Ag Partnership

Ag Partnership

Caring for Nebraska’s Leading Industry

How proactive partnerships protect Blair ag workers and producers

”Agriculture is what we do in this region. It’s in our blood,” Robert Buckley said. “When you think of the farmers who grow the crops in this area and the processors who help create carbohydrates, that’s what helps keep our local economy stable.”

Buckley serves as a safety specialist at Novozymes, Inc., a biofuels manufacturing plant in Blair, Nebraska. Novozymes is located on a 37-acre plot, which is part of a larger campus owned and operated by Cargill.

Agriculture is the Cornhusker State’s leading industry — accounting for nearly a quarter of all Nebraska jobs according to a report by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. That includes professionals like Buckley, who oversees safety protocols at Novozymes.

In the ag industry, job safety is a serious matter.

Besides dominating Nebraska’s economy, agriculture has earned a less enviable reputation as one of the nation’s most dangerous industries.

According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control, workers in the combined agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry experienced one of the highest fatal injury rates in the country. In 2021, the industry experienced 20 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers (compared to 3.6 average deaths per 100,000 workers across all American industries).

Protecting men and women who work in agriculture is one reason Buckley is so committed to cultivating his company’s partnership with Memorial Community Hospital and Health System (MCH) in Blair.

MCH shares Buckley’s motivation to protect local workers. In fact, Novozymes isn’t the hospital’s only partnership. Kathy Brester, an MCH occupational health nurse, said the hospital reaches out to forge a relationship whenever a new local business is established.

“It’s the feeling of neighbor helping neighbor, businessperson helping businessperson,” Kathy Brester said. “It’s all about the united attitude.”

MCH is not only aware of potentially hazardous work being done locally, but hospital representatives have also toured the Novozymes biorefinery facility to get a better feel for what employees do there.

Facility tours offer health professionals like Brester a more secure foundational knowledge to build treatment and rehabilitation plans for employees.

Novozymes and Cargill employees represent just a portion of area residents with potentially hazardous job descriptions. Farming itself can be a dangerous line of work — particularly as most farmers operate alone.

Carl Rennerfeldt has trained extensively with the hospital as part of his role on Bair’s volunteer fire and rescue squad. A majority of rescue transports, he said, result in delivering patients to MCH.

Rennerfeldt credits effective partnerships like the one MCH has developed with the ag community as one critical way to overcome logistical issues. For example, when he is called to a farming accident in a remote location where a farmer may have been working alone, every second counts. His squad’s training, experience and extensive background knowledge shortens valuable response time.

“I love rural health,” Buckley said, “because I know my fellow employees are in good hands and treated like friends.”


Gonzalez, C. (2024, January 30). Nearly 60% of Nebraska’s smaller rural hospitals operate at a loss, hospital association says. Pending legislation could help. Nebraska Examiner

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2023, March 3). Agricultural Safety. Centers for Disease Control.

Pesek, C. (n.d.). Report: agriculture critical to Nebraska economy, state’s resilience. Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.