New Extension educator addresses ag economics

By David Ostdiek, Communications Associate
Panhandle Research and Extension Center

At the Center logoHelping Panhandle ag producers add value to their products is one goal of Jessica Johnson, who recently began her duties as University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator for cropping systems economic analysis in the Panhandle.
Her appointment was announced by Dr. Linda Boeckner, director of the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Scottsbluff and the 17-county Panhandle Extension District.

Jessica Johnson

Johnson is based in Scottsbluff at the Panhandle Center. Her primary assignment is developing educational programs for irrigated and dryland crop production system economics, including farm and ranch management and agricultural policy. As part of a team of UNL specialists and educators who work in crop and water systems in western Nebraska, she will also lead economic analyses of projects.

Johnson said her first task is to open up lines of communication with producers to share economic information about grain markets and other areas. She wants to find out what information producers need, what they are currently getting, and what else they want, and then develop a program around those wants and needs.

Jessica Johnson

Jessica Johnson

To meet producers and find out what’s relevant to them, Johnson will be attending field days and similar events, as well as visiting Extension offices in the Panhandle. She can be contacted by phone at 308-632-1247, or by e-mail at

She hopes to develop crop budgets specific to the cropping systems typical in western Nebraska. That’s the kind of information farmers will find useful in making adjustments to their individual operations, Johnson said. Other topics, such as land leases and estate planning, will be a part of her programming. And, Johnson said investigating the potential for new crops and new marketing systems is always exciting.

She plans to share information with clientele via a variety of channels: publications, events such as programs and field days, and technology, including interactive means.
Johnson received a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Kansas State University. Her bachelor’s degree in agricultural business is from Colorado State University. Her experience includes internships with the Colorado Department of Agriculture working with animal identification registration; with the U.S. Grains Council in Washington, D.C., promoting corn, sorghum and barley abroad; and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service in Bangkok.

What those experiences have in common, she said, is working with producers to add value to their products. The information gained through the national animal ID program is valuable for the program, but also for producers because it is a potential starting point for source verification. And overseas promotion of U.S. grain can add dollars and cents to producers back home.

“It’s about looking for opportunities for producers to turn a buck,” she said. “That’s something we all look for.”