Congress is Back Baby!!!!
By Jordan D. Dux, Sr. Director of National Affairs
Channeling former Seinfeld character Frank Costanza, the Senate is back in D.C. following their August state work period, with the House following next week. Hopefully many of you had the chance to visit with the five members of Nebraska’s Congressional Delegation in the weeks they were back in the state. Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) had the opportunity to hold several events with them, and we always appreciate the opportunity to chat with them about the many issues we are working on at the federal level. Now that Congress is back, they will face a tight schedule of “must do” legislation including funding the federal government in order to prevent a government shutdown.
NEFB’s Leadership Academy will head to D.C. next week to meet with the delegation, talking trade, input costs, the next Farm Bill, and regulations. I always appreciate this trip as an opportunity to showcase what exactly Farm Bureau does in Washington, D.C. and how positive Farm Bureau’s reputation is around town. We will meet with lawmakers, committee staff, USDA officials, and other organizations pushing their own legislative priorities. This is shaping up to be a great trip, and one I hope our Leadership Academy will always remember. If you have an interest in joining next year’s class, please feel free to reach out any NEFB staff member and we can provide you with the necessary information.
Outside of funding bills, Congress will also continue the work of approving President Biden’s appointees to various federal positions, including his nominee to be the chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Doug McKalip. Mr. McKalip’s nomination recently cleared the Senate Finance Committee and will now head to the full Senate where he is expected to be overwhelmingly approved. While it’s certainly positive news that this nomination is moving forward, it has been highly disappointing that it took so long to fill this vital position. The delayed nomination of Mr. McKalip is just another example of the Biden administration’s failure to develop much of a trade agenda.
While Congress will be sprinting for the next several weeks before they break for the midterm campaigns/election, know that NEFB and the entire Farm Bureau team will also be racing to guarantee farmers, ranchers, and the issues we all care about remain front and center. While continued supply chain disruptions, high fertilizer prices, and the next Farm Bill aren’t front of mind for all of Washington, they are certainly priorities for us. As always, NEFB will continue our work to ensure a better economic future for the farm and ranch families we represent.
Senate Finance Committee Approves Chief Ag Negotiator Nominee
This week, the Senate Finance Committee advanced the nomination of Doug McKalip for chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall issued the following statement following the committee’s action:
“The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased to see the nomination of Doug McKalip for chief agriculture negotiator move forward to the full Senate. Doug is a government professional with experience in agricultural issues, and today’s unanimous vote further proves that Doug is well suited to represent farmers’ interests on the international stage.”
“The vote comes at an important time as current and future trading partners are looking to the United States to meet a growing demand for food, fuel, and fiber. AFBF is eager to work with Mr. McKalip and Ambassador Tai to strengthen current agreements and create new opportunities for America’s farmers and ranchers. We urge the full Senate to quickly confirm Doug McKalip.”
Nebraska Farm Bureau Delivers on Broadband Investment
Governor Ricketts held a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 7, highlighting the new broadband working group, Connect Nebraska.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau public policy team helped lead a coalition of service providers and stakeholders to ensure unserved and underserved areas were prioritized following the passage of broadband investment through the Broadband Bridge Act on the state level and the bipartisan infrastructure package on the federal level. Nebraska Farm Bureau supported both of those efforts.
Connect Nebraska, as explained by the governor, will be led by State Broadband Coordinator Patrick Redmond from the State Budget Office, and will include representatives from the Nebraska Public Service Commission and the Office of the Chief Information Officer. This group will administer state and federal dollars through four different programs.
- The Capital Projects Fund: $87.7 million for broadband infrastructure as passed through the Unicameral last year using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
- The Broadband Equity, Access, & Deployment Program (BEAD): At least $100 million with more expected to unserved (speeds below 25/3 mbps) and underserved (speeds below 100/10 mbps) areas.
- Digital Equity Grant Program: $7 million to be used for purposes such as digital literacy training, workforce development, and to increase access to electronic devices and to ensure equal opportunity to broadband.
- Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program: Internet service providers and public power districts can apply for these grants to be used to construct, improve, or acquire broadband infrastructure that does not directly connect to an end-user location such as a household or school.
Proper allocation of these funds will be a heavy lift that will play out for years to come. Nebraska Farm Bureau will continue to work with Connect Nebraska to ensure that agricultural and rural Nebraskans are represented in the decision-making process. As questions and concerns come up, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Nebraska Farm Bureau Public Policy Team to discuss growing needs and opportunities involving broadband, connectivity, and precision agriculture.
NEFB Happenings at Husker Harvest Days
Husker Harvest Days is a great event for agriculture in Nebraska and Nebraska Farm Bureau is excited to be there again this year. Find our building at Lot 48 on Main Street.
Agriculture has become a prime target for cyber attacks. Are you ready? Attend our “Cyber Threats and Agriculture” News Conference Sept. 14 @ 10:30 a.m. (CT)to hear from the FBI and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson on this growing threat.
Connect with Jim Pillen! Stop by our building Sept. 13 from 10:00-10:30 a.m. (CT) to visit with Jim Pillen, Nebraska Farm Bureau’s endorsed gubernatorial candidate.
We will once again be offering FREE Wi-Fi and FREE snow cones. Members will get FREE leather work glovers. (One pair per membership.) Farm Bureau members get two tickets for the price of one when using code NEFBBOGO to purchase tickets online.