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POLICY WATCH

Sept. 11 Deadline – Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Sign-Up

The USDA has announced it will extend the application deadline for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to September 11, 2020. USDA has also announced producers with already-completed CFAP applications would be receiving the remaining 20 percent of their payment this week (FSA issued producers 80 percent of their estimated overall CFAP payment initially, holding back 20 percent in order to assure funding for all eligible applicants). Going forward, new CFAP applicants will receive the full payment benefit, up to the payment limitation, once their application is approved. Several commodities have also been added into CFAP, including some that would be applicable to Nebraska, such as sheep over two years of age, nursery crops, aquaculture, and some specific types of eggs (liquified and frozen).

To learn more or apply for CFAP funding, click here.
Find your local USDA Service Center here.

Key Bills Passed – Signed into Law

Several bills of importance to agriculture were passed by the Legislature and signed into law during the 2020 legislative session that ended Aug. 13. All bills on the NEFB list (except LB 1107) will be effective November 13, 2020. LB 1107, the property tax relief bill, passed with an emergency clause and is in effect now.

Biofuels (LB 899)
Authorizes a public power district to develop, manufacture, use, purchase, or sell advanced biofuels, biofuel by-products, and other fuels so long as such actions are done to help offset greenhouse gas emissions. Further clarifies that public power districts may only sell biofuels and biofuel by-products at wholesale.

NEFB Position: Support
Passed: 45-0-4
Introducer: Sen. Dan Hughes, Venango
Prioritized: Sen. Mike Moser, Columbus

Broadband (LB 992)
Implements recommendations from the Nebraska Rural Broadband Task Force, including eliminating a requirement that a state agency or political subdivision remit 50 percent of the profit from a dark fiber lease agreement to the Nebraska Universal Service Fund in places lacking access to 25/3-speed broadband. Elimination of this requirement could make these lease agreements more cost-effective in rural, unserved areas. The bill also includes provisions for the hiring of a state broadband coordinator in 2022.
NEFB Position: Support
Passed: 47-0-2
Introducer: Sen. Curt Friesen, Henderson
Prioritized: Transportation and Telecommunications Committee

Broadband (LB 996)
Adopts the Broadband Data Improvement Program. Complements broadband data submitted by service providers and leverages the Federal Communications Commission and its Digital Opportunity Data Collection docket to improve Nebraska’s broadband map. The map is a critical part of broadband expansion as it is used to determine where federal assistance dollars are targeted to improve broadband access. The bill also encourages Nebraskans to participate in crowdsourcing efforts to improve the map.
NEFB Position: Support
Passed: 47-0-2
Introducer: Sen. Tom Brandt, Plymouth
Prioritized: Sen. Tom Brandt, Plymouth

Expansion of Overweight Permit Exemption (LB 931)
Expands the existing overweight exemption for the transport of agricultural commodities. Under current law, farmers are allowed to exceed weight limits on loads by 15 percent when hauling seasonally harvested crops from the field to storage, market, or stockpile, or from stockpile to market, if travel is within 70 miles and the owner of the commodity provides the driver of the load with a signed statement of origin and destination. LB 931 expands the overweight exemption to apply to the transportation of seasonally harvested commodities in transport from “farm storage” to market.
NEFB Position: Support
Passed: 46-0-3
Introducer: Sen. Steve Halloran, Hastings
Prioritized: Sen. Dan Hughes, Venango

Industrial Hemp (LB 1152)
Ensures Nebraska’s laws and regulations governing industrial hemp production are compliant with federal (USDA) regulations.
NEFB Position: Support
Passed: 44-3-2
Introducer: Sen. Steve Halloran, Hastings
Prioritized: Agriculture Committee

Livestock (LB 344)
Consolidates and repeals several individual statutes governing animal health and disease prevention establishing one Animal Health and Disease Control Act that is consistent with federal rules.
NEFB Position: Support
Passed: 47-0-2
Introducer: Agriculture Committee
Prioritized: Sen. Steve Halloran, Hastings

Natural Resources / Flood Mitigation (LB 632)
An omnibus natural resources bill that included provisions of a Nebraska Farm Bureau supported bill (LB 1201) introduced by Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, requiring the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to create a statewide flood mitigation plan. Other notable provisions of the bill include a prohibition on a county, municipality, or agency from adopting a plastic bag ban.
NEFB Position: Support for LB 1201 provisions
Passed: 46-0-3
Introducer: Sen. Dan Hughes, Venango
Prioritized: Natural Resources Committee

Property Tax Relief (LB 1107)
Builds on the existing state Property Tax Credit Fund (PTCF) by retaining the $275 million for relief and opens the door for growth if Nebraska voters approve an expanded gambling petition on the November ballot. Continues to distribute that $275 million based on property valuations and reflected as a credit on individual tax statements. Establishes a new PTCF Tier, designating a minimum of an additional $125 million annual allocation for property tax relief for tax years 2020 thru 2025 (with potential for greater dollars if state revenues exceed receipts of the prior year by more than 3.5 percent) and a guarantee that annual relief in the new Tier would grow to $375 million starting in tax year 2025. After tax year 2025, growth in the new Tier would be the percentage growth in statewide valuations with a cap of 5 percent. The new Tier funds are based on taxes paid to K-12 schools and will be returned to taxpayers in the form of a refundable income tax credit. New Tier funds will reduce property taxes paid to schools by nearly 15 percent when fully implemented.
NEFB Position: Support
Passed: 41-4-4
Introducer: Speaker of Legislature, Jim Scheer, Norfolk
Prioritized: Speaker priority

Pulse Crop Checkoff (LB 803)
Adopts a promotional checkoff program for pulse crops (dry peas, lentils, chickpeas or garbanzo beans, fava beans, lupins). Establishes a five-person Dry Pea and Lentil Commission to be appointed by the governor by July 1, 2021. Beginning July 1, 2021, there is to be levied an excise tax of 1 percent of the net market value of dry peas and lentils sold through commercial channels in the State of Nebraska.
NEFB Position: Support
Passed: 47-0-2
Introducer: Sen. Dan Hughes, Venango
Prioritized: Speaker Priority

REMINDER: Distribution of Livestock Producer Grants

The Nebraska Farm Bureau has received inquiries from members about the status and distribution of the Small Business Stabilization Grants for Livestock Producers issued through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture shared the following information (Monday, Aug. 10) regarding a recent change in the distribution of grants under the program.   

“Due to an extremely high error rate with the banking information supplied by many grantees applying for the livestock producer stabilization grants, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) will be distributing the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) grants in a state warrant (check) to the mailing address provided on the application form. We apologize for this alteration in the distribution method. Grantees should begin to see payments arriving in the next few weeks. Thank you for your patience.”

If you have further questions, please call
If located in western Nebraska – Mark Jagels (402-580-3525)
If located in central Nebraska – Kelly Gewecke (308-627-3151)
If located in eastern Nebraska – Lori Shaal (402-471-3780)

More information HERE

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