Ibach leaves a mark, as longest ag director in Nebraska history

Gov. Dave Heineman announced Greg Ibach as State Ag Director in 2005 (NTV News)

As cattlemen brand their livestock, the state ag director too has left his mark.

Greg Ibach will be sworn in as Under Secretary of the USDA, one step below Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, a member of the president’s cabinet.

The farmer from Sumner has said his job as state ag director was the best job in Nebraska, and the mission has remained the same from day one.

“With our relatively low population, and our immense agricultural output, we can't ignore the fact external markets are important to our agricultural producers,” Ibach told NTV in 2005.

From the moment he was named state ag director by then-Governor Dave Heineman, Greg Ibach looked well beyond Nebraska’s borders.

Serving as bookends to his career, Nebraska beef was first when major markets opened in Japan and China, and Ibach played a key role.

In September he told us, “Between the Japan opening in 2005 or so, right at Christmas time and China we'd been waiting 14 years for, those were great events that have been highlights as director of ag.”

As Mark McHargue picked corn on a windy day, he's thankful for the work Ibach has done.

He said, “I think Greg could say he put his stamp on from his time here in Nebraska.”

Those who have traveled the world with the state ag director say his impact is immense.

Norm Krug has been on several trade missions, and appreciates Ibach’s dual role as farmer and diplomat.

Krug said, “He comes across really such a humble just authoritative way and I appreciate that he's been really involved in trade and traveled all around the world to promote Nebraska products.”

When Ibach started, not a single Nebraska county was designated livestock friendly under a program that was two years old at the time. Now 43 are, nearly half the state.

And the Beef State has diversified with more pork and poultry.

McHargue said, “The culmination of all that in just the last year is Costco coming to Nebraska. And again, that didn't happen by accident. Greg and the department put a lot of groundwork in and in making Nebraska attractive.”

Ibach’s the longest serving ag director in state history, and longest currently serving among his peers nationwide.

More than promoting the industry, he’s also had to confront challenges like drought and avian influenza.

MgHargue said the latter was a major issue. He said, “That was a real big thing for Greg to have to deal with. Tough decisions that had to be made but I think Nebraska went through that very well.”

The farmer from Sumner will be sworn in by Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue on Monday, but not before a wedding this weekend, as one of his sons is married.

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