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POLICY WATCH

Legislative Session Underway

State lawmakers returned to Lincoln Wed., Jan. 8 to start the 60-day, 2020 Legislative Session. Senators will spend the first 10 days of the session introducing legislative bills. The last day to introduce bills is Jan. 23. More than 200 bills were introduced during the first three days of the session.

Among the bills flagged by Farm Bureau so far, include:

LB 802- Introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, the bill finds that the right to use groundwater is inseparable from the overlying land.

LB 845- Introduced by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, the bill would allow land to be sold while groundwater rights are retained. 

LB 859- Introduced by Sen. Hughes, the bill changes Game and Parks Commission member qualification provisions from requiring at least three members of the Commission to be engaged in “agricultural pursuits” to requiring at least three members of the Commission be engaged in “farming or livestock production”.

LB 863- Introduced by Sen. Hughes, the bill limits the amount of Game and Parks Commission landownership.

LB 899- Introduced by Sen. Hughes, the bill allows public power districts to develop, manufacture, use, purchase, or sell biofuels and biofuel byproducts and other fuels which help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Speaker of the Legislature, Jim Scheer of Norfolk has introduced a constitutional amendment to increase the number of members of the Legislature from no more than 50 (currently 49) to no more than 55. Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha also introduced a constitutional amendment to change legislative term limits to three consecutive terms. NEFB has policy supporting an additional term.

Governor Pete Ricketts’ “State of the State” address will be held Jan. 15.

Public hearings on legislative bills will begin Jan. 21. At that point, the body will debate bill in the morning, adjourn for lunch, with committee hearings at 1:30 pm.

A complete list of bills introduced so far is available at NebraskaLegislature.gov.

Farm Bureau to FDA: Livestock Antibiotic Rules Should be Science Based

In the face of political pressure from activists, Nebraska Farm Bureau continues to push the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use science in developing actions related to addressing antibiotic resistance. The FDA recently sought comments on its draft guidance to bring medically important antimicrobial drugs approved for use in animals under the oversight of veterinarians. In comments to the agency, NEFB shared its recognition that antimicrobial stewardship is imperative to ensure the protection of human and animal health, however, the organization noted that FDA’s proposal could have unintended negative effects that could jeopardize animal health and place an unnecessary burden on Nebraska livestock producers. Farm Bureau specifically pointed out concerns about the removal of over-the counter access to currently available antimicrobial tools and how such actions could compromise animal health and welfare due to the shortage of food animal veterinarians in the state, particularly in emergency situations.

Senate Finance Committee Advances USMCA

The U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) continues to make progress as the Senate Finance Committee advanced the much sought after trade deal to the full Senate this week. The vote to advance was the first vote to be taken by U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, who was recently appointed to the Committee. Passage and implementation of USMCA is a high priority for the Nebraska Farm Bureau. Timing of the full Senate vote on USMCA is dependent upon when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends the article of impeachment against the President. It was thought a USMCA vote could take place as early as next week, but as of this writing the Speaker has indicted impeachment articles will be sent to the Senate the week of Jan. 12, meaning the vote will likely be delayed.

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