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POLICY WATCH

Bill Introduction Wraps and Public Hearings Begin at Legislature 

Bill introduction concluded this week at the Nebraska Legislature with a total of 615 bills, resolutions, and constitutional amendments introduced this session. For a short session, that presents an extremely busy schedule.

Speaker Hilgers has stated that there is a possibility that not all the prioritized bills will be heard during this year. Each senator gets one priority, the 14 standing committees each get two, and the Speaker gets 25. Meaning more than 500 bills will get a hearing and nothing more for the rest of the session. Committee hearings are scheduled to end on March 3, which is day 36, leaving 24 days for the Legislature to finish business. We are expecting several late-night debates.

One of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s (NEFB) priority bills, LB 723 (Briese), which ensures a floor of $548 million under the LB 1107 tax credits, was heard in the Revenue Committee with strong support from NEFB and other agriculture stakeholders. Following the hearing, it was voted out of committee to General File.

Click here to send an email to your senator in support of LB723.

Now that all the bills have been introduced, the Governmental Relations Department (GRD) will be refining a list of bills that could be of priority throughout the session. GRD 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 Thursday, Jan. 27, before submitting them to the NEFB Board of Directors on Monday, Jan. 31 for final review and prioritization.

As bills continue to be heard by committees and debated on the floor, your continued help will be needed. Subscribe to text alerts by texting NEFB to 52886. We will let you know when you should reach out to senators, testify, or be an advocate in other ways.

Click here for a complete list of bills that have been introduced.

New Nebraska Legislature Online Comment Process

There is an important new detail to the process of submitting letters to the committees, either in support or opposition of a bill, and have it appear in the official record for this year’s legislative session. The committees are using an online portal to upload comments and include them on the official record. The catch to this is that in order to be counted on the record those comments and letters must be received before noon (CT) the day before the committee hearing. If deadline is missed the only way to get on the record is to testify in person.

The new 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 Governmental Relations Department is happy to help you through this process, so please do not hesitate to reach out.

Nebraska Farm Bureau Opposes Repeal of Navigable Waters Protection Rule

Last week, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue provided testimony to both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) on their plan to repeal and replace the Trump administration’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule entitled the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The Biden administration’s plan is to 1) repeal the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, 2) move back to pre-2015 WOTUS regulations, and then 3) provide a rewrite of the rule.

“As I’m sure you’ve already heard and as you will likely continue to hear, the 2015 WOTUS rule was a complete disaster which looked to greatly expand the regulatory reach of the federal government into the daily lives of farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and virtually anyone who turns the earth with a shovel,” President McHargue said.

“One of the prevalent troubling themes we continue to hear is that the Navigable Waters Protection Rule is failing simply because some jurisdictional determinations did not find an area qualified for federal protection. The idea that only the federal government can properly protect water quality is a slap in the face to the authors of the Clean Water Act who understood that the federal government should be a partner to state regulatory authorities. While not perfect, I would argue that state of Nebraska’s regulatory authorities better understand and know how to better work with the agricultural community than the EPA. In closing, I want to be very clear in saying that all of us want clean water. It is the lifeblood of our state and a precious gift that too many take for granted. Farmers and ranchers rely on clean water not only for their operations, but also for our own families,” McHargue said.

American Farm Bureau Board Votes to Continue to Support Fischer/Grassley Cattle Market Reform Bill

This week, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) board of directors voted to continue to support S. 3229, the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act introduced by Sens. Fischer (NE), Grassley (IA), Tester (MT), and Wyden (OR). That support takes into account new policy adopted by the AFBF voting delegates earlier this month in Atlanta, GA which opposes government mandates on negotiated purchases. “AFBF delegates voted last week in Atlanta to revise 2022 Farm Bureau policy. While Farm Bureau supports robust negotiated sales, delegates voted to oppose government mandates that force livestock processing facilities to purchase a set percentage of their live animal supply via cash bids. AFBF appreciates the hard work that has been done on both sides of the issue to address the pressing needs facing America’s cattle industry,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act takes positive steps toward ensuring fairness for America’s farmers and ranchers as they work to feed this country’s families. We support the majority of this legislation, but we cannot support mandatory cash sales. We are committed to working with the sponsors of the bill to make revisions to ensure it aligns with the priorities outlined by our membership,” said Duvall. The legislation has stacked up 14 co-sponsors from senators from both sides of the aisle. The legislation would also equip farmers with more information by establishing a cattle contract library, updating mandatory price reporting and increasing fines for companies that violate the Packers and Stockyards Act. NEFB looks forward to continuing to work with Sen. Fischer on improving the legislation and seeing it signed into law.

EPA Renews Enlist Product Registrations with New Control Measures

Recently, EPA announced a seven-year registration for Enlist Duo and Enlist One. Both products, registered in 2014 and 2017, respectively, were set to expire in January 2022 if the EPA did not renew their product registrations. EPA evaluated the potential effects of these products on federally threatened or endangered (listed) species, and their designated critical habitats, and initiated Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. EPA determined that the use of Enlist Duo and Enlist One are likely to adversely affect endangered species but will not lead to jeopardy of listed species or to the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitats.

Based on these findings, EPA is requiring the implementation of a variety of protective measures as a condition of the product registrations. Some of the protective measures EPA is taking include:

  • Prohibiting Enlist product application when rainfall is expected to occur within 48 hours and when soil can no longer absorb water;
  • Prohibiting irrigation that would result in runoff within 48 hours of application of the Enlist herbicide products;
  • Requiring users to select from a list of runoff reduction measures to reduce 2,4-D and glyphosate concentrations in runoff;
  • Minimizing Enlist product application when soybean and cotton crops are in bloom to reduce risks to insect pollinators, such as honey bees; and
  • Requiring the registrant to develop and provide mandatory education and training materials that emphasize the importance of pollinators and pollinator habitat for species including, but not exclusive to, monarch butterflies.

EPA will also prohibit the use of Enlist Duo and Enlist One in counties where EPA identified risks to on-field listed species that use corn, cotton, or soybean fields for diet and/or habitat. The counties where use will be prohibited by these new measures represents approximately three percent of corn acres, eight percent of cotton acres, and two percent of soybean acres nationally.

In Nebraska, the following counties will no longer be able to utilize these crop protection products: Antelope, Blaine, Boone, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Custer, Dawson, Frontier, Furnas, Garfield, Gosper, Greeley, Hayes, Holt, Hooker, Howard, Keya Paha, Knox, Lincoln, Logan, Loup, McPherson, Merrick, Nance, Phelps, Red Willow, Rock, Sherman, Thomas, Valley, and Wheeler. According to USDA crop production data, these counties planted over 1.02 million acres of soybeans in 2020. Following the announcement, both American Farm Bureau and Nebraska Farm Bureau pushed back on EPA to provide further details on the announcement as the use of the Endangered Species Act to prohibit the use of this important product could create a dangerous precedence for the approval of crop protection products in the years to come. This situation is still fluid, and we will continue to provide updates as they become available.  

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