Medicare Basics Workshop

News Release

Mary Loftis

NE Extension Associate and SHIIP Counselor

August 19, 2019


Medicare Basics Workshop

          Have you been receiving an increasingly large amount of Medicare mail lately?

Are you invited to informational meetings hosted by insurance companies? Or maybe there’s a speaker scheduled at your local senior center regarding Medicare insurance options. Whatever the scenario, you are either becoming eligible for Medicare or you might already be on it and it’s getting close to the annual Medicare Open Enrollment period. That makes you a target for anyone selling Medicare associated coverage.

Don’t just throw up your hands in confusion and frustration! You are welcome to attend any of these meetings, but don’t sign up for anything until you visit with someone who has absolutely nothing to gain from the Medicare plan you are considering.

The Nebraska Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) provides free unbiased information from the Nebraska Department of Insurance. SHIIP counselors provide this information to individuals becoming eligible for Medicare and for those already on it who need to compare their drug plan coverage each year.

A Medicare Basics Program will be held Wednesday, September 11. It will be held in Fremont at the Nebraska Extension Office in Dodge County at 1206 West 23rd Street beginning at 7:00 p.m. Mary Loftis, Nebraska Extension Associate and Nebraska SHIIP Counselor will be conducting the program.

Please register by calling the Dodge County Extension Office at 402-727-2775 so enough materials are available. Everyone is welcome to attend so bring a new to Medicare friend with you!

Crop Dusting in High Gear Locally

Crop dusting is in high gear right now. Maybe the painted lady butterflies that turn into caterpillars and feast on bean fields have something to do with that! Both photos credit of Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Upcoming Medicare Basics Class

Mary Loftis

Nebraska Extension Associate and SHIIP Counselor

News Release

August 6, 2019


Welcome to Medicare Basics Class:

Celebrate your upcoming 65th birthday by attending a “Welcome to Medicare!” class.

If you or a family member are turning 65 in the near future, it’s a milestone birthday and a cause for celebration. It can also be a cause for concern and confusion.

Once you know the basics you can handle the rest, or at least you’ll know who to call for unbiased help.


Join the Medicare Basics informational meeting on Wednesday, September 11 at the Dodge County Extension Office at 1206 West 23rd Street in Fremont, NE.


The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. and absolutely nothing will be marketed or sold at this event.

It’s a free informational meeting presented by Mary Loftis, a trained Senior Health Insurance Information Program counselor. Anyone from any county or community is welcome to take part in this program. Family members are encouraged to also attend.


A future Welcome to Medicare session will be held January 30st at 7:00 in Tekamah in the Burt County Courthouse meeting room if that date works better in your schedule.


Please call Nebraska Extension in Dodge County today at 402-727-2775 to register for the September 11thMedicare education session.

Last Call for Pop Tabs

By Mary Loftis

Extension Associate


September 15 is the deadline to  turn in your aluminum pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House.  Year-long collection sites are the Extension Office at the Burt County Courthouse in Tekamah and at the Lied Tekamah Public Library.   This is an on-going project of the Burt County 4-H program.  Over the past 18 years more than 1.1 million tabs have been collected  from Burt County.


Pull tabs from any product are accepted, including fruit, vegetable, soup, any beverage and pet food.


Tabs will be recycled and funds will support the Ronald McDonald House in Omaha, a “home-away-from-home” for families so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost.

The Painted Lady Butterflies Are Back!

News Column

John Wilson

Extension Educator

August 8, 2019


They’re Back!

That sounds like a good title for some horror movie sequel, but that’s not where I’m going with it today. As I’m sure many of you noticed, we’re getting an abundance of butterflies… AGAIN! These are Painted Lady Butterflies… although I’ve heard them called many things… some I can’t repeat. These are the adults of the caterpillars that were devouring many soybean fields, and lots of other plants, a few weeks ago.

Fortunately, the adults do not injure crops as they only feed on the nectar of flowers. They are a bright, colorful, addition to our summer landscape and really don’t do any damage unless you consider smearing up your windshield as you drive down the road. However, the larvae of the painted lady butterfly, sometimes called the thistle caterpillar, can be another story.

To understand when and how these defoliating insects impact soybeans, one of their favorite food sources, you need to understand a little about their life cycle. Painted lady butterflies do not overwinter in Nebraska. They migrated and moved with wind currents from the southern U.S. and Mexico earlier this summer, arriving in Nebraska in June. Where they are concentrated depends a lot on weather patterns, so just because we had a lot of them this year does not mean we will have an abundance of them in 2020.

Unlike some insects that lay large masses of eggs, Painted Ladies will lay individual eggs on the leaves of thistles, soybeans, and over 100 other species of plants that serve as a food source to the larvae once they hatch. In five to seven days, the eggs hatch and the larva begin feeding. Because the eggs are laid over several days up to a week or more, it is common to have different sized caterpillars on a single plant.

The larvae feed an average of four weeks, but sometimes up to six weeks. However, the majority of their feeding damage occurs towards the end of the larval stage as their size and appetite increase. To protect themselves from predators, they often pull several leaves together and connect them with a fine webbing, forming a sheltered area to feed.

Mature caterpillars are usually 1½ to 1¾ inch long and can vary in color, but are covered with numerous branching spines. Once they mature, they form a pupa or chrysalis which hangs from the underside of a leaf and can be blue, brown, or green in color. In seven to 17 days, a new adult Painted Lady butterfly emerges and starts the life cycle over again.

So the butterflies we are seeing now are the adults of the thistle caterpillars that were feeding on soybean fields a couple weeks ago. Knowing the life cycle, we know we can expect to see more larvae feeding in about four to five weeks and can plan our scouting accordingly.

Knowing how to scout is just as important as knowing when to scout. I won’t go into the full explanation on how to scout your fields for defoliating insects, but I can tell you most people will overestimate the amount of defoliation because thistle caterpillar feed at the top of the plant where it is most visible. An easy way to estimate defoliation can be found at I really like the images that help you more accurately estimate the percentage of defoliation.

This method applies to all defoliating insects… grasshoppers, bean leaf beetles, thistle caterpillars, wooly bear caterpillars, and any other type of defoliating insect. At this stage of growth for the soybean plant, we don’t want to see defoliation exceed 20% of the total leaf area. Frequently defoliation on the upper leaves is greater, but when we consider the whole canopy, the defoliation has not reached this threshold.

So be prepared to check your fields because I can just about guarantee we will have more thistle caterpillar feeding… and possibly other defoliators. The important thing to know is when that damage just looks bad versus when it is actually reducing your yield… and your profitability. For more information on managing thistle caterpillars and other defoliating insects, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.


A Few More Tractors from Sunday

Here are a few more tractors from Sunday’s trip around the county. All photos credit of Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Tractor Ride Through Burt County, Ends on Oakland’s Main Street

I love to take a cruise around Burt County, but I have never done it on a tractor! Many area men did just that Sunday! They began at Oakland Express on Highway 32 and made a journey through the county, stopping at the Green Lantern in Decatur for lunch. After lunch, they began their journey back through the county, ending by driving their tractors down Oakland’s Main Street. All photos credit of Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Senator Hansen’s Bill LB 304 “Cottage Foods” Passes First Round of Debate

By Senator Ben Hansen

It was a great week at the Capitol as we moved through a good amount of committee and senator priority bills.  As I mentioned in an earlier column, the rest of the 2019 session is going to be made up bills senators have chosen as their priority bills or bills the different committees have identified as priority bills for the session.  I really felt like we were able to make some progress this week, taking action on some big issues.

We kicked off Monday with debate on my priority bill, LB 304.  As a reminder, the bill would allow individuals and families to sell the same cottage foods sold at farmers markets from their homes.  We made some changes to the bill to require producers have their water tested if using a private well, register with the Department of Agriculture, and to clearly label the foods they sell.  On the floor I talked about how selling cottage foods could help a family make ends meet or could help kick start a small business, giving them the experience and funds to expand.  Nebraskans produce food for the rest of the world so it makes sense that these same producers should be able to sell food directly to consumers from their homes.  It’s a pure form of farm-to-table food production and one that we should encourage.  My priority bill passed the first round of debate with 41 votes.

Another major bill passing the first round of debate was LB 512 introduced by Senator Linehan.  The bill is the Department of Revenue’s annual cleanup bill, making changes as needed to Nebraska tax law.  Senator Erdman brought an amendment to include parts of his LB 482, introduced to make changes in assessment of destroyed property.  Sen. Erdman’s bill was introduced on January 22nd, long before the floods ravaged our region and even before they were predicted.  The new changes would allow for a reassessment of damaged property for tax purposes.  For example, if a building was damaged by a natural disaster, a landowner could request the building to be reassessed while it is being rebuilt or repaired.  Once the building is restored it would then be assessed again for tax purposes.  This bill, although not its original intent, could provide tax relief to victims of the flood and I was happy to vote yes on the bill along with 41 other senators.

On Thursday I and other senators on the Health and Human Services and Appropriations committees received a brief from state officials on the expansion of Medicaid, set for an implementation date of October 1st, 2020.  There’s a lot of work to do and I expect to be a part of many more hearings and briefs about expanded Medicaid as the year goes on.

The Revenue Committee is expected to release its proposals for property tax relief next week.  I’ve spoken about property taxes many times on the floor, and I’m excited to begin in-depth discussions about the #1 reason I ran for the legislature – property tax relief.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at



Senator Hansen’s “Cottage Foods” Bill Up For Debate Soon

Greetings to all in District 16 and the surrounding region.  As the recovery from the flooding progresses I want to thank all the volunteers who’ve donated time, money, and resources to the victims of the flooding.  I’ve seen many stories on social media and in the newspapers about the incredible support pouring into Nebraska from around the country.  Times like these are good reminders that treating people with love, respect, and dignity is still the foundation of our culture.  I hope you all are as encouraged as I am by the response people have had to those affected by the flood.  We are all truly blessed to live in America, and specifically Nebraska!

This was the final week of public hearings in the legislature.  I greatly enjoyed being part of the Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Business and Labor Committees this year.  In each of these committees, I was able to utilize my education and experience to represent the many interests of our district.  It was a great learning experience and I am excited about serving on these committees during the next session.

Since committee hearings have wrapped up for the year we will move to full days of debate starting on April 2nd.  Though we’ve accomplished a fair amount so far, we have quite a ways to go before the session ends on June 6th.  We can expect the remainder of the session to filled with debate on property tax relief, corrections issues, industrial hemp, a new business tax incentive package, and budget issues.  The Revenue Committee has yet to release its package of property tax relief bills and neither has the Appropriations Committee released its proposed state budget.  These two topics alone will be the subject of vigorous and extended debate.  On the floor this week I made a statement about the time that is wasted in the Legislature when we could be discussing important topics like property tax relief.  I’m hopeful we can begin discussing tax relief soon now that committee hearings have ended.

My priority bill, LB 304, will be up for debate soon on the floor.  Though I wrote about it briefly in last week’s column, I want to refresh everyone a bit.  This bill is referred to as a “cottage foods” bill and would allow producers to sell the same low-risk cottage foods already sold at farmers markets from their homes or at other events.  The foods sold must be shelf-stable baked goods or other products not required to be time or temperature controlled.  To bring this bill out of committee, I worked on an amendment that would require producers to take and pass a food handler’s class, have their well water tested if served by a private well, and register with the Department of Agriculture.  By including these non-burdensome requirements, I was able to ensure senator and stakeholder concerns were met and there was no opposition to the bill.  I expect this bill will face little opposition during debate, and I’m excited about the positive effect it will have for many constituents in District 16.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at


This Cold Weather is “For the Birds!”

News Column

John Wilson

Extension Educator

February 7, 2019


This Cold Weather is “For the Birds!”

This morning, before I came to work, I was stumbling around in the dark in 8F temperatures and sub-zero wind chills with a flashlight to make sure all of my bird feeders and waterers were well stocked for my feathered friends. I feed the birds year round, just to draw them close to the house because my wife and I like to watch them. We always have a good variety of birds around. It’s mornings like this one that I question my sanity… although my wife questions it all the time.

This was a good reminder of one of the most important things you need to do if you feed birds in the winter… if you start, don’t stop! Birds become dependent on you and if you stop when the weather turns nasty and you don’t really feel like getting out and filling the feeders (like this morning), you can actually starve the birds you were trying to help.

I find I fill the feeders more often in the winter than I do at other times of the year, just because there are fewer alternative food sources available. This is especially true if there are several inches of snow on the ground that covers other potential food sources for them. When it gets snowy, I take a piece of tin and lean it against a post so the seed I scatter on the ground for ground-feeding birds won’t be covered with snow.

Based on our experiences, here are a few suggestions if you are feeding our feathered friends. Anyone who feeds birds knows how easy it is for seed to turn moldy in feeders. Moisture from snow or rain can leak into feeders and turn bird seed into potential sources of illness for birds. You should keep feeders clean to help prevent the spread of disease to backyard birds.

Clean and disinfect feeders on a regular basis, taking care to scrape out old moldy seed that collects in corners. Wash feeders in warm water with dish soap, then rinse. Disinfect them with a solution of one part of a liquid chlorine bleach to nine parts warm water. Make sure feeders are completely dry before refilling them with seeds.

Also, if possible, provide water for birds. This is extremely important during the winter because other sources of water may not be available. It seems chilly, but birds regularly use our heated bird baths. Besides water to drink, they use it to help keep their feathers clean which makes them, for lack of a better term, fluffier, which gives them better insulation against bitter cold temperatures.

Anyone who really enjoys bird watching won’t want to miss an event later this month…  and you can take part from the comfort of your own home. The annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be held on February 16-19. Participants are needed to count birds in their yards, neighborhoods, or other locations. Simply tally birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count, then go to and enter the highest number of each species you observe at any one time.

This program is conducted around the world. Coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada, the count provides an instant snapshot of birdlife around the world. Last year, organizers receive over 180,000 checklists during the event and recording almost 6,500 species of birds. Also, you can watch as the tallies come in at

Whether you observe birds in your backyard, a park, or a wilderness area, the Great Backyard Bird Count is an opportunity to share yiour results at It doesn’t have to be hard, it takes me about one cup of coffee at my dining room table to record the birds I see in 15 minutes. It’s fun and rewarding for people of all ages and skill levels–and it gets people outside… or you can do like I do and watch from inside, too!

Information from the Great Backyard Bird Count participants is even more valuable as scientists  try to learn how birds are affected by environmental changes. The information you send in can provide the first sign that individual species may be increasing or declining from year to year. It shows how a species’ range expands or shrinks over time. A big change, noted consistently over a period of years, is an indication that something is happening in the environment that is affecting the birds and that should be followed up on.

So, to take part in this activity for the birds, go to for online instructions and tally sheets… then enjoy our feathered friends. My wife and I have participated for many years… it’s easy and it’s fun! Just go to for all the information you will need.

%d bloggers like this: