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POLICY WATCH

Senators Spend Time on Wide Range of Agricultural Issues

Committee hearings continued at the Capitol this week with senators hearing testimony on many proposals that address issues affecting agriculture, including broadband expansion, beef processing, water, dairy processing, and workforce housing. Some of these bills look to allocate American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollar from the federal COVID relief fund.

Below is a highlight of bills Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) weighed in on:

  • LB 1071 (Williams) – Appropriate $30 million for workforce housing. NEFB testified in support.
  • LB 914 (Bostelman) – Require Public Service Commission to create and maintain a broadband map and data repository. Testimony in support was delivered on our behalf by the Nebraska Pork Producers.
  • LB 775 (Brandt) – Appropriate federal funds for the Independent Processor Assistance Program. NEFB testified in support.
  • LB 1030 (Friesen) – Exempt all tangible personal property from property tax. NEFB testified in support.

Nebraska Farm Bureau member Bob Larson testified in support of LB 1006 (Murman). Sen. Murman’s dairy processing bill would allocate ARPA dollars toward building dairy processing plants. Sixteen dairy producers testified at the hearing, which represents 16 percent of the state’s entire dairy processing industry.

Nebraska Farm Bureau member Don Batie testified in support of LB 1015 (Hilgers), also knows at the Perkins County canal bill. Batie shared his personal experience related to the importance of water and water rights in Nebraska. Governor Ricketts also testified in support of Speaker Hilgers’ bill, along with Director of Natural Resources Tom Riley. LB 1015 includes a fiscal note that would allocate $400 million from the cash reserves toward this project. The Appropriations Committee will also hear about this project when the governor’s budget recommendations for COVID relief dollars through ARPA are addressed in that committee.

On the floor, the body wrapped up their filibustered debate on LB 986 (Briese) which calls for a soft property tax asking cap. The bill failed to overcome the filibuster by a vote of 28 in favor and 21 opposed. It takes 33 votes to overcome a filibuster. The vote can be viewed here. NEFB supported this bill, and while it would have done great things for our property tax situation, it had little chance of passage with such strong opposition from public education.

Although LB 986 failed, the vote provided a clearer perspective of how the body is approaching tax cuts and property tax relief; specifically, when that relief comes by reforming the school funding formula known as TEEOSA.

Senators also debated LB 890 (Walz), a bill that would change the way medium-sized schools are funded. When coupled with a bill that would repurpose the property tax relief recently gained from the LB 1107 income tax credits created two years ago, that bill is a non-starter for many, including NEFB. In a rare move after extended debate, Speaker Hilgers bracketed LB 890  allow for parties to work out their differences. Unless those differences are worked out, the Speaker will not revive the bill.

Nebraska Farm Bureau Pushes Back on EPA Herbicide Ban

Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) is urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to roll back its ban of two popular herbicides, Enlist and Enlist Duo, and conduct a thorough examination of new Endangered Species Act (ESA) data recently made available. The ban comes after the EPA cited concerns with several species listed under the ESA, including the American Burying Beetle (ABB).

“The county-level bans recently announced for these important crop protection products takes a vital tool out of our farmer’s toolbox. As Nebraska’s planting season is now weeks away, an expedited examination and subsequent reversal of these new prohibitions is needed as soon as possible,” NEFB President Mark McHargue said.

In a letter to the EPA Administrator Michael Regan, NEFB acknowledged and expressed appreciation for the EPA’s recent work to reregister both Enlist and Enlist Duo for seven years, while also pointing out the work to reregister the products means very little to the farmers who live and work in one of the 32 Nebraska counties now banned from using the products all together.

Farm Bureau Members Invited to Attend “Water & Taxes” Town Halls

Governor Pete Ricketts will hold “Water & Taxes” town halls throughout Nebraska Feb. 15 and 18. At the town halls, Gov. Ricketts will discuss his legislative priorities to protect and develop the state’s water resources and to deliver much-needed tax relief to Nebraskans.

Gov. Ricketts and others will give remarks about the importance of taking action to prevent a drastic reduction in the amount of South Platte River water flowing into Nebraska from Colorado. The South Platte River is an essential source of water for agricultural irrigation in Nebraska, and it supplies Platte River communities with drinking water. Additionally, the Governor will share his plans to protect property tax relief and cut income taxes on hardworking Nebraskans.

Nebraska Farm Bureau members are invited to attend a town hall in their area.

  • Water & Taxes Town Hall in Kearney
    When: 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. CT on Friday, February 18, 2022
    Where: Yanney Park, Environmental Resource Center, 2020 W 11th Street, Kearney
  • Water & Taxes Town Hall in Norfolk
    When: 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. CT on Friday, February 18, 2022
    Where: Elkhorn Valley Museum, 515 Queen City Boulevard, Norfolk
  • Water & Taxes Town Hall in Nebraska City
    When: 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. CT on Friday, February 18, 2022
    Where: Lewis & Clark Visitors Center, 100 Valmont Drive, NEBRASKA CITY
  • Water & Taxes Town Hall in Ogallala
    When: 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. MT on Tuesday, February 15, 2022
    Where: Lake McConaughy Visitors Center, 1475 Highway 61, Ogallala
  • Water & Taxes Town Hall in Gering
    When: 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. MT on Tuesday, February 15, 2022
    Where: Legacy of the Plains Museum, 2930 Old Oregon Trail, Gering

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