Farm Policy from the Grassroots Up
The State Legislative Policy Committee (SLPC) met for its annual orientation on Thursday, August 11 in Kearney. This signals the beginning of the policy development season as the SLPC heard from expert presenters on a variety of timely topics to producers throughout the state and on every level of government.
Senator Roundtable – Senator Rita Sanders, Senator Tom Brandt, Senator Myron Dorn
The Senators laid out what they are hearing and working on in the off-session period, then spent a good amount of time talking about property taxes and education funding. Specifically, how best to lay the groundwork for effective education funding reform. While there were many ideas brought up, all seemed to agree that this would be a long-term process that could be started this upcoming session.
The need to address rural economic development through workforce, childcare, housing, and other areas was also discussed.
Finally, the committee structure, which controls so much of how a bill moves forward from the start, could see quite the shake up this coming legislative session. All committee chairs are up for grabs on the first day of the session and with so many new faces, it could make for some interesting races for the seats.
Cybersecurity – Attorney General Doug Peterson, FBI Agent Eugene Kowel
With foreign powers and cyber-attacks becoming more common towards the industry that provides the nation’s food, the cyber security conversation isn’t going anywhere soon. The SLPC heard from the Attorney General and the FBI on how agriculture can assist in the fight against hacking attacks.
The main point made was the need for inclusion of the FBI and legal offices when data breaches occur. While the capabilities of some of these breaches could lead to catastrophic events, often times hackers will hold companies hostage for a payout or a try to make slight adjustments to affect markets.
A continued relationship with the Attorney General’s office and the FBI will be beneficial when inevitable attacks occur in the industry going forward.
Alternative Fuels – Jedd Fischer, NPPD, Senator Anna Wishart, Monolith
With the passage of a bill forming a Nebraska Hydrogen Hub working group, and with the inclusion of President Mark McHargue in that group, we thought hearing from some experts on alternative fuels would be helpful in the policy development process.
The Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) has recently set a goal for carbon-neutrality by 2050, and hydrogen fuel could be a part of that effort.
Senator Wishart was representing Monolith Energy, a company that is investing in a product called carbon black and ammonia. According to Senator Wishart, their ability to produce these products will be better for the environment thanks to hydrogen energy.
Affordability and reliability were at the forefront of the conversation to ensure that producers could enjoy safe, cheap, and steady sources of energy.
Carbon Discussion – Scott Prestidge (Trailblazer), Elizabeth Burns-Thomson (Navigator), Jake Ketzner (Summit)
Forty percent of the corn produced in Nebraska goes towards ethanol production. So, what about carbon pipelines and sequestration would impact that industry and agricultural producers? That was the question we focused on when hearing from representative of carbon pipeline companies operating in Nebraska.
When hearing from the companies, several things stood out as to why agriculture should cautiously support carbon sequestration efforts.
- The Renewable Fuel Standard is ending which requires the ethanol industry to look to the private sector for support as ethanol use is not mandated federally.
- Nebraska is the furthest west producing state of ethanol, and therefore most all ethanol used in California comes from Nebraska.
- California requires companies to meet certain environmental standards, and many do that through ethanol use.
- The carbon sequestration aspect of ethanol production further incents California companies to continue to use ethanol.
The companies also addressed their process for working with landowners. Through direct contact and relationship making, education, compensation, and custom contracts, it appears from the outside that the companies are going out of their way to ensure a quality landowner relationship. It is imperative that the Nebraska Farm Bureau stays at the table with these companies to ensure that those landowner relationships do not sour. It was also stated that the companies do everything in their power to avoid the use of eminent domain.
Finally, the pipeline companies made it clear that they wanted to hear from our members with questions and asked that we continue to work with them to ensure that any and all questions are answered.
Farm Bill – Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau (AFBF)
Jordan Dux worked with Mr. Walmsley from AFBF to discuss the process for the drafting of the farm bill.
First, a political lay of the land was given, and discussion of what changes could be coming after the midterms was discussed. The results of those midterms will frame how the farm bill is worked out. This is the first time in almost a century where a farm bill falls on the year after the midterms. As a result, an extension could be in the cards.
If Republicans take control of Congress, a lot rides on what type of conservatives rise to the top. Fiscal conservatives, or a more populist group who would like to spend.
A portion of what we could see in the farm bill regarding conservation spending was already addressed in the Inflation Reduction Act that is about to be passed into law.
Other items of contention could include SNAP and other crop insurance incentive programs, although when it comes to the latter, it is not believed that the political will to end those programs exists.
All-in-all, a whole lot can happen before the time to pass the new farm bill rolls around and we will continue to keep our members apprised as things develop.
Having good information is critical in evaluating agriculture policy issues. There’s always more to the story and digging into the issues is important. Nebraska Farm Bureau has put together several policy development guides as a resource for members looking for background information on higher profile agriculture issues to help them make informed recommendations as part of Farm Bureau’s policy development process.
View policy development guides here.
Resolutions are due to Whittney by November 4.
Please email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Mail to NEFB, Attn: Whittney, PO Box 80299, Lincoln, NE 68501
Fax to (402) 421-4427
Policy Forum will be held November 17 at the Kearney Holiday Inn.