Legislative Bills Landing on the Governor’s Desk

It took 63 days into the Nebraska legislative session for the body to begin passing bills on Final Reading and sending them to the governor’s desk for signature or veto. Those bills include loosening of concealed carry requirements, pet insurance, racetracks, and liquor licenses, but some packages that include provisions more impactful to agriculture are getting further along in the process.

LB565 (Bostelman), a Natural Resources Committee priority bill,passed onto Final Reading with a vote of 38-0. The bill is notable as it allocates a grant program for public power districts involved in the Hydrogen Hub Working Group, of which Nebraska Farm Bureau is a member. The bill also defines the term reliability in electricity generation and creates a Nuclear and Hydrogen Working Group.

LB191 (Halloran) a Business and Labor Committee priority bill, moved onto Select File. Among many other things, this bill includes an amendment brought by Sen. Ibach that allows for non-profits who are building workforce housing in rural areas to apply for multiple grants. This could especially help in areas with limited resources and options for non-profits to take place in the workforce housing development program.

General File debate has begun on LB562 (Dorn). This Nebraska Farm Bureau supported bill would expand the availability of E-15 throughout the state. First round debate is expected to finish up next week.

We hope to soon see General File debate on the Agriculture Committee priority bill, LB116 (Brandt). This is an omnibus bill like many others that get to the floor, and if it is brought to debate, it could look several different ways according to what we have heard, so we will stay involved in that discussion to see what is possible this session.

The Unicameral will be in session for three days next week and the following week will be a much anticipated. Speaker Arch announced that the budget will be placed on General File on Tuesday, May 2, and debate on the main budget will begin on Wednesday, May 3. Next week, the Economic Forecasting Board will meet to determine what our state’s revenue forecast will be. That forecast will set the stage for how the Legislature will deal with the budget proposal.

We are happy to provide your county with a legislative update. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us or your regional manager to set one up.

Wall Street Rules Intended for Publicly Traded Companies Should Not Extend to Family Farms and Ranches

That is the message the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and six other agricultural groups sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC proposed a rule to require public companies to report on Scope 3 emissions, which are the result of activities not owned or controlled by a publicly traded company but contribute to its value chain. Public companies that produce goods from agricultural products would need to report emissions from the relevant agricultural operations. The farm groups’ concern is that the rule will burden family farmers and ranchers and drive further consolidation in agriculture—all for no real environmental benefit. In a letter sent to the SEC, the organizations stated, “This tracking will be extremely expensive, invasive, and burdensome for farmers and ranchers, at the cost of improved production practices that generate actual environmental gains. Family farms, particularly smaller ones, will be hardest hit, with the rule driving greater consolidation and fewer family farms. The easiest path for registrants will be to source their inputs from larger corporate operations with greater resources and more sophisticated data-gathering and reporting systems. Alternatively, registrants may simply vertically integrate their supply chains, leading to further consolidation.” In the letter, the organizations ask the SEC to recognize it wouldn’t be appropriate to subject farmers to Scope 3 reporting requirements, and to draft a rule that specifies that companies cannot compel farmers and ranchers to provide emissions information. “While farmers and ranchers play a vital role in America’s supply chain, 98 percent of farms are family owned and 90 percent of those are small,” the letter continues. “This means that a considerable part of the agriculture industry does not fall within the SEC’s direct regulation of disclosure information, which extends to regulating public companies (registrants and issuers).” Signing onto the letter were AFBF, Agricultural Retailers Association, American Soybean Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Pork Producers Council, and North American Meat Institute.

Read the full letter here.

Attend a Listening Session for Broadband Access & Digital Opportunities

The Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) in cooperation with the Nebraska Broadband Office and the Office of the OCIO/NITC will hold a series of community listening sessions on broadband access and digital opportunities. Expanding rural connectivity to secure high-speed, high-quality internet access statewide is a policy priority for Nebraska Farm Bureau.

The listening sessions are designed to engage a diverse cross section of Nebraskans to inform the development of comprehensive plans to best address digital equity needs throughout the state and broadband deployment for unserved and underserved Nebraskans. Nebraska Farm Bureau is encouraging its members to attend a listening session and share your needs and concerns when it comes to broadband in Nebraska. To help you prepare for the listening session, Nebraska Farm Bureau has developed topics and questions to consider regarding connectivity in Nebraska. You can find those questions below. 

In April and May, community listening sessions will be held:
  • Niobrara, April 26, 12:00 p.m., Niobrara Village Fire Hall, 259 Spruce Avenue
  • Norfolk, April 26, 5:00 p.m., Norfolk Public Library, 308 W. Prospect Avenue
  • Valentine, May 1, 5:00 p.m., Mid-Plains Community College, 715 E. Highway 20
  • Ainsworth, May 2, 12:00 p.m., The Connection, 224 N. Main Street
  • Stuart, May 2, 5:00 p.m., Stuart Auditorium, 204 Parnell Street
  • O’Neill, May 3, 12:00 p.m., Evergreen Assisted Living 1600 N. Harrison Street
  • Columbus, May 3, 5:30 p.m., Central Community College, 4500 63rd Street
  • Sidney, May 8, 5:00 p.m., Cheyenne County Community Center, 627 Toledo Street
  • Scottsbluff, May 9, 12:00 p.m., Guadalupe Center, 1200 E. 9th Street
  • Chadron, May 9, 5:00 p.m., Chadron State College, Scottsbluff Room, 1000 Main St.
  • Alliance, May 10, 5:00 p.m., Alliance Knight Museum, 908 Yellowstone Avenue
  • Ord, May 11, 5:00 p.m., Ord Learning Center 1514 K Street

Detailed information on the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment or BEAD program and the Digital Equity Planning Initiative as well as the current state of broadband adoption and affordability will be provided. 

Locations, times, and dates of additional community listening sessions throughout the state are
being finalized. Additional details regarding future community sessions will be announced and
posted to the Community page of the Broadband Nebraska website.

Questions to consider regarding digital opportunities: 
  1. Would improved broadband/internet speeds be beneficial to local businesses, or businesses that might be located in your community? Specific stories would be helpful. 
  2. Do local internet speeds meet the expectation of advertised and promoted internet speeds? 
  3. Are there locations in your community where the internet is exceedingly difficult to obtain or too costly to obtain? 
  4. Are local internet speeds adequate to support distance learning, telehealth, working at home, and other applications? For agricultural locations, are local internet speeds adequate to support precision agriculture? 
  5. Why is high-speed internet access/broadband important to your community? 
  6. While approximately 10% of Nebraska households do not have any internet connectivity at home, approximately 22% additional Nebraska households have only home or mobile connectivity. How does having only home or only mobile connectivity limit a household’s ability to access municipal services and participate in our increasingly digital society and economy?  
  1. While approximately 7% of Nebraska households lack a digital device, nearly 14% of Nebraska households only have a mobile or larger screen device, such as a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer. How does only having a mobile or larger screen device limit a household’s ability to access municipal services and participate in our increasingly digital society and economy?
  2. Does your local library have an adequate broadband connection and up to date computers for residents to use? Does the local library help those who may lack technical skills?
  3. The affordability of a high-speed internet connection is a significant barrier for many households. The Affordable Connectivity Program provides a discount of $30 per month for internet connectivity for eligible households. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. A household is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program if the household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household meets at the criteria for a number of assistance programs. 
  4. Has your municipality and/or local organizations engaged in efforts to increase awareness of the Affordable Connectivity Program? How could the program be better publicized?

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