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POLICY WATCH

EPA Publishes New WOTUS Rule

As expected, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published their new Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS) this week. Immediately following the publishing of the rule in the Federal Register, the American Farm Bureau along with 17 other organizations representing agriculture, infrastructure and housing, as well as county/state Farm Bureaus filed a suit against EPA. Following the filing of the lawsuit, American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said, “Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the resources we’re entrusted with. Clean water is important to all of us. Unfortunately, the new WOTUS rule once again gives the federal government sweeping authority over private lands. This isn’t what clean water regulations were intended to do. Farmers and ranchers should not have to hire a team of lawyers and consultants to determine how we can farm our land. The new rule is vague and creates uncertainty for America’s farmers, even if they’re miles from the nearest navigable water. We believe a judge will recognize these regulations exceed the scope of the Clean Water Act, and direct EPA to develop rules that enable farmers to protect natural resources while ensuring they can continue stocking America’s pantries.”

As we’ve stated before, the U.S. Supreme Court will also soon be ruling on a case that will likely impact how this final rule is implemented. The Sackett vs. EPA case will provide the Supreme Court another opportunity to determine what bodies of water (or frankly areas of land) should come under federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction. ReasonTV the YouTube channel for a libertarian leaning publication Reason, recently published a video that does a fantastic job explaining the case. To view the video, please click here.

USDA Proposes EID Rule, Tags to be Official ID in Cattle and Bison

This week, USDA released for public comment a proposed rule on the Use of Electronic Identification Eartags (EID) as Official Identification for Cattle and Bison. The rule was published in the Federal Register on Thursday (Jan. 19). To view the proposed rule, click here. The Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing to amend its animal disease traceability regulations to require both visually and electronically readable eartags for interstate movement of cattle and bison (over the age of 18 months). APHIS is also proposing to clarify record retention requirements as well as revising requirements for cattle and bison in the slaughter channel. This proposed rule would not change current regulations pertaining to and restricting the use of tattoos and brands when accepted by state/tribal animal health officials for the movement of cattle or bison. Many of the changes in the proposed rule seek to amend definitions currently in the Code of Federal Regulations. Such definition changes include, dairy cattle, approved tagging site, Official Animal Identification Device Standards, official eartags, and to clarify more accurately the definition of interstate certificate of veterinary inspection. The rule will have a 60-day comment period with comments due by March 20. Farm Bureau will continue to review the proposal as well as our existing policy and will submit formal comments before the deadline.

Bill Introduction Concludes at State Capitol

Bill introduction wrapped up at the Nebraska Legislature this week with over 800 measures brought for the session. You can see the full list of bills that have been introduced here. With more than 800 bills to be heard in committee, things are going to speed up quickly in the Capitol.

Now that all the bills have been introduced, the Public Policy Team (PPT) will be refining a list of bills that could be of priority throughout the session. PPT will write summaries of those bills in the coming days, compare notes with the other Ag Leader organizations, and finalize a list of recommended positions we should take for our State Legislative Policy Committee’s (SLPC) consideration on Feb. 2, before submitting them to the NEFB Board of Directors for final review and prioritization.

Public hearings will begin next week and once again comments can be submitted online and have it appear in the official record for this year’s legislative session.

To be counted on the record, comments and letters must be received before noon (CT) the day before the committee hearing. If that deadline is missed the only way to get on the record is to testify in person.

The comment portal itself is easy to use. Below is a step-by-step walk through of the process.

  1. Go to www.nebraskalegislature.gov/bills where you can search for a bill you would like to comment on.
  2. Once you are to the page for the bill you searched, hit the button that says, “Submit Comments Online For LB 123.”
  3. Agree to the terms.
  4. Fill out the online form and type in or copy and paste your letter or comments. There is a 500-word limit.
  5. You will have the option to request your comments be included in the official public hearing record as long as your comments are submitted and verified prior to noon (CT) on the last workday prior to the public hearing.
  6. Hit the “Submit Comment” button on the bottom of the page.

As always, emails, letters, and in-person conversations with senators are still effective methods to share your views on proposed legislation.

Also please remember, the Public Policy Team is happy to help you through this process, so please do not hesitate to reach out.

Important Legislative Dates

  • January 23-27 – Afternoon committee hearings begin. The bills scheduled for this date must be announced seven days prior.
  • January 25 – Governor Jim Pillen’s State of the State Address.
  • January 30-February 10 – Morning and afternoon committee hearings.
  • February 21 – Debate of bills will begin.
  • March 9 – Deadline for letters requesting speaker priority bills.
  • March 14 – Deadline for letters designating committee and senator priority bills. Each committee gets two. Senators get one.
  • March 15 – Speaker John Arch will announce his priority bills. The speaker has the authority to prioritize 25.
  • March 28 – Full day floor debate begins.
  • April 11-June 2 – Possible late-night debates.
  • June 9 – Target adjournment.

Congressional Delegation Visit with Farm Bureau Members

Members of Nebraska’s Congressional Delegation spent this week traveling the state before returning to Washington, D.C. next week. Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer attended Lancaster County Farm Bureau’s annual Legislative Dinner. At the event, Sen. Fischer was presented with the American Farm Bureau’s “Friend of Farm Bureau” award, which recognizes her strong track record of supporting farm and ranch families in the last Congress.

Nebraska First Congressional District Congressman Mike Flood also visited with Farm Bureau members in David City this week. Rep. Flood provided attendees with a terrific update on the upcoming debt ceiling and Farm Bill debates. NEFB always appreciates the opportunity to discuss the many issues facing Nebraska’s farm and ranch families.

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