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POLICY WATCH

Application Period Opens June 13 for Additional Broadband Funding

Rural communities throughout Nebraska that do not have high-speed, reliable broadband are virtually (no pun intended) fighting an unwinnable battle. For many communities, access to health care, government services, education, and business opportunities can only be gained by reliable broadband services and sophisticated technologies that require high-speed connections. With precision agriculture practices becoming more and more prevalent and necessary in successful agricultural applications, producers, and the businesses they rely on, need access to broadband to increase production efficiencies and economic opportunities.

Thanks in part to support from Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act, administered by the Public Service Commission (PSC), was created in 2021 to facilitate and fund the deployment of broadband networks to unserved and underserved areas of Nebraska. The act allows public entities and private companies to enter a partnership to apply for grant funding. In 2022, with the help of your NEFB governmental relations team, senators passed LB 1144 which expands the act in the following ways.

  • Reduces the private match required for projects under the Broadband Bridge Act from 50 percent of project cost to 25 percent.
  • Provides $2 million per year for five years for precision agriculture infrastructure grants administered by the PSC and defines precision agriculture connectivity as a download speed of at least one hundred megabits per second (mbps) and an upload speed of at least twenty mbps.
  • Imposes penalties for service providers who do not provide advertised internet speeds.
  • Requires the PSC to create and maintain a broadband map and data repository.

Now is the time to communicate with community leaders, internet service providers, and political subdivisions to urge their participation with this program. NEFB members and community leaders can work with eligible applicants to apply for this grant and provide broadband to their communities. The application period opens June 13 and closes July 1.

Special Election Right Around the Corner for 1st Congressional District

Voters in Nebraska’s first congressional district will have some business to attend to this summer with a Special Election on June 28, and only two names will appear on the ballot. Mike Flood, who has been endorsed by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Political Action Committee (NEFB-PAC), is the Republican candidate to fill the vacant seat of the first congressional district. He is running against Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks.

Flood has been a strong advocate for Farm Bureau priorities such as tax reform, working to expand broadband and e-connectivity, as well as growing opportunities for economic development in rural areas. Based on the results of Nebraska Farm Bureau’s grassroots selection process, which involves gathering input from local County Farm Bureaus across that district, Flood demonstrates his understanding of agriculture and its impact on our economy.

Voters will be able to cast their ballots in person 30 days ahead of the special election date; early ballots will be sent at least 15 days ahead of the election to those who request them. The last day to submit a request for an early voting ballot to be mailed to you is June 17. You can take a picture or scan your request and email it to your county election official. Or you can mail or fax your application to your county election office.

Congressional District 1 is comprised of all or part (*) of the following counties: Butler, Cass, Colfax, Cuming, Dodge, Lancaster, Madison, Platte, Polk*, Sarpy*, Seward, and Stanton.

Nebraska Farm Bureau Supports CO2 Emission Sequestration Agreement

Why do the emerging carbon market and carbon pipelines matter to our members? With 40 percent of Nebraska’s corn used to produce ethanol, agriculture benefits greatly from both the clean liquid fuel and dried distiller grains (DDGs) produced. Sequestering the third byproduct of the production process (carbon), will make our state’s leading renewable fuel even more attractive to liquid fuel retailers and consumers because of its even lower carbon intensity score.

Recently, Tallgrass, an energy infrastructure company, announced it has entered into an agreement with ADM that would pave the way for Tallgrass to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from ADM’s ethanol corn-processing complex in Columbus, Neb., and transport it to Tallgrass’ Eastern Wyoming Sequestration Hub for permanent underground storage. By utilizing a converted natural gas pipeline for CO2 transportation, Tallgrass minimizes the need for new pipeline infrastructure while enabling ADM, a global leader in sustainable products, to further decarbonize its global operations and strengthen Nebraska’s agriculture industry.

“Nebraska Farm Bureau’s farm and ranch member families have long supported pipeline projects for use as part of our nation’s important energy and carbon capture infrastructure,” said Mark McHargue, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau. “As those who rely upon our nation’s natural resources to produce the world’s food, fiber, and fuel, Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers are also dedicated to ensuring their future use for generations. Projects like these provide agricultural producers with options that add value and support key industries like ethanol production, while continuing to steward the land and climate families rely upon.”

There are multiple projects in Nebraska involving carbon sequestration markets using pipelines. Nebraska Farm Bureau policy supports these types of projects with an emphasis on safety, protection of landowner rights and natural resources, and limitation of landowner liabilities. We will continue to work with these projects to ensure landowner and agricultural priorities are kept at the forefront while following the policy of support voted upon by our members.

Protect Rural Farmers and Ranchers from Wall Street Rules and Regulations

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is proposing to require publicly traded companies to provide climate related information from their entire supply chain in their filings and annual reports, including potentially invasive and burdensome information about farms.

Companies would be required to report on greenhouse gas emissions, climate-related targets and goals, as well as how climate risks impact their business.  This is an end run around legislation to get companies to report certain climate change information in their financial reports.

The rule extends reporting requirements for public companies to report on Scope 3 emissions, which are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by an organization but contribute to its value chain such as farms and ranches.

Unlike corporations, farmers work and raise families on their place of business. There are many questions about how their privacy will be protected. We’re concerned about the lack of specifics in the proposed rule. It has the potential to require very detailed information from each farm, down to how many gallons of fuel are put into each piece of machinery and each machine’s emissions.

Farmers and ranchers are focused on growing the food, fuel, and fiber this country needs, and have not had to worry about regulations intended for Wall Street. Unlike the large corporations currently regulated by the SEC, family farms and ranches don’t have teams of compliance officers.

OUR ASK

Write to the SEC today and tell them to stop this invasive regulatory overreach! Deadline is June 17, 2022.

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