0.1 percent per year starting in 2020 until the rate is below 6 percent. The tax reduction would not take place in years when revenue growth is less than 3.5 percent.
In response to declining farm income, Ricketts also championed property tax reform for agricultural producers in LB338. The proposed Agricultural Valuation Fairness Act would change the property valuation formula "from a market-based system to an income-potential assessment" similar to ones used in South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and other agricultural states.
Despite the call to rein in spending, Ricketts said the needs of education and other priority funding areas will be met.
According to Ricketts, the current school aid formula is flawed. Under his plan, education funding would increase 2.7 percent annually, with a 1.5 percent annual increase for special education.
The speech touched on additional priority topics:
· Ongoing efforts to address inmate health and staffing in jails with the Department of Corrections.
· Streamlining accreditation and licensing requirements for various jobs such as massage therapy and audiology.
· Merging the Department of Aeronautics and the Department of Roads into a new Department of Transportation in LB 339.
· Moving Veterans' Homes Division from Department of Health and Human Services to Department of Veterans' Affairs in LB 340.

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