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POLICY WATCH

Final Reading for Meat Marketing Bill

A Nebraska Farm Bureau supported bill allowing farmers and ranchers to offer livestock ownership shares to customers seeking meat, advanced to Final Reading in the Legislature this week. Introduced by Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth, LB 324 would allow the acquisition of meat through an animal share — an ownership interest in an animal or herd of animals created by a written contract between a consumer and a farmer or rancher — under certain conditions. Generally, meat sold by the package must be inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, however, owners of animals are exempt from such inspection requirements due to a custom exemption in federal law. LB 324 would allow non-farm interests to have ownership and utilize the custom exemption. Animal share contracts would include a bill of sale and a provision under which the consumer boards the animal or herd with the farmer or rancher for care and processing and the consumer is entitled to receive a share of meat from the animal or herd. The bill also specifies the animal share owner — or someone acting on their behalf — would have to receive the meat, and the farmer or rancher would have to provide the consumer with a description of their livestock health and processing standards. A farmer or rancher who offers an animal share would have to be a Nebraska resident and maintain a record of each animal share sold. LB 324 also establishes an independent processor assistance program that potentially would use federal funding to increase Nebraska’s meat processing capacity.

Greater Transparency Before Tax Increases

Counties, cities, school districts, and community colleges seeking to increase the amount of property taxes they collect would first have to hold a joint public hearing under a bill that advanced to second round floor debate this week. Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair introduced and prioritized LB 644. Under current law, the governing bodies of nine different political subdivisions may increase their property tax requests after holding a public hearing called for that purpose and by passing a resolution or ordinance. Under a Revenue Committee amendment, adopted 36-1, the joint hearing requirement would apply only to counties, cities, school districts, and community colleges. The bill would require counties to notify affected taxpayers of the hearing by postcard. The bill seeks to provide greater transparency for taxpayers given the large number of taxing entities makes it difficult for taxpayers to attend each one’s budget hearing.

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U.S. Agriculture Needs More Public Research

A new report commissioned jointly by Farm Journal Foundation and the American Farm Bureau Federation examines how more public spending on agricultural research is needed to meet the rising global demand for food. There are five USDA agencies funded to conduct agriculture research and development. Today, the combined agencies have roughly $4.2 billion for agriculture research, compared to a similar $4.1 billion more than a decade ago in 2010.

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Congressman Bacon (NE-2) Tours Nebraska Sandhills

This week, Nebraska 2nd District Congressman Don Bacon spent time talking with farmers and ranchers around North Central Nebraska. Congressman Bacon, who sits on the House Ag Committee, regularly takes time to travel the state even though his Congressional District is centered in Omaha. Over the course of several days, the Congressman discussed a number of issues including the 30×30 executive order, cattle markets, proposals to eliminate stepped-up basis and 1031 Exchanges, infrastructure including rural broadband, as well as Colorado’s proposition 16 targeting animal livestock. The Congressman also discussed the need for state officials to address Nebraska’s high property taxes and how the crisis affects Nebraskans from Omaha to Scottsbluff. Local county Farm Bureau members met with the Congressman during a tour of Long Valley Ranch near Taylor, lunch outside of Whitman, and a dinner in Broken Bow.

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