In 2008 there were 47,400 farms in Nebraska, 74 percent of which had annual sales of $10,000 or more. One-third of the farms had annual sales of over $100,000. In the eastern third of the state farms are much smaller than the state average, while those in the Sand Hills and the Panhandle are substantially larger. Farmland occupied 18.5 million hectares (45.6 million acres), of which 47 percent was cropland. The rest was mostly pasture and range. Some 34 percent of the cropland (mostly used to grow corn) was irrigated each year. Most of the people working on farms in the 1990s were the farm operators or members of their families. Although some Nebraska farms are quite large, most are owned and operated by individuals and only a very few are owned by non-farm corporations. In 1982 Nebraska adopted Initiative 300, commonly called the Family Farm Preservation Act, a constitutional amendment that protects family farmers from the economic pressure of large agricultural corporations by prohibiting individual farmers from selling their land to nonfamily-farm corporations.
The sale of livestock and livestock products accounted for 64 percent of Nebraska’s farm income in 2006. Sales of cattle and calves make up four-fifths of farm income from livestock, although hogs are also important. One-fourth of total farm receipts are from the sale of corn, although much corn is fed to livestock on farms where it is raised. In 1997 it was the state’s leading crop, raised on 3.4 million hectares (8.3 million acres) of land. Other important crops included soybeans, wheat, hay, grain sorghum, dry beans, and sugar beets. In 1997, Nebraska ranked fourth in the nation in total farm sales, second in livestock sales, and seventh in crop sales. The state ranked third in the value of cattle and calf production, third in corn and grain sorghum, seventh in hogs, and seventh in soybeans.
There are considerable regional differences in farming activities in Nebraska. In the northwestern and north central parts of the state, cattle grazing dominates. In the northeast and in the central Platte Valley, farmers grow corn and raise feeder cattle and hogs. Large-scale wheat production is concentrated in the southern Panhandle and the southwest, while in the North Platte Valley farmers specialize in irrigated sugar beets and dry beans. Irrigated corn production is most concentrated south of the Platte River. In some of these counties, more than three-fourths of the cropland is planted in corn. Sorghum is raised in the southern part of the state on unirrigated lands.
Clearly, irrigation plays an important role in the agricultural production of Nebraska. The Platte Valley, much of the south central and southwestern parts of the state, and the eastern fringe of the Sand Hills are the leading areas under irrigation. In many of these areas center pivot irrigation systems are the most common means of delivering water to fields. This device typically consists of a water pipe 400 m (one-quarter mi) long and lined with sprinklers.
Elevated on wheels above the field, the pipe is anchored at one end at a center pivot, and the entire assembly turns on this pivot as the pipe slowly rotates around a field, sprinkling the crop below. Because they can be used to irrigate porous sandy soils and land that is not level, center pivots have greatly increased the amount of farmland that can be irrigated. Nebraska has more center pivot irrigation systems than any other state. "Nebraska" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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