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POLICY WATCH

Legislature Passes Industrial Hemp Bill

The Legislature has given final approval to a bill that would ensure Nebraska’s laws and regulations governing industrial hemp are compliant with federal (USDA) regulations. LB 1152 was introduced by Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings and designated an Agriculture Committee priority.

Broadband Bill Signed into Law

Governor Pete Ricketts has signed LB 996 into law. The Nebraska Farm Bureau backed bill establishes the Broadband Data Improvement Program. Introduced by Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth, LB 996 complements broadband data submitted by service providers, leverage the Federal Communications Commission and its Digital Opportunity Data Collection docket to improve Nebraska’s broadband map, and encourage Nebraskans to participate in crowdsourcing efforts to improve the map. The map is a critical part of broadband expansion as it is used to determine where federal assistance dollars are targeted to helping improve broadband access. Expanded broadband is a Nebraska Farm Bureau priority issue.

Ricketts Signs Biofuels, Checkoff Bills

In addition to broadband, Gov. Ricketts has also signed two other ag related bills into law. The bills signed include LB 803 and LB 899. Introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango and designated a Speaker priority, LB 803 adopts a pulse crop (dry peas and lentils) checkoff. LB 899, also introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes, and prioritized by Sen. Mike Moser of Columbus, the bill authorizes a public power district to develop, manufacture, use, purchase, or sell biofuels and biofuel by-products.

Committee Talks COVID-19 Meatpacking Safeguards

The Legislature’s Business and Labor Committee hosted a public hearing Thursday, Aug. 6 on an amendment offered by Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha to establish requirements for meatpackers regarding COVID-19 worker safety. The amendment included a wide array of stipulations for meat processors ranging from specified workspace requirements, protective gear, facility cleaning procedures, employee screening and testing, among other requirements. The Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Cattlemen, and Nebraska Pork Producers Association provided a joint letter to the committee. In the letter, the groups relayed their appreciation for Sen. Vargas’ efforts to bring attention to worker concerns and expressed willingness to discuss options, but shared their opposition to the amendment as drafted, specifically a provision that would require employees to maintain a six-foot workspace radius, due to the challenges involved in meat processing line layout and design. Read the letter here.

CARES Act Implications on Tax Planning for Farmers

The University of Nebraska’s Ag Economics Department tackled the topic of farmer and rancher tax planning as it relates to participation in CARES Act programing this week. The Aug. 5 edition of “Cornhusker Economics” touches on what farmers and ranchers need to be aware of as they go into tax planning this fall as it relates to participation in pandemic relief through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Check out the analysis here.

Reminder on Coronavirus Food Assistance Program – Aug. 28 Deadline

The Nebraska Farm Service Agency (FSA) is encouraging farmers and ranchers to take a close look at their opportunity to participate in USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Nebraska FSA had already approved nearly 26,000 applications by July 20. Read FSA State Director Nancy Johner’s note to Nebraska farmers and ranchers here.

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