A study released by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture casts serious doubt about the future of its livestock industry.

“The Agricultural Economy in Nebraska: Making Nebraska the Agricultural Leader of the 21st Century” was done by a Texas market research consulting firm.

In a recent press conference, Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns questioned the value of Initiative 300, Nebraska's 21-year-old state constitutional law that bans corporate farming.

The study reports I-300 and local control of zoning have erected barriers that “threaten the vitality of Nebraska's livestock industry, the key economic driver for the agricultural economy in Nebraska.”

In the interest of protecting the smaller producer first, the state has built regulatory barriers which have limited producers' access to capital, reduced their ability to invest or expand their operations or turn their operations over to younger producers, the study concluded.

Rod Johnson, executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, says the drop in state pork producer numbers almost parallels the drop nationally. In the decade from 1991 to 2001, the state went from 12,000 producers to 3,000. Total hog inventory declined from 4.6 million hogs in 1991 to 2.9 million hogs for 2001. Producer and inventory totals have remained nearly stable since that time, he notes.

“The alarming thing for me is the drop in market share, from producing 8% of U.S. hogs in Nebraska to producing 5%,” says Johnson.

He says his group supports a review of I-300, suggested by the study, “to make sure it is working to the advantage of our producers.”