Omaha World Herald. July 6, 2018

Restoration of 1913 Picotte hospital as community facility is a worthy cause.

In 1913, Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American woman to earn a medical degree in the United States, realized a dream: She opened a 33-room hospital on the Omaha Indian Reservation in northeast Nebraska.

It was a high point in an admirable career devoted to promoting the health and interests of Picotte's Omaha tribe.

These many years later, the National Historic Landmark building has fallen into disrepair, but Nebraskans from a variety of backgrounds are coming together in a fundraising campaign to restore it as a community asset.

The goal: revive a museum in the building and create full-time offices for the Omaha Tribe and other organizations. Judi gaiashkibos, the executive director of the Indian commission, says the building "is symbolic of this great Nebraska hero."

Exactly so. Picotte left a remarkable legacy of service. This restoration project is a great salute to it.

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Kearney Hub. July 6, 2018.

Stand with our farmers in these tough times.

Nebraska's farmers and ranchers make up the state's No. 1 industry and it's not just because our state is gifted with fertile soil, abundant water and other natural advantages. Agriculture is No. 1 because farmers and ranchers are hard-working people. They stick with it, confident that even tough times like we're experiencing eventually will pass.

Farmers inherit a tradition of productivity, an attitude that is positive, yet realistic, and a willingness to take risks as they pioneer new methods to raise crops and livestock. They also exhibit loyalty toward the communities where they live.

During recent years, agriculture has suffered dramatic declines in profitability. As farmers and ranchers fight to stay afloat, so too, do rural communities. The loss of farm income is setting the stage for a crisis in rural Nebraska.

That fact is well-known here, but it probably isn't as well-known or understood in Washington, D.C., where lawmakers and our president play farmers and ranchers as pawns in deliberations over the new farm bill and as our nation attempts to exert its economic strength to end China's theft from U.S. high-tech industries.

Nebraska and other agricultural states are a minority and may seem inconsequential to the U.S. senators and representatives whose constituents live mostly in cities. These urban dwellers possess little knowledge or appreciation for the struggles in the industry that produces the food on their tables.

Their constituents may be ignorant about the challenges facing farmers and ranchers, but our federal officials must pay attention. Farmers and ranchers want to be good Americans, but there is a breaking point. Uncle Sam sometimes needlessly harms agriculture with policies that are costly and help nobody. Other times, farmers feel as if they're expendable in the game of diplomacy. It genuinely harms ag markets when Washington threatens to walk away from trade negotiations or assess tariffs on foreign goods entering the country.

With commodities prices in the cellar, one of the best things Washington could do is to promote trade. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts understands that fact and has promoted Nebraska farm products with trade missions overseas. He currently is preparing for more trade promotions.

We, Nebraskans, would like to see more of that kind of activity, especially at the federal level.

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Scottsbluff Star-Herald. July 3, 2018

Some federal lawmakers are playing for political points in new farm bill legislation. The U.S. Senate passed its version Thursday by an 86-11 vote, with members of both parties supporting the $428 billion proposal. Matters were a bit rockier last week in the U.S. House of Representatives, where some politicians hoped to weave welfare reform into the new farm bill.

The House version narrowly passed, with no Democratic support, because the House's bill would impose strict new work requirements on able-bodied adults seeking food stamps.

The Senate's version doesn't have major changes to food stamps. Rather, it contains what agriculture needs in the farm bill: federal crop insurance, risk management tools for farmers and ranchers, support for conservation programs, livestock disaster programs and funding to promote trade.

Unknown to many Americans, the farm bill isn't just about support for farmers. It also contains funding and rules for federal nutrition programs, including food stamps. That's how the food stamps reform was tacked into the House's bill.

Because of the dual focus on both farm support and nutrition programs, passage of the farm bill frequently becomes a tug-of-war between urban state lawmakers interested in food for their constituents and rural lawmakers wanting to provide for the needs of the agricultural industry.

This year, we can expect arguments to swirl around the food stamp changes. We hope that in whatever manner that argument is resolved, it doesn't rob from farming and ranching interests.

Agriculture seeks stability and predictability, and the farm bill can help provide that. However, Washington, D.C. has been dealing farmers and ranchers lots of instability in the past year, with withdrawal from trade negotiations, uncertainty of federal biofuels mandates and, most notably, the White House's tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. Together, these problems are causing much harm in farm country.

Farmers should not be played as pawns, but that's what is happening at too many turns.

We have suggested this frequently in the past: Why not address nutrition programs in legislation separate from the farm bill? Lawmakers should focus solely on what's needed for farmers, unencumbered by debates about issues not directly tied to agriculture.

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McCook Daily Gazette. July 5, 2018

Low jobless rate helping more felons find jobs

McCook's Work Ethic Camp was created with the goal of helping ex-cons transition back to being productive members of society.

That role has eroded with the overcrowding of Nebraska's prison system, but a new trend may make it easier for convicts who have paid their debt to society to get back into the legal workforce.

Having a felony conviction is a major roadblock to landing many jobs, but a shortage of workers in the Midwest is causing many employers to reconsider.

U.S. manufacturers have added nearly 260,000 jobs over the past year, construction workers are in demand, and with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, many employers can't be as picky as they previously were.

Some states have passed laws to require human resource departments to delay background checks until farther along in the hiring process, and even in states that don't have those laws, many are starting to waive drug tests or skip criminal background checks altogether.

"The dynamics of the economy require a new approach, employers have to open the aperture to bring in people from the sidelines, whether they be ex-offenders or retirees," Becky Frankiewicz, North America president at ManpowerGroup, told CNBC.

Mid Plains Community College has been involved in an effort to teach offenders welding skills in McCook, and, although it ceased operations here, another program sought to teach Work Ethic Camp offenders construction skills.

Convicted sex offenders will still have a more difficult time finding employment than other felons, but prison population pressures, coupled with pressure to ease marijuana laws, should help more convicts find a productive place in society.

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