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POLICY WATCH

President Biden Unveils Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive Meat and Poultry Supply Chain 

The Biden administration announced on January 3 it will allocate $1 billion to expand independent beef, pork, and chicken processing in an effort to increase competition and reduce costs for consumers.  

“Increasing our nation’s meat processing capacity has been a Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) priority for the past several years, and we appreciate the Biden administration providing needed funding for those looking to enter this highly concentrated and competitive market and for those who are looking to become a federally inspected facility. We also appreciate the administration providing necessary funding to cover holiday and overtime costs for very small and small meat, poultry, and egg processing facilities who have seen demand skyrocket since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mark McHargue, NEFB President. 

“Combined, these actions will hopefully allow additional players to enter into the meat processing arena, provide expanded markets for livestock producers, and more options for consumers. At the same time, NEFB will continue to monitor the marketing regulations also discussed in today’s announcement. While strengthening the ‘Product of the USA’ label and an endorsement of Sen. Deb Fischer’s efforts to provide more price discovery to the cattle marketplace are steps in the right direction, we continue to be concerned that other potential USDA regulations could be issued that would limit a livestock producer’s ability to enter into marketing contracts,” said McHargue 

“As the Biden administration moves forward with new regulations, they must ensure that existing laws are being followed while allowing the free-market system to work,” said McHargue 

Nebraska Legislature Back in Session 

On Wednesday, January 5, the Legislature convened for its 2022 legislative session. From now until April 20, your Nebraska Farm Bureau team will be at the state capitol working with senators on enacting legislation that will be shaped by the policy developed by our members.  

This year is the 2nd Regular Session of the 107th Legislature, meaning that bills from the first Regular Session in 2021 can carry over into this year. New bills can be introduced during the first 10 days of the session until January 20. It is an understatement to say that the Legislature has a long way to go and a short time to get there during this 60-day session. Carryover bills and bills introduced this year will vie for time and the spotlight.  

There will be a lot of wrangling in the Legislature because there is a significant amount of money to be allocated to its rightful place. Due to our state’s robust economy, there is over $400 million in the general fund above what was anticipated. Then there is more than $500 million coming from the federal government in the form of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) COVID-19 relief, and money coming from the recently passed federal bipartisan infrastructure package. While those dollars have spending requirements tied to them, many issues of importance to agriculture can and must be addressed including broadband, road and bridge projects, and rural economic development.  

One issue the governor and many senators have said is important is a continued push for tax reform, leading us to believe much of the surplus revenue could be given back to the taxpayers in the form of tax relief. It remains Nebraska Farm Bureau’s goal to balance the state’s tax burden between property, income, and sales tax. According to our calculations, the property tax burden still needs to be reduced by nearly $700 million on top of the tax relief already secured through the Property Tax Credit Fund and the new Refundable Income Tax Credit created by LB 1107 a couple years ago to bring the burden into balance with sales and income taxes. One of our highest priorities in this area is to make sure both of those funds remain intact and continue to grow, providing property tax relief which is long overdue. In this first week, we want to thank Sen. Briese for introducing LB 723, a bill that would put a floor under the $548 million of property tax relief provided by the LB 1107 tax credits.  

A couple hundred bills and resolutions were introduced in these first three days. We anticipate that many or more are yet to be filed before the deadline on January 20. A complete list of the bills introduced so far is available here.  

Next week, the Legislature will begin floor debate on priority bills carried over from 2021.  

On Thursday, January 13, Governor Ricketts will make his final State of the State address to the Legislature, where we will learn about his priorities regarding the budget, use of the ARPA funds, tax relief, and other pressing issues facing our state.  

On Tuesday, January 18, committee hearings on bills introduced this year will begin. Until all bills are heard in committee, the Legislature’s schedule will be floor debate in the morning and hearings in the afternoon. Committee hearings are tentatively slated to end on March 3. 

Currently, your Nebraska Farm Bureau team is sifting through all of the introduced legislation. Once all bills are introduced, we will work with our State Legislative Policy Committee (SLPC) and the NEFB Board of Directors to prioritize those bills of interest to our members and establish our official stances of support, opposition, or neutral towards those bills. During this time and throughout the session, we encourage all members and stakeholders to reach out to the NEFB Governmental Relations team with questions, comments, and concerns.  

While there is much that is up in the air and a lot that can happen, what we know right now is that we will need your assistance throughout the entire session. Your experience, input, testimony, and expertise are essential to help us do our job of ensuring that your voice is heard at the Capitol. Every session provides us with the opportunity to do good things. Our chances improve with your help. We look forward to this session and working with you to achieve great things. 

Delegates Head to AFBF Convention to Set Policy 

Nebraska Farm Bureau’s (NEFB) voting delegates plan to be busy throughout the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Annual Meeting Delegate Session which will be held Tuesday, January 11 in Atlanta, GA. NEFB submitted 19 federal policy resolutions via our own delegate session back in early December 2021. Of the resolutions submitted, 11 made it through to be included in the policy session held next week. From cybersecurity and additional disaster assistance for hay and forage crops to policy on the meat processing industry and climate credit programs, NEFB members were very successful in helping to shape AFBF policy. At the same time, NEFB’s voting delegates to the AFBF annual meeting will be proposing approximately 15 amendments including, but not limited to, defending current AFBF policy on cattle market reforms, help shape AFBF policy on the next Farm Bill, and ensure hog producers can fully utilize marketing contracts.  

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