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POLICY WATCH

NEFB Backs Bill Reducing Pressure on Property Taxes to Fund Schools

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue testified before the Legislature’s Revenue Committee this week in support of LB 454. Introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, the bill would enact a School Property Tax Stabilization Program. In situations where more than 70 percent of a school’ls formula needs are required to be funded by property taxes, LB 454 would direct the state to provide aid equal to 50 percent of the difference between the property taxes required and the 70 percent formula need threshold. Nebraska Farm Bureau estimates that roughly 178 school districts, many rural in nature, would benefit from the additional aid in the bill. The bill also reduces the assessed value of agricultural land for purposes of funding schools over a two-year period, lowering the valuation for school purposes from 75 percent of actual value to 55 percent of actual value.

NEFB Supports Bill Offering Tax Credit for Higher Blends of Ethanol

Nebraska Farm Bureau offered support for a bill targeted to encouraging retailers to promote higher blends of ethanol fuels at the pump. LB 596 would provide a state tax credit to fuel retailers for sales of E-15 or higher blends of ethanol fuel. Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston introduced the “Nebraska Higher Blend Tax Credit Act.” If passed, retailers could begin claiming the credit for fuel sold after Jan. 1, 2021. Up to $2 million in credits would be made available each year.

Nebraska Brand Bills in Hearing Spotlight

Senators on the Agriculture Committee heard testimony on bills related to the Brand Act this week. Nebraska Farm Bureau supported two bills, LB 571 and LB 572. Introduced by Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings, LB 571 creates a registered backgrounder lot program similar to the existing registered feedlot program. LB 572 makes a series of changes to the Nebraska Brand Law, including allowance of electronic inspection as a way to meet brand inspection requirements, revision to the registered feedlot fee schedule to more closely reflect the costs of the program, temporarily lowering the physical inspection fee, and revising statutory maximums for various brand recording and permit fees. The bill also provides an alternative means for dairies to comply with brand law requirements for calves under 30 days of age leaving the brand inspection area. LB 572 was also introduced by Sen. Halloran.

Other Bills of Interest…

Nebraska Farm Bureau weighed in on several other bills of interest this week, including:

Support for:

LB 79 – Introduced by Sen. Tom Briese of Albion, the bill changes the minimum amount of relief provided under the Property Tax Credit Act by increasing the floor amount to $275 million from 2020 to 2023. Nebraska Farm Bureau offered support for the bill as another step forward in providing property tax relief.

LB 650 – Introduced by Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, the bill establishes the legal and regulatory framework for potential CO2 capture and sequestration projects within Nebraska. At present, regulatory authority of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects is held at the federal level with the Environmental Protection Agency. Establishing Nebraska specific statute is the first step to facilitate further studies of CCS feasibility in Nebraska. NEFB sent a letter of support of this bill to the Natural Resources Committee.

NEFB Backs Andersen for Environmental Trust

Nebraska Farm Bureau offered support this week for the appointment of Josh Andersen to serve on the Nebraska Environmental Trust Board. Andersen is a farmer and Clay County Farm Bureau member. Members of the board are responsible for reviewing and approving conservation grants funded by state lottery dollars.

$1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Package Continues to Advance Through Congress

House and Senate Democrats along with President Biden have spent the past few weeks working to develop another COVID-19 relief bill that includes $1,400 payments to individuals, numerous tax changes, as well as setting the national minimum wage at $15 per hour. On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee advanced their portion of the package which included money for rural hospitals, expanded food and nutrition assistance, as well as USDA loan forgiveness for “socially disadvantaged” farmers and ranchers. Another notable addition was the inclusion of $100 million to cover USDA overtime inspection fees for very small and small meat processing facilities. The funding looks to cover overtime fees for these facilities from 2021-2030. This provision makes good on efforts from Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) to pass similar language last year. Throughout last year, NEFB heard from many small meat processors who indicated that USDA inspection overtime fees were a significant hurdle that stood in the way of allowing them to increase their production. While hurdles remain before the overall package is passed, Congressional Democrats are using a process known as “reconciliation” that allows for passage of legislation with simple majorities in both the House and Senate. This procedure has been used by both parties in the past, including by Democrats to pass the sweeping Health Care Reform package known as “Obamacare” as well as by Republicans to pass their significant tax reform package a few years ago.

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