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POLICY WATCH

Gov. Ricketts Delivers State of the State

On Thursday, January 13, Governor Ricketts gave his final State of the State address. Watch by clicking here.

Governor Ricketts outlined his priorities for spending the state surplus and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. With nearly $1.5 billion in the state’s cash reserve and $1 billion from the ARPA, policy makers got some insight on the governor’s priorities. 

The governor wants a cut in income taxes, expedited reduction of income taxes on Social Security benefits, and a floor under the current $548 million of property tax credits provided in LB1107 created two years ago.

In his largest request, the governor is asking for $500 million to pay for canals and reservoirs in the South Platte River basin to ensure Nebraska receives water they are entitled to from the South Platte River in Colorado.

Another water priority is the “STAR WARS” program. Along with improvements to Lake McConaughy and the Niobrara River, it includes the creation of a seven-mile-long reservoir near Ashland. This $200 million economic development project would be paid for with state and ARPA funds, and augmented by hundreds of millions in private funds.

Farm Bureau requests for the betterment of greater Nebraska and agriculture included significant investments in broadband, workforce development, workforce housing, site and building development, and expansion in the meat processing sector.

Nebraska’s Presence Guided National Issues at the American Farm Bureau Convention

Nebraska delegates to the 2022 American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Annual Convention worked through a significant number of policy resolutions and amendments in order to set the policy for the national organization for 2022. Eleven policy resolutions submitted by Nebraska Farm Bureau’s voting delegates were adopted including:

  • Technology
    • Delegates supported policy ensuring all segments of the food supply chain are deemed “critical” and receive adequate funding as our nation continues to work through how to deal with a growing number of cyber-attacks.
    • Also added to policy was support for efforts that will help ensure more interoperability exists when it comes to different brands of agricultural equipment.
  • Federal Disaster Programs
    • The flooding in Nebraska in 2019 highlighted a significant coverage gap for hay and forage lost due to excess moisture. While a number of permanent disaster programs address drought, very little coverage exists to provide emergency assistance for hay and forage in cases of significant flooding or heavy moisture events that damage or even destroy needed livestock feed. NEFB added language supporting the creation of a program that covers this disaster assistance gap.
  • Meat Processing
    • NEFB has been pushing for less regulation and more assistance to help create additional very small, small, and medium sized meat processing facilities. NEFB was successful in adding additional policy which supports the building of these facilities, but also supports controlling the amount of federal assistance available as an effort to promote fiscal responsibility.
  • Climate
    • Farmers and ranchers have a potential new revenue opportunity that continues to grow in the space of climate markets. NEFB policy adopted by the voting delegates supports farmers and ranchers being paid for previously implemented climate smart practices rather than simply receiving funding for new practices. Support was also given to policy that pushes for a larger investment in research and education surrounding the creation of these markets.

Other policy issues discussed this week include:

  • Farm Bill
    • AFBF voting delegates laid out some initial policy goals for the upcoming discussion of a new farm bill. A larger discussion will likely occur in 2023 as work is concluded by the AFBF Farm Bill Task Force which includes NEFB’s Director of National Affairs, Jordan Dux.
  • Cattle Marketing
    • Long-standing frustration over imbalances in the meat industry led to the creation of additional policy calling for greater transparency in livestock markets. Continued enforcement of existing Packers and Stockyards Act laws as well as antitrust laws were also discussed.
  • Biofuels
    • Delegates updated policy on biofuels to include renewable diesel. The addition recognizes the innovation and potential that sustainable biofuels play in providing environmental benefits while creating opportunities for America’s farmers.
  • Broadband
    • As farmers and ranchers continue to increase their reliance on digital technologies, delegates voted to support raising the standard for federal broadband projects to be at least 100 Mbps for both uploads and downloads.

New California Law Could Drive Up Pork Prices

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider a petition from the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council challenging California’s Proposition 12. Proposition 12 requires any pork sold in the state to adhere to California standards regardless of where it was raised.

Wall Street Journal op-ed points out that the new standards will raise production costs about $13 a pig and only 4 percent of hog operations nationwide currently comply with the law. A study shows bacon prices could jump 60 percent in California.

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