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POLICY WATCH

Legislature Continues Work on Bills Affecting Agriculture

The Nebraska Legislature is officially a third of the way through the session.

On General File. LB 986 (Briese) began its journey through the legislative process. The bill would put a “soft cap” on how much schools can annually raise their property tax asking. Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) stands in firm support of the bill; however, the bill is being filibustered and debate is not expected to wrap up until next week.

In the Agricultural Committee, Nebraska Farm Bureau sent a letter in support of LB 1095 (Halloran). The bill would make animal premise identification voluntary and provide a mechanism for producers to remove their name provided the livestock is not crossing state lines or the USDA does not require an identification.

Also in the Agricultural Committee, NEFB supported LR 242 (Brewer), a resolution urging Nebraska’s congressional delegation to support farmers, ranchers, and small meat processors without compromising food safety standards and foreign market access.

The Revenue Committee was active this week on bills that would impact agriculture.

  • LR 281CA (Murman) – Constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to treat commercial real property as a separate class for purposes of property taxes and to provide for a different method of taxing commercial real property.            
  • LB 1242  (Murman) – Change the valuation of certain real property for purposes of property taxes levied by school districts.

NEFB testified in support of both of Senator Murman’s legislation on our behalf and the Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Corn Growers, Nebraska Pork Producers, Nebraska State Dairy Association, and the Nebraska Soybean Association. These bills would remove agricultural land from the property tax burden completely.

Speaker Hilgers provided an update today on the status of the session, specifically on priority bills. Below are some portions of that update. 

  • The deadline to submit a letter requesting a speaker priority bill designation is Thursday, February 17. 
  • The Speaker will announce his priority bills on February 23. 
  • The deadline to designate committee and senator priority bills is by adjournment on Tuesday, February 22.

At this point, 19 senators have designated their 2022 priority bill and only six committee priority bills have been designated. Priority bills which receive an early designation and are advanced to General File early will have a better chance to be debated than those bills which come later in the session when there are more priority bills on General File competing for limited floor time.

Next week will be a busy week with several hearings on bills that impact agriculture. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the governmental relations team with questions or comments.

Farm Bureau Calls on DOJ for Update on Meatpacker Investigation

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) sent a letter this week to Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide an update on its investigation into the meatpacking industry. The DOJ began an investigation after excessive volatility in the live and fed cattle markets caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“With over 80 percent of the fed cattle market controlled by only four major packing companies, we are concerned about the control these firms have,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall wrote. “We look forward to hearing from the Department of Justice regarding their investigation, so we can update Farm Bureau members and assure them that adequate government oversight is being conducted in the nation’s cattle markets, and that the markets remain fair for businesses, farmers, and all American families.”

Farm Bureau asked for a written update on the volatility in the live and fed cattle markets within 90 days.

Deadline to Submit WOTUS Comments Nearing

There’s still time to submit comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding its proposed changes to the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. Farmers and Ranchers have until Monday, February 7, to tell the EPA its proposed changes to the WOTUS rule are harmful.

Four years ago, your efforts created the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). This rule fixed the problems of the 2015 WOTUS rule, bringing clarity to how you farm and ranch. Under the commonsense NWPR, farmers and ranchers have delivered positive environmental benefits. On December 7, 2021, the EPA and the Army Corps proposed a new rule that would reverse the NWPR and bring back the troubling pre-2015 regulatory regime. Farm Bureau is urging EPA to recognize the burden that this overreaching regulation places on farmers and ranchers and keep the term “navigable” in the Clean Water Act regulations. Once again, we need you to be involved!  Write to protect the NWPR and prevent a return to regulatory uncertainty.

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